' Cinema Romantico: The Performer to End All Performers

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Performer to End All Performers

"The music at a Springsteen show doesn’t just come alive, it encompasses you in the way a train would affect your balance if you were standing on the edge of the platform and it passed at 150 mph." - Stuart Levine

Yes, Michael Jordan used to play at The United Center here in Chicago, IL but the man who will take the stage this Sunday evening at The United Center makes Michael Jordan look like Richie Sambora. (And Scottie Pippen look like Steve Perry.) Do I have to say his name? Do I have to say his name?

Bruce should suffice, I believe. And it will be the 7th time (feel free to read my thoughts about the most recent time) I've seen him in person, but the first time I will have seen him with The E Street Band (the greatest backing band that ever has existed and ever will exist) since July 1, 2000 at Madison Square Garden. (Check out the CD and the DVD for his Live in New York City. Why? Because that was the July 1, 2000 show my friend Rory and I attended. We were behind the stage, yes, but we were there.)

Springsteen fanatics (and there's a lot of us) could argue for days and months, perhaps years, regarding his greatest live performance. The Bottom Line shows in '75. Winterland in San Francisco in '78. The 4 and 1/2 hour New Year's Eve epic at Nassau Coliseum in '80. But for my money the greatest Springsteen show of all time happened during the E Street Band Reunion Tour at the Palace of Auburn Hills on September 9, 1999. Not coincidentally that was the first Springsteen show I ever saw.

I remember all the details about the day so vividly. It was myself and my friends Dan and Rory. We had to travel to Detroit to see him because it was the closest show, aside from Chicago which had sold out before tickets could be scored. The plan was to leave from Cedar Falls, IA at 5:00 in the morning and so we decided getting to bed early was a priority.

Except Dan and I went out with our friend Jana instead since, you know, a nearby bar was serving exceedingly cheap Long Island Iced Tea's and when we returned home Jana insisted that she and I go for a drunken walk and so we did and, long story short, I have no idea when I actually went to bed. So the next morning at 5:00 we piled into Dan's car, I thrust my bootleg of Bruce's November '84 Kansas City show into the CD player and Rory and I advised Dan we would be up and wide awake with him for the ENTIRE drive.

Rory and I fell asleep 20 minutes later.

We arrived in Detroit but, like the idiots we are, didn't realize we were now on Eastern Time instead of Central. Luckily, we were early enough that this oversight did not result in indescribable disaster.

We got something to eat at a nearby bar & grill that 1.) Was filled with other Springsteen fans who were incessantly playing his music on the jukebox and 2.) Had Labatt Blue on tap. I've drank hundreds of Labatt Blues since that evening but none have come anywhere close to tasting as good.

A dad and daughter sat next to me at the show and the dad kept leaving and coming back, each time smelling more like - shall we say? - ganja. I also came rather close to grabbing the daughter for a lively dance during the epic rendition of "Working on the Highway". Consider that one of my 45,394 regrets in life.

Clarence was introduced as a potential Presidential candidate (I'd vote for him).

Bruce - in an apparent ad-lib - sang a verse of "My Girl" to Patti (i.e. his wife).

But the best part? The best part was the very end. I had read that he was closing every show of the tour with a brand new song, "Land of Hope and Dreams". Well, he had just played it. The show was at the 3 hour mark. This had to be the end. Right?

Except Bruce and the band stayed on stage. He kept strumming his guitar. Could there be one more, I wondered? Could there be....and then Bruce pointed at someone in the front row. "What time is it?!" he hollered. The person told him. "Nah, we can't go home yet!" Bruce declared. "Nobody's going to work tomorrow!" And then he and The E Streeters ripped off the most exhilirating version of "Ramrod" these ears have ever heard.

How I didn't spontaneously combust at that moment still baffles me.

Will there be a moment to equal that in The United Center? It's like this, that first Bruce show was Neil Armstrong's first step on the moon. Every other Bruce show is every other step Neil Armstrong took on the moon. No, it's not the first one but, come on, it's still a footstep on the friggin' moon.

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