I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen 16 times, which is a lot for one artist unless you’re a groupie. I mean, I’m close to being a Southside Johnny groupie, having seen him about 30 times over the years, but Southside is more of a low-cost, great bar band kind of show. Sixteen times with an arena-filling artist? That’s a different kind of commitment.
When Springsteen announced his Broadway show last year, I was excited. My buddy Steve Q. had loaned me the Boss’ bio on CD and I enjoyed it during the daily work commute. I really wanted to see him back home where I grew up.
Over the years, I’ve had a lot of luck (and some street smarts) in acquiring (non-scalped, other than one show) tickets to shows. For Springsteen on Broadway, though, I found myself wait-listed from the get-go. I’ve watched at least a dozen of my Facebook friends gleefully post pictures of them heading to the show, at the show, posing under the theater marquee, posting reviews of the show, sharing pictures of the Boss on stage. Eating NYC deli after the show, for crying out loud.
OK, yeah, I’m jealous, and I’ve taken to quickly closing Facebook when those get posted.
For me, Bruce live hits so many themes. From his storytelling to his reworking his own songs with new melodies to the joyous connection with his audience, he is one of a kind in our lifetime. I can think of at least three friends who thought Springsteen was all hype until they saw him live.
My Springsteen live experience began with a December 1980 show at the Nassau Coliseum for “The River” tour. After that, there was Summer 1981 in Los Angeles, Fall 1984 in Hartford for “Born in the USA” tour, two at the Summer 1985 Meadowlands Stadium shows, and in 1987 back in Hartford for a “Tunnel of Love” concert.
As I recall, I missed the fake band tour shows of 1992-93 and the 1995 “Ghost of Tom Joad” tour, but I was gleefully in attendance (the scalped ticket show; we traded tickets for a show a few days later to get in the first night) at the initial E Street reunion show at the old Continental Arena in the Meadowlands in 1999 when for the first time he performed (among many others, of course) “In Freehold.” From seats in the very top row with my friend Gary Libow, rest in peace, we roared at those lyrics.
I was in the fifth row (phone ordering skills), closest I have ever been, for a reunion show the next year in Hartford, where I was able to see for the first time just how hard the man works and just how much of a bond he has with his band. My best memory from that night is that when Bruce finished “Promised Land,” he reached out toward a kid, maybe 8 or 9, in the third row riding his father’s shoulders and gently tossed him his harmonica.
More Bruce? I moved to North Carolina in 2002 and there was a “Rising” tour show that year in Greensboro; I saw Bruce on consecutive nights for his 2005 acoustic “Devils and Dust” tour in Charlotte and Greensboro. There were 2008 concerts in Charlotte and Greensboro for “Magic” tour, 2009 in Greensboro for the “Working on a Dream” tour where he consecutively covered audience requests “Seventh Son” and “Hang On, Sloopy,” and later the same year in Charlotte (“Born to Run” complete album within the show). My last Springsteen show was a magnificent 2014 “High Hopes” tour performance in Charlotte where (among many others, of course), he covered “Louie, Louie” and “Mustang Sally.”
Sadly, there was the 2016 show that never was in Greensboro (for which I had primo seats, in the second row of lower deck mid-arena) thanks to the boneheads who call themselves North Carolina state legislators.
When Springsteen on Broadway was extended for the final time late last month, I finally caught a surprise—my ticket access code. I’m coming home to NYC for Bruce show #17 on Dec. 12.