Meeting Across the River

The missus and I were among the 18,000 attending the R.E.M./Springsteen Vote for Change concert last Friday (although we had better seats than about 17,500 of them). While I am already firmly for the "progressive" movement that MoveOn promotes, I felt it was important for me to be there to show my support for the cause. Aw, who am I kidding, I was there for the music. As much as I love what MoveOn’s been doing, I don’t wouldn’t have gone if it had been Pearl Jam/Death Cab for Cutie playing (luckily they were out in Reading).

I have been a Bruce fan for thirty of my thirty-six years. I marvel at the fact that, at the time of our wedding, my wife had lived in Jersey all her life and didn’t like the Boss. I thought there was a state law against that. Come to think of it, I’m amazed that I knew that she didn’t like Springsteen and I still married her. 30 years of following Bruce, hanging on his every lyric, never driving downashore without his music, and yet I had never seen him live.

With R.E.M. on the bill, my wife was just fine seeing Bruce. To her credit, she has warmed up somewhat to Bruce recently, first with "Streets of Philadelphia," then that awful Jerry Maguire "Secret Garden" remix. She bought the Rising for me and ended up listening to it more than I did. But forget trying to get her to like "Rosalita," let alone Nebraska. I think she feared the Bruuuuuuce groupies like I fear Deadheads. And Phishheads. And Parrotheads. And Cheeseheads. So I give her credit, she was a trooper. It’s staggering what she will endure to see R.E.M. yet again. I, on the other hand, have been cool to R.E.M.’s live shows lately. I thought that their tours supporting Reveal and In Time lacked excitement. To me it seems like the boys’ hearts aren't in it anymore. Even a sub-par R.E.M. concert beats most bands on their best night, but I was there to see Bruce.

So, Friday night, I put on my John Kerry shirt and we cross the river and get to the Center relatively quick considering there’s a Phillies game going on. As we’re pulling into the parking lot we see some Bush/Cheney signs and, unbelievably, Springsteen protesters. These jokers are spending their Friday night telling us that they are upset that Bruce expresses his opinion in concert. If the guy holding the "30-Year Boss Fan for Bush" sign was really surprised to find out that Springsteen was against trickle-down economics than he must be buying Springsteen CD’s just to hear Patty Scialfa’s tambourine playing, because he certainly wasn’t listening to the lyrics.

We go our seats, which are thisclose to the stage. Don’t ask how we got them, we just did. Springsteen and Michael Stipe come out. After Bruce lays down the rules (No Bruuuuucing - You Bruuuuuce, You Die) they say a little about MoveOn, let the crowd know that the night is more about rocking than preaching, and introduce the pride of Nebraska, Bright Eyes. Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst was actually pretty good. Very confident for a young guy playing in front of a crowd not use to having to wait for their Bruce. A real throwback protest singer. But dude, you don't have to scream everything. And get a haircut, how can you see with all that hair in your eyes? Jeez, kids today.

After Bright Eyes, Bruce came back out to introduce R.E.M. They put on the same kind of show they did at Temple last year. Their insistence on stopping after every song kills any chance at creating momentum. I'm also afraid that they will insist on playing "Bad Day" and "Animal" on every tour from now on. These songs will never be more than warmed-over outtakes. Bright spots included opening with "The One I Love", the rarely heard "Begin the Begin" and "World Leader Pretend," and Bruce coming out to join the band for a "Man on the Moon" finale. Rather than watch Michael Stipe, who has got to drop the bizarre "We are R.E.M. and this is what we do" line, I concentrated on Peter Buck and Mike Mills. They are really the stars of the recent R.E.M. albums and it was very cool to watch them at work. It may seem that I don't like R.E.M. anymore, but it's just that I hold them to a pretty high standard.

Finally Springsteen came out with a twelve-string in his hands and an electric guitar strapped to his back. He went into a grinding solo of "the Star-Spangled Banner." From there he went right into "Born in the USA," reclaiming it back from those who wrongly have used it as a conservative rallying cry. From there it just never stopped. Highlights included three of my favorites - "Lost in the Flood," "Badlands," and "Johnny 99." John Fogerty came out midway to play "Centerfield", "Fortunate Son" (perfect for the theme of the night), Bruce's "The Promised Land," and "Deja Vu" - Fogerty's new political single. Fogerty looked like he was having a ball. Of course, John hasn't played in front of 18,000 in quite a while. Stipe came back out for a great duet of "Because the Night" (Michael Stipe has said he grew up listening to Patti Smith, so I'm sure he knew the words by heart.) and Mills and Buck joined the E Street Band to create a wall of guitars for "Born to Run." Springsteen and Fogerty did a killer "Proud Mary" and everyone (including Bright Eyes) came out for a rollicking "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" and "People Have the Power."

Bruce and the band were everything I had expected. Bruce is just non-stop showman, which is not news, but he is also completely unselfish with the spotlight. When John Fogerty and Michael Stipe came out Bruce stepped back and let them shine. That was cool. As for Bruce's "lecture," it was a 3-minute "P.S.A." that was completely in line with what he has been singing about for years. If you want to hear what he said, it's available here. As I expected, he ended up saying more with his songs than his words. Just an incredible night. My wife didn't come out more of a Springsteen fan, but she definitely understood the fanaticism of Springsteen fans better. And her wonderful husband bought her a cool new t-shirt. I came out an even bigger Springsteen fan.


At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprized that this was your first Bruce concert. Took me years to get there too though. Including one ill-fated overnight campout at the Moorestown Mall Wanamakers when the people in front of me bought the last available tickets. I must have run out of coffee and looked crazed (me??) because the next thing I know, Moorestown police are there in riot gear with dogs. Wasting their time watching out for pissed Bruce fans while God knows how many Moorestown (maybe even a few Haddonfield) hoodlums were being allowed to riot unchecked on Main Street!!
Anyhoo, I finally saw Bruce in '99 and it still feels like a religious moment. Bought and eventually lost a cool pewter keychain. Hurts more than the disinegration of my Maroon (MARUUUUUUUUN) shirt.

I'm just sad no one in my family bothered to ask me if I wanted a ticket. :( *sigh*


ps...I'm eagerly awaiting your Rodney Dangerfield tribute.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Dee said...

Shhheeesh!!! Talk about tootin your own horn!! ;)

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Dee said...

Shhheeesh!!! Talk about tootin your own horn!! ;)

At 8:16 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Donna - I think you've forgotten who was waiting for those tickets with you 20 years ago!

Dee - If I don't call myself a wonderful husband, who will?

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, was that you??? I just remember this annoying little teenager who kept my place in line while I ran to Dunkn Donuts


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