Saturday, September 10, 2016

Dispatch from Bruce's River Tour: Philadelphia 9/9/16

Before we left New Jersey, I admonished Fred to leave his giant, multitool pocket knife home. "There'll be a security screening," I said, "just like at the Monster Truck show, and I'm going to be mad if we have to walk back to the car to stow your knife like we had to do then." I drove, because Philadelphia is mine, and because I have the working radio with the pre-set Bruce Springsteen satellite channel on it. We were headed to Citizens Bank Park to hear, see, and admire The Boss and the E-Street Band. Adele was appearing at the neighboring Wells Fargo Center, and together with New Jersey shore traffic, the traffic for these concerts jammed up I-95. We drove mostly between speeds of 20 and 40 MPH all the way to the Sports Complex. Usually this takes an hour. It seemed an eternity last night, but worth the effort for Bruce. I was hoping he would break his all-time concert-length record of four hours and six seconds, or at least his American record of four hours and four seconds set two nights before in Philadelphia. It would be quite a distinction to have attended a historic concert such as this, and I looked forward to bragging about it.

Me waiting for the concert to start and making a rare political statement
 The concert started at 8:00 and a roar came up from the crowd. The woman next to me let out a shrill banshee scream, the likes of which I knew I would not be able to tolerate for four hours. I scanned the area for other possible seats. She beat me to it. She moved down a few rows with her mother and their Coors Lights. Mama turned out to be quite the dancer. "New York City Serendade" was the first song, just like at this August 2016 concert at MetLife Stadium...(not my video)...(I wasn't there)...

I sat in my blue plastic baseball fan seat for four hours, fascinated by the crowd interacting with their (my) idol, and Bruce metabolizing the crowd's enthusiasm and energy. After all of these years, and all of these (long) concerts, he still looks like he's having the time of his life performing "Born to Run" for us.

He descended into the crowd many times to interact with people lucky enough to be in the Pit Line. He collected homemade signs requesting songs and favors ("Dance with me, Bruce!") and smiled the whole time. At one point he brought a talented college student on stage to perform with him, and at another point a woman and her guitar-playing pre-adolescent daughter. Both young musicians got to play one of Bruce's guitars. Many fans got their wish to dance with (next to) their favorite band member other than Bruce. All of these requests were made known to Bruce via the homemade poster board signs which have become legendary at Springsteen concerts.

All our favorite E-Streeters were there: Max, Steven, Nils, Roy, Garry, and Sookie. And then there was Jake Clemons on the tenor saxophone, frequently taking solos indistinguishable from his late uncle Clarence's. Jake found his way down into the pit crowd quite a bit. From our seats, we could follow Bruce through the sea of people by watching the spotlight on him. When Jake was down there, too, there was a second spotlight. What an honor for him, I thought. It was as if he's no longer simply Clarence's replacement, but is now Jake Clemons, a full-fledged member of the band with his own distinct personality. And he sang back-up a number of times.

I've always dreamed about what I would ask Bruce if I ever got the chance to talk to him or even interview him. ("Dream Baby, Dream") I have my questions ready. I can't tell you what they are but I can tell you they have to do with the creative process, performing, and charisma. For example, "What goes through your mind when you walk out on stage and see thousands of people who not only paid lots of money to see you perform, but sing your words back to you? Does that ever stop being surreal?" I can't ask this one--"If you were to write a book, what would the topic be?"--because we are now eagerly awaiting the release of Bruce's memoir Born to Run to be released on September 27. (Yes, I've preordered it.)

Last night I watched individuals and couples around me swayed to the slower songs and danced like maniacs to their favorite Springsteen showstoppers. The guy next to Fred must be the maniac leader. His crazy-macho dance moves didn't fit the music most of the time, but it was impossible not to watch him. But watching him was at the same time uncomfortable. Quick: look back at Bruce!

Many of my favorites were performed last night. We don't often hear "Rosalita" and "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" in concert. I was thrilled to hear them last night. Before launching into my favorite boardwalk song, "Sandy," he asked, "Is anyone here from the Jersey Shore?" YES BRUCE, I AM! It's sad to think that every time I hear that song my own Wildwood boardwalk days are further in the past.

How appropriate to perform the song "Philadelphia" from the movie Philadelphia in the city of Philadelphia. Fred grabbed a few seconds of that.

 Bruce saved the very best for last. We didn't break any records for concert length, but a three-hour, 45-minute concert is nothing to complain about. It was a steamy, humid, HOT night, and the guy on the radio Springsteen channel said it was 106 degrees on the field. (I consider us lucky that we got more than two hours.) Bruce and the band ended the show with "Jersey Girl" which is a treat by itself, but when he brought a Gold Star Widow up on the stage to dance with him (requested by a poster board sign) there was not a dry eye in the park.

Performing "Jersey Girl"
 I know skeptics will say that Bruce and his advisors are simply master manipulators of fans and marketing geniuses, but I have proof that Bruce's allure is more than an act of manipulation. Fred, who I thought would balk at the length and volume of the music if he was even able to stay in or near his blue plastic seat during the whole concert, was enthralled the entire time. He took photos and the videos you see here. He took more videos you don't see here. "I can see what all the fuss is about," he said. Or he said something like that--my ears were ringing rather loudly still at the time of the quoted material.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Margaret!
Reading that, I felt like I was there! Only for me, the concert lasted far less than 3 hours and 45 seconds.. but that's okay because I wasn't anymore familiar with Springsteen than "yeah, he's like that quintessential American ?rock? star guy... Born to Run.. yeah yeah..." But this has been an immersive and delightful introduction to "The Boss". I found him on google play and hit shuffle, listening while I read and re-read. "Sherry Please" really grabbed my ear--mostly with its upbeat rythm. I'm sure next time I'll listen more closely to the lyrics. The song had my feet "on shuffle" while I waited outside for my take-out order on Prospect Street in Ewing.. I definitely felt like that fantatical guy with the off-beat moves.. but it felt fun to be a little extra standout-Ish!

Thank you so much for sharing this great memory with us, and for spawning some great memories of our own!