Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bruce Springsteen Live, Take #1

A few months ago Brady and I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert. It was my 12th time seeing Bruce in concert. The first was in November, 1984, in Denver. 32 years ago.

My most frequent Springsteen date has been Kenny Budd, my college roommate. We've seen Bruce together five times--twice in Washington DC, also in Fairfax, VA; Richmond, VA, and Greensboro, NC.

Each Springsteen concert has been an event. I mean an Event. Big. Amazing. Memorable. If you've never seen him in concert, you can't fully get it. He puts on the most amazing live show, hands down. In the early days, marathon four-hour shows. Now, 30 years later, he still plays for 3 1/2 hours.

I've been to probably a hundred concerts. Most of the time, you leave wishing the performer would come back out for one more encore. Not so with Bruce. He wears you out. By the time he leaves the stage, you're ready to go home as well.

The first time I saw Bruce he was 34; this time, he was 66. That's hard to believe.

Here is a clip of Bruce singing "Meet Me in the City," the song that he opened with.

Bruce's music has been the soundtrack of my life. I've been looking back at some of those concerts, thinking about where I was in life, realizing that each time I saw him, I was a different person, in a different place in life. I thought it would be fun to reach back and dig into those memories, so here goes...

Concert #1. November 11, 1984, McNichols Arena, Denver, Colorado.

My friend Jeff introduced me to Springsteen's music in high school. A year after graduating, I was 19, a private in the Army stationed at Ft. Carson, outside Colorado Springs. I was living a pretty wild, reckless life.

Mark and Gary were two good friends in my company. Mark was from California, very laid back and cool; he rode a sweet motorcycle. Gary was bright and friendly, but came across as kind of a stoner. Great guys.

We spent a lot of time together in the summer of 1984. Gary had a jeep; we'd take the top off and ride around Colorado Springs, hanging out at the lake, playing frisbee, drinking beer and watching girls.

It was a good time to be in the Army--it was peacetime, and I had a pretty easy job--personnel clerk in the battalion headquarters of a maintenance battalion (mechanics).

As a young single guy with a lot of freedom and little responsibility, life was pretty much one long party.

Months before the concert, when we heard tickets were going on sale, we decided to go to a record shop downtown and get tickets. One of the guys said we'd better go early, maybe even camp out the night before, to get in line.

So at about 2 AM, Gary and I decided to go downtown to the record store where tickets for the Springsteen show were going to be sold. There were already dozens of people in line. We got in line and talked and laughed with a bunch of other people, mostly about our age, some a little older.

At 10 AM, the store opened, and the line began to move. It probably took us about 20 minutes to get to the ticket window, and I bought 2 tickets.

As the concert drew closer, I started thinking about finding a date. I wasn't dating anyone regularly, but I'd met a pretty girl in our battalion named Kathy, and talked with her a few times.

A week or two before the concert, I asked if she'd like to go with me. She said yes.

On the day of the concert I called her, and got no answer. I went to her barracks, she wasn't there. I got stood up. I asked my roommate Mike if he'd like to go, he said sure.

Mike had a Trans-Am; really sweet; he drove us up to Denver.

It's been more than 30 years, but I can still close my eyes and see and hear and feel the beginning of that concert. After an hour of the typical pre-concert buzz, the lights went out. People began to yell and cheer.

Then we heard Bruce yelling, "One, two....One, two, three, four..."

Suddenly the stage exploded with bright light, revealing a huge American Flag. At the same instant, the drums and keyboards blasted the opening of "Born in the USA."

I listen to that song on Springsteen's Live 1975-1985 album, and I'm always carried back to that concert. I still get chills.

I was already a Springsteen fan, but on that night, for four hours, I was taken to another world. It was indescribable--the power, the energy, the unity that 20,000 people experienced at that concert. We sang, danced, clapped, yelled and lived a lifetime in the characters and experiences and themes in Bruce's songs.

I was young, and just starting to experience life, and ask questions about who I was and where I was going--questions that Bruce explored a lot in his early music.

I was on a natural high for those four hours, and for a couple days afterward.

There are events from my life--many from years ago, and some even from a few weeks ago--where my memory fails me. And to be honest, I don't remember a lot of the details of that concert. But I remember the music, and the feelings that the music created. And I've been fortunate to experience those feelings again and again over the years.

Each of the concerts has been different, and I've been different at each one; but they always take me back to that first one.

Next up--one concert postponed by snowstorm, and celebrating with Bruce on his 36th birthday.