Thursday, August 28, 2008

Me and Bruce

I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert Sunday night.

I’ve never really been a big fan of Springsteen. I’m 41, so I was in my prime music-taste-defining phase of my life when Springsteen was becoming popular – the late 70’s.

Over the years, I came to know the hits like everybody else. I know most of the words to “Born to Run,” if only through osmosis.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself re-evaluating my opinion on not just Springsteen, but several artists. I recall driving home from work one day, and “Badlands” came on the radio. It’s a song I was aware of, but I never really paid much attention to it or any other Springsteen song. This time however, the song caught my ear. From that one song, I started paying more attention to Springsteen’s music.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the concert. After reading about this shows and talking with others, I figured it would go down like this: Bruce will come out, probably late, he will sing a bunch of songs I’ve never heard before, and I’ll walk away thinking that it was a great show.

My wife and I arrived with our friends at the Sprint Center around 6:00. We enjoyed a few beverages, a little food, and made our way to our seats. We were seated by 7:30 (the time printed on the ticket), and ready for the show.

I looked around and noticed that at least 1/3 of the arena was empty. Lots of folks were taking their time arriving. The minutes ticked away. 7:45, 8:00, 8:15. I wasn’t bothered by it. We enjoyed chatting with the folks around us. We took turns going out for bathroom/drink breaks and to buy t-shirts. Finally, at 8:50, the lights went down.

Springsteen emerged, walked up the microphone and announced, “Hello fine citizens of Kansas City!” He then launched into a song called “Ricky Wants a Man of her Own.” All of us looked around with a puzzled, “what is this song?” look on our faces. It didn’t matter. Everybody was just thrilled to see him. Later, we would learn that “Ricky” is a song that Bruce may have never played in public before.

Two hours later, Bruce must have been exhausted. He puts every ounce of his energy into these shows. He’d sung 21 songs, danced around the stage, mugged for the cameras, retrieved signs from the crowd and picked a few requests from them. Then he launched into “Badlands.” This was the capper for me. The song that brought me back to Springsteen after so many years.

He played it with all his heart, and allowed the crowd to convince him to extend the song with a sing-along. After the song, Bruce and the band took their bows and left the stage. About three minutes later (the shortest pre-encore break I’ve ever seen), they re-emerged for an unforgettable encore.

Seven more songs came. First, the ballad “Fourth of July (Sandy),” which allowed everybody to catch their breath. They were rocked back to their feet with “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.” Suddenly, the house lights went up for “Born to Run” and “Rosalita.”

The crowd was about to explode. The lights went back down, and Bruce kept going. Next came his Irish-influenced “American Land” followed by “Dancing in the Dark.”

Just when we thought he was through, Bruce grabbed another guitar and launched into CCR’s “Rockin’ All Over the World.”

Finally, the band took their final bows and headed back stage.

It was after midnight when we left the arena.

It was a great night. Springsteen really does know how to put on a show. Even at nearly 60, he has more energy and is in much better shape than I, nearly 20 years his junior.

I’m not sure I’ll become one of those die-heard Springsteen fans, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to experience this concert. The E Street Band may never play together again. But I saw them.

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