I Have Seen the Future of Rock’n’Roll, and His Name is Still Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen 1200I checked a big one off the bucket list last night when Bruce Springsteen and I finally got together at Mt. Smart Stadium.

Words almost fail me, because it meant so much, and because it almost did not happen.

I was totally devastated when Bruce’s first New Zealand concert sold out before I  could grab tickets on-line.

But when I got a couple of tickets for the second show, baby, I was on fire.

Sure, paying  about US$400 for two tickets was ridiculous.  But nobody ever said checking things off your  Bucket List was cheap or simple.

To Get My Bruce On, I started watching his clips on You Tube.  I was stunned, actually ashamed, that he’d done so many records that I didn’t know about.  I mean, I knew he was still cranking out GREAT music.  My son gave me Magic awhile back, and I instantly fell in love with it.

But the album that stunned me was The Rising. I didn’t know Bruce had done a post 9/11 album or, obviously, how strongly it had resonated with Americans. So I listened and listened and listened.  And I read and read and read, including “Healing a nation: Deconstructing Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising” — a freeking academic paper for crying out loud — on The Boss’ brilliance.

You see, I emigrated to NZ in 1993 and was here when the Twin Towers went down.  It was an awful time for me, but nothing, NOTHING like what it was for the people of New York City.

Especially the firefighters.

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

 And their families.

Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li

Bruce at his finest — as a musician and storyteller and blue-collar everyman and a Dad … Did you know his youngest son, who is younger than my son, is now a firefighter?  Just think of what all that means.

Game Day 

And finally, after months of waiting, it was March 1, the day before the concert.

I was worried about the weather, which is always impossible to predict in Auckland.  What to wear?  What bag to carry?  What food and drink to take?  What hat to block the sun AND look boss in?

The original game plan was for Junior and I to go see The Boss together — epic Father-Son bonding.  You will remember that No. 1 son Eli is a talented young singer/songwriter with serious piano chops.

But, as it turned out, he had a contract playing keys on a cruise ship, so no Bruce for Father and Son.  I guess it was appropriate… since he admitted to me that, “I maybe only know one Bruce Springsteen song, sorry Dad.”

So I roped in a Kiwi mate to come with me to see Bruce.

On Game Day, we sat outside the stadium, under some trees, just cooling it while foolish old people stood in long lines under the hot Kiwi Sun.

I played a game called “Count the Canes.”   In a very short time, I had counted seven canes and four crutches belonging to fans, who should probably be sitting in a recliner than driving down Thunder Road.

My mate suggested all the men at the concert were thinking to themselves, “What is with all these old, fat women?”  I suggested that the women were thinking pretty much the same about us.

The crowd grew and grew.  Old. Fat. Balding. Wrinkled. With canes. And hearing aids.  Many wearing Bruce T-shirts from his recent concerts in Australia, or from his last NZ concert some 10 years ago.

I thought to myself that, even though we all looked like old fogies, soon enough we’d be young again. Dancing in the Dark with The Boss.

When Bruce finally came on stage, all by himself, carrying his guitar, I started smiling.  A great, big, ear-to-ear smile.  The kind I don’t often smile, because the facial contortions make my hearing aids crackle.  But on this day? Screw the crackling.  I smiled.  Big.  I just could not stop.

This was a bucket list moment.

When The Boss opened with an acoustic version of Royals, in honor of New Zealand’s Lorde, I sort of chuckled to myself. The crowd of well-ripened NZ Baby Boomers didn’t do much singing along.  Lorde who?

I wasn’t very happy with all the kiwis during the first hour of the show. “Colonials” can at times be like a still life painting.  Bruce kept trying to get the crowd going with his unmatched music arsenal and insane performing skills.  Alas, there were no massive sing-a-longs or rampant boogieing, even when he played the whole Born To Run album.

It was embarrassing.

But, slowly, the crowd’s temperature began to rise.  They loved it when Bruce dedicated My City Of Ruins to earthquake-smashed Christchurch.   That was really touching.

When Bruce played The Rising, every old bugger in the place teared up.   As Bruce played, I thought about the powerful “deconstruction article” I’d read. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing the planes flying into the Twin Towers, over and over.  I saw the flames and black smoke.  I kept thinking, “everybody’s running out, but the firemen are all running in, just like my Dad used to do in Norman.”

I was stunned that New Zealanders “got” the 9/11 song.  They knew deep in their psyche what it was all about.  They showed as much respect for America’s loss as they do for their annual Anzac Day commemorations, which are huge.  It touched me, and I teared up.

After about two hours, when it was dark and cool, Bruce called the whole E Street Band to the middle of the stage and the stadium lights went up. You could hear the sound of 40,000 sphincters slamming shut.


We all thought “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  BRUCE IS GOING TO LEAVE!”

But he didn’t. Instead the “Once and Still Future of Rock’n’Roll” played Glory Days.  

And the whole place erupted, including the old guy next to me who’d struggled in on two crutches.  Everybody in the stadium belted out the lyrics.  It made sense. We were all there to remember the Glory Days, which pass you by, like the blink of a young girl’s eye.

The next hour was just incredible.  And that opinion comes from a hard case who has seen everyone from Hendrix to the Stones.  No one comes close to The Boss. Not, even close.

Through it all, I was smiling and clapping.  Even though my boogie died many years ago, my butt?  It was boogying.  Like everybody else’s.  Saggy or not.

Bruce was pulling people out of the crowd and onto the stage.  He flung his guitars all over the place.  He swung around the mike stand like a pole dancer.

He told us the stories of our youth and the ones still burning in our hearts. 

Thanks, Bruce. Whoa.

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2 Responses to “I Have Seen the Future of Rock’n’Roll, and His Name is Still Bruce Springsteen”

  1. Michelle says:

    I saw Bruce in 1981, 1986 and then 2008. Every single show is incredible. I have loved him for years. This is a great post..it really brings back the excitement of seeing the Boss.

    • hams says:

      You saw Bruce Springsteen THREE times? I am so not talking to you anymore! But really, it was awesomeness. And in the week since the concert, I have kept listening to The Rising and reading the lyrics and about the album itself. I even rented a 9/11 video last night. The Boss opens up emotions like nobody else, deconstructed or not.

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