This is an account of one of those perfect events when all the stars align and things go your way. That doesn’t happen very often (at least for me), so it’s worth remembering. And recording.
So throw on a Bruce Springsteen album (yes, ‘album,’ damnit), grab a beer (or whatever) and join me in a little trip down Memorex lane.
[cue wavy time fade effects…]
Earlier That Day…
This would have been somewhere in the early 1980s. I lived in Los Angeles then and was a field service technician for a national company. I was at an account installing a fax machine (industrial-strength, circa 1982 machine; it was the size of a large dishwasher). As is often the case, one of the folks that worked there had nothing better to do than hang out and watch me work.
So we get to talking, and at one point he says, “Yeah, I’m going to see The Boss tonight.” I started to say, “Huh? What ‘boss’ is this of which you speak?,” but before I made a fool of myself, important synapses belatedly fired, and what I actually said was, “Cool! He’s really good.”
(I wasn’t a big fan at this point, just someone whose primary music was Rock & Roll, so I was familiar with the bigger hits.)
The guy goes on to say, “Yeah, I have two tickets, but I don’t have anyone to take.”
(Two Springsteen tickets and you can’t score a date? Hmmm… Although, as I write this, it suddenly occurs to me: could he have been trying to pick me up? Seems unlikely, I’m neither handsome nor pretty. But on the other hand, neither was he. No, I’m over-analyzing again. Never mind.)
Ever the opportunist, I immediately said, “Well, I’d love to see The Boss! I’ll buy that other ticket off you, if you like.”
He did, so I did.
Later That Night…
For those who have followed Springsteen and know his work, this was the opening night concert for the beginning of the international tour promoting The River album. That tour began, and ended nine months later, in Los Angeles, but I’ll get to the ending part later.
I show up, and it turns out, because it happens to be Halloween Night, that at least a third of the audience is in costume. And not just any costumes, but mostly costumes inspired by Springsteen’s music. There were several devils in blue dresses, for example.
We had very good seats: on the second level, but just off stage left and slightly forward so the view was excellent (the concert was at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, just south of USC, for those that know LA).
Then more magic happened. Two men were standing in the aisle looking at their tickets and looking at the seats. Clearly there was a problem of some sort. I forget the details now, but the upshot was that one of them asked me, “Would you mind trading your seat for this?”
He hands me a ticket. I look at the ticket. It says, Floor. Row 22.
Ever the opportunist, I immediately said, “Hell, Yes!”
(My seat mate, who’d sold me that magic ticket must have been looking at me with death beam eyes. I knew better than to look back. I just headed quickly down to Row 22!)
The (First) Concert…
If you’ve ever seen Springsteen in concert, you know he doesn’t bother with costumes or fancy stage sets or glam Rock & Roll. He and the E Street Band just play kick ass Rock & Roll (you know,.. that “boogie woogie music”).
For Four Hours.
Well, on this night, because it was the beginning of the tour, and because, hey, it was Halloween night, things go a little differently.
The lights go down, the audience quiets (as much as audiences ever do at a Rock concert), and then the stage fills with blue light… and dry ice fog! Six stage hands march slowly on stage carrying… a coffin. They set the coffin down on its end and open it. Inside… is The Boss (complete with Telecaster).
He leaps out (the band had crept onto the stage by now and taken their places) and jumps into a Springsteen cover of an old tune, Can’t Keep Me Out Of A Haunted House.
And then there was music. Four hours of music. Springsteen music. There are no words that can describe it; you have to experience it. It’s transcendental.
I walk out a total fan (with several tee-shirts). I buy all his albums the next day.
In the process I discover that the tour ends in LA nine months hence. Seven nights; I buy tickets for six (one was sold out already).
The Other Concerts…
Nine months later (kind of gestation-like), six nights, six concerts (six dates, I can score a date with Springsteen tickets).
To this day, The River is still my favorite Springsteen album.
One side note: upon his return, The Boss was clearly exhausted. You could see it in his face (but you could not detect it in his performance). Back on the drum riser, he had a large square plastic tub of ice and water. Every couple of songs, he’d go running back to it and dunk his entire head in the tub for as long as he could hold his breath.
Then he’d surface, shake off the water and return, dripping wet, to center stage and resume the show.
I still get emotional remembering how great those concerts were. All Hail The Boss!!