I Have Seen the Future of Rock’n’Roll, and His Name is Still Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen 1200I checked a big one off the bucket list last night when Bruce Springsteen and I finally got together at Mt. Smart Stadium.

Words almost fail me, because it meant so much, and because it almost did not happen.

I was totally devastated when Bruce’s first New Zealand concert sold out before I could grab tickets on-line; I was well and truly devastated.

But when I got a couple of tickets for the second show, baby, I was on fire.

Sure, paying about US$400 for two tickets was ridiculous. But nobody ever said checking things off your Bucket List was cheap or simple.

To Get My Bruce On, I started watching his clips on You Tube. I was stunned, actually ashamed, that he’d done so many records that I didn’t know about. I mean, I knew he was still cranking out GREAT music. My son gave me Magic awhile back, and I instantly fell in love with it.

But the album that stunned me was The Rising. I didn’t know Bruce had done a post 9/11 album or, obviously, how strongly it had resonated with Americans. So I listened and listened and listened. And I read and read and read, including “Healing a nation: Deconstructing Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising” — a freeking academic paper for crying out loud — on The Boss’ brilliance.

You see, I emigrated to NZ in 1993 and was here when the Twin Towers went down. It was an awful time for me, but nothing, NOTHING like what it was for the people of New York City.

Especially the firefighters.

 

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

And their families.

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

Bruce at his finest — as a musician and storyteller and blue-collar everyman and a Dad … Did you know his youngest son, who is younger than my son, is now a firefighter? Just think of what all that means.

Game Day

And finally, after months of waiting, it was March 1, the day before the concert.

I was sweating the weather, which is always impossible to predict in Auckland — an isthmus that’s just 12 miles wide, so fronts whip in and out in an hour. What to wear? What bag to carry? What food and drink to take?

And then I thought, this is getting ridiculously gurly. Stuff it. That polar fleece. That hat. These nibbles. That drink. And for the bag? What’s Junior got hidden in his closet? Yep, that old backpack for his childhood scooter is perfect. Boom. All packing done.

The original game plan was for Junior and I to go see The Boss together — epic Father-Son bonding. You will remember that Eli is a talented young singer/songwriter with serious piano chops.

But, while I am enormously proud of this young man and his eclectic musical talent and musicology, I am ashamed, Ashamed I tell you, that this flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone admitted to me that, “I maybe only know one Bruce Springsteen song, sorry Dad.”

This revelation knocked me to me knees, and made me whimper a heartfelt apology to The Boss. Not only was this an enormous failure as a father, it could have totally scuttled my plans.

Because, you have to understand, I have been scheming for years how to get my No. 1 musical son into a position where he is — say — positioned directly in front of Bruce Springsteen in Mt. Smart Stadium, totally embarrassed because he is being forced to hold up a sign that, oh, we don’t know, says something like: “MY OKIE DAD (arrow pointing to me) IS INSANE AND WILL NOT LEAVE ME ALONE UNLESS YOU LET ME PLAY KEYS WITH YOU RIGHT NOW!”

And then he would wail and totally be discovered.

But before that could happen, Junior got a cruise ship contract, which blew my grand Bruce strategy. So I moved to Plan B which required Junior to burn me a CD of his favorite original tunes before he left, and for me to spend two days figuring out how to burn it to a USB drive.

Plan B

On the very day that Bruce was to arrive, I would be at the airport sending off the Missus for Singapore, at precisely 1.05 am. Then, by sheer serendipity, (or possibly the lingering effects of having grown up in the Seventies), I would be standing there when The Boss and his entourage would be walking right toward me, having just flown in from Aussie.

I would smile and walk right up to Bruce. Because I am little and old and wear a hat and an artificial arm, Bruce would say to himself, “an interesting man… I will talk to him.”

And I would say, “Hi Bruce, welcome to New Zealand, mate. I’m an Okie who’s been Down Under for 20 years. We both have musician sons. My son, Eli, deserves a break. As one Dad to another, would you mind listening to this, no obligations, and let me know what you think? Thanks, and blessings, mate, I can’t wait to see you Sunday night.”

We would shake hands. I would give him the thumb drive (which includes a dozen of Junior’s originals, his photo, and contact details). And I would walk away. Victorious.

Delusional, much? I know, but this is how my brain works. Thirty years in P.R. and journalism does something to a man…

Sadly, The Boss had a Brisbane concert that night, which I was not aware of, so our paths did not cross in Auckland Airport, scuttling my otherwise perfect plan. (So I am now setting my sites on Michael Bublé , who comes to NZ in May… I know. Stalker Dad. Sorry, son. Deal with it.)

