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I was a seat-filler at Barbra Streisand's Tampa concert. Here's what it was like

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I was a seat-filler at Barbra Streisand's Tampa concert. Here's what it was like

Thursday, December 1, 2016 9:39am

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Barbra Streisand performs Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Streisand is scheduled to perform in Sunrise, Florida on Dec. 3.

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

Barbra Streisand performs Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Streisand is scheduled to perform in Sunrise, Florida on Dec. 3.

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The last thing I expected to do Wednesday night was count the pores on Barbra Streisand's face.

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Just kidding. There are no pores. She's flawless. But for just a few minutes, some lucky friends and I did get that close.

Of course, I'd wanted to go to her show at Tampa's Amalie Arena. It was the first and -- you never know -- maybe last show she'll ever do here. She's an absolute legend who rarely tours. But with tickets starting at $99 and going into four figures, it wasn't realistic. I spent the morning coordinating coverage of the event with our pop music/culture critic, Jay Cridlin, and sighed at the experience he would surely have.

REVIEW: Barbra Streisand delivers a half century of hits at Tampa's Amalie Arena

Then, I got this group G-chat from a friend.

"Would y'all like to be seat fillers at Barbra tonight?"

I blinked a few times. Seat filler? At BARBRA? What did this even mean? We here in the arts and entertainment side of the newsroom had never really heard of a local concert having seat fillers.

Jay Cridlin asked the Amalie about this. According to arena spokeswoman Angela Lanza, having seat-fillers has not happened for a concert there, but they do it sometimes for WWE, so the crowds always look full on TV. Related: Next goal in life is to be a seat filler for WWE.

I was a seat-filler at Barbra Streisand's Tampa concert. Here's what it was like

We wondered if perhaps Barbra was filming the concert for a DVD or a TV special. Lanza told us Streisand was not filming the Tampa show, but was filming her show in Miami on Monday. We wondered if this was a dry run for that taping. The other seat fillers in the crowd also quietly wondered if Barbra's notorious stage fright played a role in this oddity. But Amalie reps said the seat fillers were a venue decision, and that it may be something they do for similar black tie style shows in the future (think Andrea Bocelli, Jay says, not Five Finger Death Punch). 

My friend got an email from a friend, who had gotten an email from the marketing department at Amalie Arena. The department was surveying broadly for people to fill up seats left empty by latecomers in the first 10 rows (!!!!!!!!!). The Amalie was reaching out to local businesses, people who knew people. The payment was getting to watch the concert. There were some rules to the agreement:

You had to arrive by 5:45 p.m. You had to dress nicely, no jeans or flip flops. You had to follow along and go where you were asked.

For the record, you don't say "no" to this kind of offer, unless you want to live in regret for the rest of your days. You make it happen. And so, we did. Since there was no time to go home and change, I ran into a St. Petersburg boutique and bought a little black dress. We wolfed drive-through food in the car, trying to make it through rush hour traffic for the 5:45 p.m. arrival time.

Once we got there, we were greeted by a man with a clipboard, who checked off our names and gave us a wristband. We were ushered into an area the Amalie sometimes uses as a parent waiting room when they have teen crazy concerts, like Justin Bieber.

We sat until 6:30 p.m., mingling, murmuring with excitement. There were several dozen seat fillers, all unable to believe this insane luck.

Some representatives came out and gave us the rules. We would get a ticket to the show, no matter what. If we were asked to fill a seat up front, we were to go to it. If someone showed up to claim the seat, we were politely and quickly to get up and go back to our assigned seats. If no one ever came? Well, lucky you.

They distributed the assigned tickets.

That's when we died.

I was a seat-filler at Barbra Streisand's Tampa concert. Here's what it was like

The seats we would be forced to return to were in row 29 on the floor. Hardly a poor view!

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