Opinion Column

A life around Springsteen

By Steve Berman, Special to the Enterprise-Bulletin

The Boss will be among the top concert draws of 2016, predicts 24 Hours' Jane Stevenson.

The Boss will be among the top concert draws of 2016, predicts 24 Hours' Jane Stevenson.

My brother Mark is going to see the Bruce Springsteen concert in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Feb. 29.

It's been twelve years since I last saw Bruce live, and though I won't be at the show with Mark, I'm looking forward to hearing it vicariously through him when he gets home.

I've seen more Bruce concerts than I can remember, so I thought I'd share a few of the more memorable experiences I've had; not so much the concerts themselves, but the moments in them that became memories.

The Promised Land - January 24, 1981 (Ottawa)

This was my first Bruce concert, and I have no memory of a single song that he played that night. I can remember only the half hour or so before he took the stage, and the days that followed.

The atmosphere in the arena, was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life, or nothing I've experienced since. It was a living thing. When Bruce took the stage, the explosion of emotion I felt was like my first crush, first kiss, the loss of my virginity, the birth of my children, all wrapped together.

I have spent the rest of my life, searching for experiences that trigger the passion that I felt in that moment.

It was roughly three days after the concert, before I could even speak of it to anyone. All of my senses had been taken to their extremes, and had yet to recover. Perhaps I was in shock, but I'd just experienced something that I could not express in words, nor relate to anyone that hadn't shared it with me. The journey had begun.

Devil with the Blue Dress - August 12, 1981 (Detroit)

Still my favourite Bruce concert. That night at the Joe Louis Arena, Bruce introduced me to a variety of music, which I heard through him for the first time. Unlike my first concert, his covers of Rockin' All Over The World (John Fogerty), Trapped (Jimmy Cliff), Who'll Stop the Rain (CCR), This Land is your Land (Woody Guthrie) and Jole Blon (Gary U.S. Bonds) are still fresh in my memory.

The icing on the cake took place during the encores, when Michigan's own Mitch Ryder joined Bruce on stage to perform the legendary Detroit Medley. I've seen a few shows that have come close, but nothing has ever surpassed that show for me.

No Surrender - July 24, 1984 (Toronto)

Bruce opened with Badlands, and he's wasn't halfway through the song, when two huge guys dressed like Texas Rangers, approached my friend and I, and presented themselves as undercover cops. They took us out to the concession area, and explained to us that the tickets we were using had been stolen from a Toronto home.

They were really good guys, because the next song Bruce played was Prove it all Night, and when I told them that it was my favourite live song, they let me stand in the archway and watch it, before taking us outside to the police car to be interviewed.

I missed the entire first set, but once they saw that we were from Kingston, and that we weren't in Toronto to commit the robbery, we were let into a special area on the floor, to the right of the stage. I got to watch the second half of the concert, leaning on the front of the stage. I'd make that trade again in a heartbeat.

Rockin' All Over the World - January 27, 1985 (Syracuse)

This wasn't one of the better shows I've seen. Bruce had a virus, and it showed in his voice. The reason this show sticks out for me, is that Bruce told us that he was jetting to Los Angeles right after the show, for something special. It turned out that the reason he flew to LA, was to record the iconic USA for Africa song "We are the World."

Tunnel of Love - February 28, 1988 (Worcester, MA)

Following the huge success of the Born in the USA tour, we all knew that getting tickets to see Bruce on the Tunnel of Love tour was going to be tougher than the rest. The tour opened in Worcester, and my buddy and I drove down for the second night, hoping we could find some scalped tickets

We ended up paying $1300 each, to sit front row, behind the stage. It was actually quite cool to look out at the arena, and see it the audience the way the musicians do.

At the end of the first set, it only seemed to dawn on about six people (myself included), that the band had to walk through the tunnel to get to their dressing rooms, so I ran over get a close up look. Each member of the band looked up and acknowledged us, and last one was Bruce who looked up at me and said, "I hope you found what you're looking for."

When I came to ...

Land of Hope and Dreams - September 10, 2003 (Toronto)

My daughter Maddie was only two weeks old, when Jamie and I went to this show. There was a part of me that felt it would be the last time I'd see Bruce in concert, and to this point it seems as though I was right.

There were a number of things that made that night special. It was the first time that an open-air concert had ever been held in the Skydome's fourteen-year history.

Bruce opened the show with an emotionally charged version of Warren Zevon's "My Ride's Here", as a tribute to the singer who died the day before the show.

Either of these things would have been memorable, except the night was bigger than any single moment could define.

This was the "Rising" tour; the album Bruce released after 9/11, which was arguably the single largest gesture an artist could make to commemorate the event. Here he was, only one day removed from the second anniversary of 9/11, not performing in his own backyard of New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, but for us in Toronto.

The man who had been the heart, the passion, and conscience of my youth, showed me that in spite of this tragic event, his faith had been restored, and so could ours.

Once I spent my time playing tough guy scenes,

But I was living in a world of childish dreams.

Someday these childish dreams must end,to become a man and grow up to dream again. (Two Hearts, Bruce Springsteen)

Steve Berman is an avid watcher of local politics, and welcomes feedback to his email at collingwoodbermans@gmail.com. He would like to dedicate this column to Howie.

 



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