Kerre McIvor: Nothing beats thrill of live action

Fleetwood Mac in 2015. Being close enough to see the performer sweat is better than watching a show or a game online, every time. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Fleetwood Mac in 2015. Being close enough to see the performer sweat is better than watching a show or a game online, every time. Photo / Steven McNicholl

When the lineup for the ASB Tennis Women's Classic was announced some months ago, I was sorely tempted to break our planned holiday up north and head back to Auckland just to see some of the greats of women's tennis up close and personal.

We had been looking forward to finally spending a decent stretch of time at our place in the Hokianga - but I'm a huge tennis fan and the opportunity to see the Williams sisters in particular was hard to resist.

In the end, sanity prevailed and I stayed up north. I could have watched them play on television but that's simply not the same and that's what Karl Budge and the rest of the ASB tournament organisers understand.

It's like seeing your favourite musical artists live. You don't need to travel halfway around the country - or indeed, the world - to see musicians live. You can simply fire up the computer and rock away in your own home.

But there's something magical about seeing superstars in the flesh - especially when it's in an intimate environment. I saw Fleetwood Mac in Las Vegas a couple of years ago and even though the MGM Arena isn't exactly a club venue, we were five or six rows from the front in a 16,000 seat arena.

We were close enough to see the sweat on Stevie's face and it was magical. So magical that I decided from then on, I wanted to have experiences rather than things. It was the catalyst behind dragging my Irishman halfway across the world to the Slieve Donard Hotel in Northern Ireland to see Van Morrison in concert after my husband finally conceded that the one person he'd really like to see live in concert was Van the Man.

Seeing as Tom was having a significant birthday last year, I went online and found that Van performed two concerts at the Slieve Donard every year to just 350 people. I was early enough to be able to book a front row table and again, the experience was utterly wonderful.

I must admit I had a moment, while the band was tuning up and we were waiting for the man himself, when I thought, 'What if he's rubbish?' Van is no spring chicken and is notorious for his lack of stage presence but from the time he came on stage and launched into Moondance, I realised we were in for a night we would never forget.

As an aside, of the 350 people there, I reckon easily 10 per cent - possibly 20 - were Kiwis. I overheard an American woman the next day telling her friends, "Oh my gawd. There were so many Antipodeans!"

Most of us there were international tourists and it could be seen as an expensive gamble to travel that far and pay that much money to see one person perform. But that's what live entertainment is all about.

So commentators have grumbled and grizzled about the Williams sisters' poor showing at the ASB tournament and how the organisers were too free with the cheque book and how it will affect future ticket sales.

What rubbish. Yes, Serena could have shown more grace - but she's a diva. A true star. She would have been furious with herself and furious she didn't play to her best. She's not a PR practitioner. She's the best women's tennis player - one the best players, full stop - the world has seen.

She and her sister and the rest of the stellar line up drew the crowds in and there was never any guarantee any of them would go all the way to the final.

There are never any certainties in live performances and had I gone, I wouldn't have been expecting to see Serena win. I would have just revelled in the joy of seeing a great athlete in action in the fabulously intimate venue in Auckland. That's what entertainment at a sublime level is all about.

- Herald on Sunday

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