Old People

With Brotha Eli and his keys on a cruise ship bound for Asia, I roped in a Kiwi mate to come with me to see Bruce. Upon being invited to buy Eli’s ticket, his response was “$250??? Are you out of your effing mind?” But once we got over that hurdle, he bought into the Bucket List idea, because he, too, is well past his use-by date.

On Game Day, we sat outside the stadium, under some trees, just cooling it while people with way less smarts stood in long lines under the hot Kiwi Sun. During that time, I played a game called “Count the Canes.” In a very short time, I counted seven canes and four crutches belonging to fans who seemed more likely to be sitting in a recliner than driving down Thunder Road.

My mate suggested the men were thinking to themselves, “What is with all these old, fat women?” He was not impressed when I suggested the women were thinking to themselves, “These old fat men are disgusting; what the hell happened to them?”

And so they came, by the thousands. Old. Fat. Balding. Wrinkled. With canes. And hearing aids. Many wearing Bruce T-shirts from his recent concerts in Australia, or from his last NZ concert some 10 years ago. And I thought to myself, even though we all look like death warmed over, in a matter of hours, we would be young again, Dancing in the Dark, with The Boss.

When Bruce came on stage, all by himself, carrying his guitar, I started smiling. A great, big, ear-to-ear smile. The kind I don’t often smile, because the facial contortions make my hearing aids crackle. But on this day? Screw the crackling. I smiled. Big. I just could not stop.

When The Boss opened with an acoustic version of Royals, in honor of Lorde, I sort of chuckled to myself. The crowd of well-ripened NZ Baby Boomers didn’t do much singing along. They were thinking, “Oh, yeah, that’s that song by that young Kiwi girl with the wavy hair and weird black fingernails who’s been on the telly, you know, what’s her name?”

I honestly had a bit of Kiwi hate during the first hour or so because “Colonial” audiences can at times be like still life. I could see Bruce trying to figure out how to crack this nut with his unmatched arsenal of performing skills. Alas, there were no massive sing-a-longs or rampant boogieing, even when he played the whole Born To Run album.

But, slowly, the crowd’s temperature began to rise. They loved it when Bruce dedicated My City Of Ruins to earthquake-smashed Christchurch. That was a true moment.

When Bruce played The Rising, we all teared up. As he played, I thought about the powerful “deconstruction article” I’d read. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing the planes flying into the Twin Towers, over and over. I saw the flames and black smoke. I kept thinking, “everybody’s running out, but the firemen are all running in, like my Dad used to do.”

I was stunned, touched really, that New Zealanders “got” the song. They knew what it was about. They showed as much respect for America’s loss as they do for their annual Anzac Day commemorations, which are huge. It touched me. It made me cry.

There was emotion. But…

After about two hours, when it was dark and cool, Bruce called the whole E Street Band to the middle of the stage and the lights went up. Even the stadium lights went up.

And you could just hear the sound of 40,000 sphincters slamming shut.

The collective butt-puckering was because we all thought, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! BRUCE IS GOING TO LEAVE! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Then the “Once and Still Future of Rock’n’Roll” played Glory Days. And the whole place jumped up and erupted, including the old guy next to me who’d struggled in on two crutches. Everybody in the stadium sang the words. We sang them loud, with emotion. Because we were all there, to a man, to a woman, to remember the Glory Days, which pass you by, like the blink of a young girl’s eye.

The next hour was just incredible. And that comes from a hard case who has seen everyone from Hendrix to the Stones. No one comes close to The Boss.

Not. Even. Close.

I was smiling. And clapping. And even though my boogie died many years ago, my ass? It was shaking. Like everybody else’s. Saggy or not.

Bruce was all over the place, pulling a young boy, a birthday blonde, and many Elated Old Farts out of the crowd and onto the stage. He flung his guitars all over the place. He swung around the mike stand like a pole dancer.

He told us the stories of our youth, the ones that are still there in our hearts, seared deep inside.

Thanks Bruce.

Damn, what a show!

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2 Responses to “I Have Seen the Future of Rock’n’Roll, and His Name is Still Bruce Springsteen”

  1. Michelle says:

    I saw Bruce in 1981, 1986 and then 2008. Every single show is incredible. I have loved him for years. This is a great post..it really brings back the excitement of seeing the Boss.
    Michelle recently posted..I Got Help From The Doctor. Apparently, I Have An Issue With ChangeMy Profile

    • hams says:

      You saw Bruce Springsteen THREE times? I am so not talking to you anymore! But really, it was awesomeness. And in the week since the concert, I have kept listening to The Rising and reading the lyrics and about the album itself. I even rented a 9/11 video last night. The Boss opens up emotions like nobody else, deconstructed or not.

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