Just before I left town earlier this month, a reader in Radford named Bruce Brown reached out with a frustrating, concert-related consumer conundrum.
The longtime Radford University business professor (and ex-mayor) asked if I could shine a light on whether he’d ever get a refund for some Rolling Stones tickets he purchased in February 2020 for a show in Charlotte that was supposed to have happened that September.
The amount in question wasn’t insubstantial: $1,300 for three tickets, including some taxes and fees.
What made it even more imperative was Brown’s advanced age — he turns 70 in August, which means he’s almost as old as the band members. (The eldest, drummer Charlie Watts, turned 80 June 2.) And neither Brown nor his wife, Cary, had ever seen the Stones live — although Cary had a maddeningly close call in the late 1970s. (More on that tragedy is below.)
The 2020 tour seemed like their last opportunity ever. And then, wouldn’t you know, a hand of fate dealt a huge setback to the entire tour. As America succumbed to the Trump virus, and hospitals everywhere cried the ventilator blues, the Stones announced their 2020 shows would be indefinitely “postponed.”
For Brown, the announcement presented a number of perplexing issues.
One was that he’d purchased the tickets directly from the Bank of America Stadium box office, using a credit card.
Fans who’d scored their tickets through Ticketmaster had already gotten their money back, Brown told me. But the box office’s terms and conditions varied slightly, he noted. As long as the concert was listed as “postponed” the stadium could hang onto his $1,300.
“One [condition] that I found interesting is — should the Stones decide to not tour — I would receive a voucher for another show,” he added.
Another artist’s show, seriously? What — to see Britney Spears, after her bizarre conservatorship gets revoked? Brown was emphatically “not interested.”
Another complication: The credit card Brown had bought the tickets with has since expired. So he figured it was a waste of time to pursue repayment in that direction.
Worst of all, “In looking at the Stone’s Fan page either they or I may be dead before they reschedule a tour,” Brown wrote in the email. “Ron Wood is dealing with cancer for the second time and there are no plans to reschedule any tour.”
So he turned to yours truly, and one thing I like about Brown is, he ain’t too proud to beg.
Literally, the subject line of his pleading email was, “Any Chance You Could Work Some Magic for Rolling Stones Ticket Refund?” Probably, he’d heard about the free tickets I scored last year from James Taylor, on behalf of a Bedford County couple who got stymied when they tried to buy some.
The only problem was, Donna and I were heading out to door to visit her parents, who live about an eight-hour drive away. I promised Brown I would get on the case as soon as I got back in town.
During our vacation, I pondered his plight. It seemed like time wasn’t on our side. With international rock stars like the Stones, you gotta move, you know? And then one night, something really strange happened.
In the dream, my in-laws lived on an expansive estate in Weston, Connecticut. Coincidentally, their next-door neighbors were Stones guitarist Keith Richards and his charming wife, Patti Hansen. Keith and Patti’s back patio was barely 100 feet from my in-laws’ guest bungalow, which is where Donna and I stayed during our visit.
Anyway, one morning I woke up and walked outside for some sun. Lo and behold, there was Keith, wearing a velour purple bathrobe, sans belt, furiously fiddling with his gas grill.
I ambled over to wish him good morning and asked, “Whatcha cookin?”
He lifted the lid. On the grates, above a mess of blue flames, I saw a bowl of cereal, filled to its brim with milk.
“These damn Lucky Charms never cook right!” Keith growled in frustration.
“You’re not supposed to cook them,” I replied. “You’re supposed to eat cereal cold.”
He looked at me with eerie, far away eyes.
“Maybe that’s how you Yanks do it,” Keith shot back. “But I never eat anything raw.”
In the dream, mind you, that non sequitur didn’t seem unusual. Maybe this was some kind of ethnic dispute, I recall reasoning. After all, Keith is a Brit and the front man for the cereal is a cartoon leprechaun, and the English and the Irish have been at each others’ throats for eons. Across the pond they call it “critical island theory” or something like that.
I just shrugged and changed the subject. I told Keith about my good friend Bruce Brown, who’d been screwed out of $1,300 for three Stones tickets to the canceled 2020 show in Charlotte.
I even told Keith the deeply discomfiting story about how Cary Brown had almost seen the Stones live in the late 1970s, when they played Hampton Coliseum. She actually made it to Tidewater, but when her parents found out where she was, they ordered her home immediately.
Like a dutiful daughter, Cary complied. But it would be an understatement to say she was hot about the near-miss.
The anecdote clearly moved Keith.
“Don’t worry mate, I’ll take care of this,” he said. And that was the end of the dream.
The next morning I woke up marveling at the odd reverie. And then Donna and I walked over to her parents’ main house for breakfast. On the TV they announced the Stones tour was back on, including the Charlotte show on Sept. 30.
We heard it on my in-laws’ favorite channel — Fox News — so it had to be true.
I couldn’t wait to get back to Roanoke to call Brown with the good news. By then he had already heard it, though. So I told him the back story, and he thanked me profusely.
“You have very potent dreams,” Brown said.
“It’s the weirdest thing,” I agreed. “My guardian angel must have supernatural powers.”
“Or perhaps we got some sympathy from the devil,” Brown countered. Yikes!
Anyway, on Sept. 29, he plans to climb into a black limousine with some honky-tonk women — Cary and their mutual friend, Jutta Green. Probably, they’ll consume champagne and reefer as they head south on Interstate 77, leaving sweet Virginia, trying to stop the waves of excitement behind their eyeballs.
Hopefully, the Biden variant of the Trump virus that’s spreading like wildfire right now won’t force yet another cancellation. That’s about the only thing that could spoil Bruce Brown’s satisfaction at seeing the Stones perform in person. At $400 per head, plus change.
“It’s only rock ‘n’ roll, but I like it,” he told me.