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Monday, November 9, 2009

Bruce Springsteen @ Madison Square Garden 11/8/09: Or, How I Got a Hug from The Boss (that's right-- A HUG)

If a time traveler approached me a year ago and told me that the title of this blog posting would apply to me, I would have laughed in their face and offered to buy them another drink. But facts are facts, and that's the way it was.

Now here's what I know for sure. When it comes to The Boss, there are two types of people: those who don't really know anything about him, and those WHO LOVE HIM. Springsteen fans are the most devoted, obsessive, and fanatical I've ever seen (next to KISS, in my experience). I mean, these people KNOW this music, and KNOW this band. I was born in Philadelphia, and grew up in New Jersey, so it's not like I was totally unfamiliar with their work. Bruce Springsteen honestly didn't show up on my radar until 1985 when "We Are the World" came out. Even though "Dancing in the Dark" came out a year before that, I was steeped in Michael Jackson land at the time. My parents listened to mostly Motown and classic soul music, so I really wasn't exposed to it. And most of my peers at the time listened to Bon Jovi, or Madonna-- stuff like that. It wasn't until I met my girlfriend last year that I got a real introduction. She is one of these FANS. And I would come to know that not only were she and her friends fans, but they KNEW Bruce and the band...and they know THEM. So, earlier this year, she and her friends promised me that this year I would not only get to see them live, but I would actually meet them. And that is what happened last night.

Bruce and the band played two shows this weekend; we went to Sunday night's show. These were special shows for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this was one of the last shows of their current tour (they have 7 more after this weekend). Secondly, they decided to do something a little different. Each night was devoted to a different album, played in its entirety. Again, being unfamiliar with their work, I had no idea what to expect. The album that we got to hear, however, was one that I was familiar with: The River. Released in 1980, it was supposed to be a single album, but he felt that he needed to add more material to it, building it into a double album. I knew a couple of the songs because of a mixed CD my lady made me, but the one song I had known since I was a child was "Hungry Heart"-- a great song in and of itself.

The show was really outstanding. I mean, these guys REALLY put on a show! They played for well over 3 hours without a break. Their energy was undeniably strong. And for a man that was, earlier this year, on the cover of AARP's montly magazine, The Boss really tore it up! They started out with a new song (don't ask me what it's called, please). Then went into The River in its entirety-- and as my first BS&ESB album, it was excellent. Then they did a few encore numbers, including the Sam Cooke number "Sweet Soul Music" (great rendition). The show concluded with their big hit "Dancin' In The Dark," which some Springsteen fans joke that he plays so that the "real fans" can beat the traffic. All-in-all, I had a really great time. These are incredibly talented musicians that know how to entertain.

But now, let's get back to the headline of this entry. As I mentioned earlier, my lady and her friends actually know Bruce and the band. So when we showed up, we did not use the normal entrance. We entered through a side door, and were given a special badge (shown above) and a couple of other pieces of ID. Then we went up a freight elevator, and down a hall, to a room that was labeled "Hospitality". There, we were treated to drinks and fruits and cheeses and things (yum!). And then we got the call that the show was about to begin. We walked into a hallway to wait. When I first stepped into the hallway, director Mike Nichols walked by (damn!). I looked to my left, and there was Elvis Costello (holy SHIT!). I am TOTALLY NOT a star struck person...and I couldn't even speak. I made a joke at one point that he snickered at(!), but I was so stunned that I still couldn't speak to him (LAME!!). Then I turned again, and Max Weinberg walked by, looked at me and said "Hi". I said "Hi" back (shite!), then he stopped to talk to Elvis, and the rest of us, about the evening's set. Meanwhile, I was jabbing my thumb into by girlfriend's back, whispering "That's Max Weinberg talking to ELVIS COSTELLO!"

Then we were ushered out into another hallway, a few feet away from the stage. I saw a golf cart, dressed up like a purple pimp-mobile, with the words "Big Man" written in gold on the front. This chariot was for Clarence Clemons (get the FUCK out of here!!!), who needs transport due to his incredible back pain. After he passed by, we were escourted to our seats. I was sitting in an aisle, about 3 rows away and on the right side of the stage. On the left of our group, Chita Rivera sat next to one of our friends. On my immediate right was the aisle, and in the following seat was John McEnroe. Then I felt my lady grab my arm. She leaned towards me and said "Oh my God, it's Jon Stewart!" And lo and behold, sitting right behind McEnroe was Jon (I AM FREAKING DYING RIGHT NOW) Stewart, with his little boy. Well, that was it for me-- I was stunned. STUNNED. So stunned, that I didn't say a word to him.

But it was after the show that was a true stunner. We went back to the hospitality room for about 10 minutes. In that time, while everyone was talking about the show, and what songs they performed that night for the first time ever, and the fact that they hadn't played this or that song since 1999, and other stuff that only a true fan would know...I just sat there, listening and watching-- taking it all in. This was already, for me, an unforgettable moment. Everyone was nice and totally chill. And I had seen what was, undeniably, one of the best concerts I had ever seen in my life. Then, we got the call: "He's ready." We all got up, and were escorted into the dressing room of Bruce and the band. On the way, I saw Little Steven (LITTLE STEVEN!!), who said "Hi" and shook my hand(!). And when we got into the dressing room, there he was. Just hanging out and chatting. My lady introduced me to Patty (godDAMN!), who was very sweet-- and seemed genuinely shocked that I had never seen on of their shows before. And on the couch, across from her, sat Bruce, Elvis, and Jon. Just...talkin'. Hangin' out. My GOD if only SOMEONE had a camera to capture that image, I'd hang it on my wall for all time.

We had spent about 15-20 minutes with them in the room before we realized how late it was. We had a bit of a drive to get back home, so we called it a night. And as we were saying our goodbyes, Bruce got up and approached me. My lady's friend introduced me. I reached out to shake his hand, and I said "Hello, Mr. Springsteen!" (I am such a DORK). He reached out and took my hand and said "Hey, man-- how're you doin'?" Then he pulled me in for a hug. And I hugged back, all the while thinking "He's gonna hug me?!" My lady's friend told him that this was my first show, and he was also genuinely surprised. I told him that I loved it, and that the album was spectacular. He was very kind and very gracious. And, with that, we walked out.

My lady wrapped her arm around mine, and smiled at me from ear to ear. All I could say was "Did Bruce Springsteen just hug me?!" She laughed, and said "Yes he did!", and told me that I should have done my impression for him. Uh, NO...! 'cause it's not that good, really-- more silly, than anything else. But man, let me tell you. I spent 20 minutes in a room full of legends. It was without-a-doubt one of the most unpredictable and exciting things that has ever happened to me. And I want to give a VERY SPECIAL thanks to "E" for making it happen.

So, did it take meeting the men and women of this group to make me into a fan? Maybe. All I can say is that I'm ready to take it all in. And "The River" was a great place to start.

1 comment:

johnpurlia said...

Wonderful review! You captured what a lot of us feel in seeing this excellent band play with conviction, desire, and (in some ways) principle. Though I've seen Bruce play upwards of 40 times, each time is as new and exciting as the opening harmonica strains of "Thunder Road" at my first show in 1981.

Last night I sat in my den at home in California watching the reports blipping in from the Garden as the show was unfolding, and regretting that I hadn't succumbed to the temptation to fly across the country to see "The River" in its entirety. Today, as I sit at work, I have the concert playing from the speakers of my laptop. It's not the same, of course, but if I drop my head and close my eyes it's almost like being there. Gotta love the internet!

Glad you had a great time, and keep up the good work!