“U2 tickets on sale 9am, March 20”: seven words that hit me this week like a mescaline flashback. I had visions of Somme-like trenches being dug around the Wembley box office, of half-dead survivors of a fortnight sleeping rough on the causeways of Brent tapping in their PIN numbers with the few remaining fingers they haven’t lost to frostbite.
For I, dragged to Greenwich before dawn as a pundit for the BBC’s Breakfast Show, was an eye-witness to the scene of Conradian horror that was the Michael Jackson ticket queue. This shanty town of shivering wretches, some of whom had been camped outside the O2 for two full days, reminded me of old Blitz-era news footage of starving Londoners queueing for the last scrapings of powdered egg. Only with more chatter about why dangling a baby off a balcony is “character-building”.
What is this, Guantánamo? What time is it, the Dark Ages? What are we, animals? As the queue inevitably collapsed into a bloodthirsty stampede to the front an hour before the box office shutters went up, I was appalled that this – in the days of Bluetooth, Virgin Galactic and Oatibix – was the barbaric face of modern big gig ticket purchase.