EDITORS NOTE - This entry was originally published in October of 2009. During some site migration work, this entry was inadvertenly removed. It has now been returned for your reading pleasure.
“Seeing Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey is like seeing a panda in China.”-Jon Stewart
For years I have been trying to explain to friends the significance of seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. “It’s like I walked into church and was instantly converted,” I’d often say of my first show, which was back in 2003. I have never seen the Bell Centre as alive before or since.
Seeing him in the USA was something I had always wanted to experience. After hearing that Bruce would be performing the final concerts at Giants Stadium this fall, I relished the opportunity to see him in his home state, and in the venue that gave him the reputation as one of the few artists worth seeing in concert in a football stadium.
I woke up early, left Montreal before dawn, and made it to my friends Sam and Sarah’s place in Chelsea by noon. We were left with ample time for a pre show meal at the Chelsea Market and a quick look at the High Line, an amazing addition to what has become my favorite part of the city (http://www.thehighline.org/).
A quick change into my Rosalita shirt (“Now I know your mama she don’t like me ‘cause I play in a rock ‘n roll band”), and Sarah and I were off to Penn Station to catch a train that would take us through the swamps of Jersey to the Meadowlands.
We got there early, walked past the throng of tailgaters, and started talking with the amazing cross section of fans who were waiting with us at the gate. There was the family from Texas, dressed head to toe in Aggies gear out of fear of wearing their Cowboy colours in enemy territory, the dad and his son dressed head Bruce bandannas and tight jeans, even a lady in her 70’s, with a walker and a Greasy Lake t-shirt. Everyone was talking about who would show up to say goodbye to the stadium….Mick? Sir Elton? Southside Johnny? Did Bruce really pay a $3 million fine so that he could play till 2am?
Well, no. He didn’t. He "only" played for 3 and a quarter hours. And nobody else showed up except those who were expected. There was no disappointment to be had. At this party, the invited guests were all that we needed.
I’ve seen the Hip in Kingston, and Arcade Fire at the Bell, but I have never seen a crowd embrace their hometown son like they did that night. Bruce crowd surfed during an entire song, helped facilitate a marriage proposal in the pit, sang a duet with a little girl, and brought a bald guy on stage to dance with him (there’s hope for you, Melnick!). It didn’t matter where you were in that stadium, from the furthest distance you were still in the palm of his hand…
Twenty-five years ago, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band played Giants Stadium for the first time, on the Born in the USA tour. Twenty-Four sold out Giants Stadium concerts later; they would bring it full circle, and play the Born in the USA album from front to back. Hearing the one two punch of the plaintive and beautiful Bobby Jean and a stripped down and emotional I’m Goin Down brought the crowd to euphoric heights, at least it did in section 129…
One of the highlights of a Springsteen show is request time (if you’re close to the front at a Bruce show, bring a sign with a song you want to hear- if you’re lucky, he’ll play it!). Surprisingly, they played ‘I believe in Miracles’- “Where you from? You sexy thing!”. Fittingly, they also played the slowed down version of The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, aka The Last Time by The Rolling Stones.
As the night began to wind down, and he started to play the opening lick to Kitty’s Back, I thought back to the first time I had heard the song, many years ago on Conan O’Brien. Watching Springsteen carry the song into the credits with Conan and guest Al Gore rocking along with, I wished that one day I would hear it in person.
Not exactly world peace, but I did get my wish that night. After he closed with Jersey Girl (the last dance, he called it), the lights came back on, and as if on cue from above, it began to pour.
Nobody cared. There’s praying at the church of rock ‘n roll, and then there’s attending Vatican mass with the Pope. Besides, like Catlong, ooh ooh what can I do?