Where does one begin to describe the sheer awesomeness of last night's Bruce Springsteen concert?
I suppose the beginning is as good as any other place.
Through some sheer dumb luck, I found tickets online on Friday night for Bruce's Saturday night show in Philadelphia. Even more incredible, the tickets were general admission floor seats. Needless to say, I was beyond excited for this. So Saturday afternoon, I made my way to Philly, linked up with my sister, and we headed over to the Wachovia Center around 4 so we could get our wristbands.
If you're unfamiliar with how Bruce Springsteen runs the floor section for his shows, there is front GA - known as the pit - and back GA. In order to prevent people from camping out at the arena to get the best spots, numbered wristbands are handed out, and then a random number is drawn. The person with this number is the first to get into the pit, and the rest of the line follows until the pit is full. The rest of the people fill in the rear section.
Anyway, to omit a lot of long, boring details that no one cares about, I was 696 and the number they pulled was 528. Not only were we in the pit, we were among the first 200 people in the building. That may sound like a lot until you think about the fact that there are probably close to 22,000 people in the building for a concert. And once we walked down onto the floor and saw how few people there actually were... man oh man. Perma-goosebumps. I remember somewhat dazedly holding up my duly-wristbanded wrist to the security guard at the entrance of the pit and looking at the sheer amount of space that was there... and the sheer amount of space that WASN'T there between myself and the stage. We staked out a spot between Bruce and Clarence with approximately three rows of people between us and the stage. Yeah. Kind of a big deal.
Everyone around us was super nice (Bruce fans are such a nice change from the annoying hipsters I usually go to shows with even though yeah, I am one sometimes), and I got tons of comments on my '84-'85 world tour shirt (thank you, eBay!). The guys in front of us in line for the pit seemed genuinely stoked that two people as young as my sister and I were genuine fans of Bruce. All in all, it made the four hours between arriving at the Wachovia Center and Bruce's first notes on stage fly by.
When the band finally came out, we seemed even closer than I originally thought (I know, I'm an idiot). It was like my brain couldn't possibly process the idea of being that close to Bruce Springsteen until he was actually there, 15 feet away. We were so close to the stage, we couldn't even see the giant screens on either side. The show opened with "Night," and you couldn't wipe the goofy smile off my face for the rest of the show. He played 3 songs off "Darkness On the Edge of Town," "Prove It All Night" - during which there was eye contact* between myself and The Boss - "The Promised Land," and "Badlands," three of my all-time favorite Bruce songs. And people, HE PLAYED "INCIDENT ON 57TH STREET." This might not mean anything to you if you're not a Bruce fan. But trust me, it's a big deal. And it was amazing to hear live.
I've been up relatively close at comedy shows and some small club shows, but this is the closest I've ever been (and probably every will be) at an arena show. And just being able to see how the band members interacted with each other - and what a good time they seemed to be having - was priceless. The expressions on Bruce's face when he took a solo - particularly during "Prove It All Night" - were so intense (and I'd be lying if I said they didn't make my mind... wander... a bit). And that's something that you'd never be able to see from the other end of the arena without the help of the giant screens. Every time someone pointed to Clarence, he'd grin and point back at them and the whole group of us standing by him would cheer.
Other than the previously mentioned setlist selections, one of my favorite moments of the whole night had to be when Bruce played a wrong note during "Thundercrack" and tried to pretend it wasn't him. He yelled out "Who did that?" and laughed with this silly sheepish grin on his face (which I could see... from where I was standing... without looking at the screen). We might treat him like a god, but he's human. And he's cool with being human. The pairing of "Born To Run" and "Dancin' In the Dark" in the encore was another highlight, with the crowd going absolutely nuts. He closed the show with "American Land," which I thought would disappoint me because it wasn't an E Street Band song, but I actually really liked it - even though that meant the show was over.
All in all, I couldn't have asked for a more amazing experience for my first Bruce show. I'm sure the two guys we waited in line with wondered if "the two rookies" realized what an awesome show they had witnessed. Oh, we realized. We most certainly realized. And more importantly, I'm wondering when I can go see another show, even though I know it's near impossible to have another perfect combination of an amazing setlist, amazing spots in the pit, and amazing weather for standing outside waiting for the lottery.
And because I couldn't go the whole post without mentioning it, it goes without saying that for 58, Bruce looks damn good. Age appropriate? What? Heh heh heh.
Thanks, karma, for finally coming through.
*Maybe I imagined this, maybe I didn't. But it's one of my favorite songs, let me have my delusions, goddammit!!