Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band - July 15, 1999

In 1999, Bruce Springsteen reunited with the E-Street Band for a world tour after releasing a box set of rarities titled Tracks. Getting tickets to this series of concerts was a pain I never before endured. Originally, only three shows were scheduled that summer at the Continental Airlines Arena (formerly Brendan Byrne) and everyone wanted in.

My wife (at the time) and I marched off to a record store in Morristown and lined up with all the other hopefuls to get a shot at our chance to see Bruce and the band playing with all original members for the first time since 1985. This was just at the cusp of online ticketing becoming the norm, so a lot of people still stood in line to wait for a ticket buying opportunity. Sure, there was charge-by-phone, but this was a guaranteed thing. Get a wristband from the record store, get a ticket. It may not be the best seat in the house, but tickets to at least one show were going to be purchased.

At 10:00 AM on a chilly Saturday morning in March, tickets to the July event went on sale. We were way back in line, the wristband gods not favoring us that day, and we waited…and waited…and waited. After 3 hours, approximately 2 people had gone in for tickets. Apparently there was a glitch with the ticket machine that spread industry wide. The orders were not processing fast enough, thus everyone was forced to wait longer than normal.

Then the first show sold out. We were frightened. When the second sold out, we were nervous. Would we be able to score tickets at all? After standing around for hours, were we doomed to not even have the opportunity to see the show? Quickly, Bruce added more dates, so people continued their tortured waiting. After five hours in line, cold, hungry, and tired, we decided to give up. We’d have to try and get tickets over the phone, or from a scalper on show night. I could endure waiting no more.

Around 9PM that night, we finally scored tickets (over the phone) for two of the last shows scheduled in August. That was fine by me. I had tickets for Bruce and I was happy.

Two days later, I got a call from a friend that worked for Bruce’s touring agency. They had tickets for opening night of the extended New Jersey run and wanted to know if I was interested. Section 110, 3rd row, the closest I’ve ever been to the stage at a concert (except for Meatloaf in PA). Was I interested? Hallelujah! I was getting the good seats.

The day the concert arrived was a funny time in my life. I had just been downsized (RE: Laid Off) from my job, and I was fighting a persistent illness. It felt like the summer flu, but for all I knew, it could have been major depression. The job that let me go was the best one I ever had, and there was no future work lined up. I didn’t even know how to put together a good resume.

The night of the concert I was sick to my stomach. I couldn’t eat, my head was feverish, my body ached, and my stomach was knotted. My wife debated about not going and keeping me home. We could sell the tickets or give them away.

Was she insane? There was no way that I was losing 3rd row tickets to Bruce Springsteen on the opening night of his homecoming during his first full-fledged reunion in almost 15 years. I was going to that concert if it killed me.

My wife drove, as we both had concerns putting me behind the wheel, and I tried to sleep or at least feel decent. We stopped for some food, and when I managed to keep that down, it settled my stomach. I had high hopes for the rest of the night. Perhaps this was a turning point, and I would get through the remainder of the evening unscathed.

In typical Bruce fashion, there was no opening act. At approximately 8:15, Bruce and the band took to the stage to the enormous roar of approval from a sold out arena. “Good evening, New Jersey!” Good evening indeed.

He kicked off the show with a rousing count of “A-one, a-two. A-one, two, three, four!” launching into My Love Will Not Let You Down, one of my favorites from Tracks. I leapt out of my chair alongside everyone else, screamed at the top of my lungs, and burst my applause of approval, clapping thunder through my hands.

And then I sang. Every lyric to the song erupted from my throat. Everything I had endured was worth it, just to be standing there on that night. The Promised Land, Two Hearts, Darkness on the Edge of Town, and Darlington County would follow the opener, meaning that for the first 20 minutes of the show, I didn’t get a chance to breathe, let alone sit. All while battling a 100+ fever. It may not have been the smartest decision that I ever made, but at that moment, I did not care.

The next song was a slow one from Nebraska, which made it a good time for a bathroom break. I headed into the men’s room along with everyone else, and on the way back made sure to get a bottle of water. I was parched, feverish, and sweating.

The rest of the night continued in similar fashion. Bruce kept pounding out the hits, and I kept singing along, not willing to sit down, unable to contain myself. I pressed on like a hockey player forcing through the sickness. This was an incredible night; with seats so amazing I could practically touch Clarence Clemons.

Bruce and the band sounded incredible. Few match the energy they bring to the stage. The song selection on that particular night was fantastic. Hit after hit after hit were played with songs from Tracks being thrown out there as well.

Then, as the opening notes of Bobby Jean filled the arena, the fever/sickness/whatever overtook me, and I collapsed into my seat. My wife looked at me, put a hand on my forehead, and told me we were leaving immediately.

I tried to fight her off. An attempt was made to prove that everything was fine, I just needed a minute to rest, but when I stood up and fell down again, even I had to wonder how much more I had left.

She rationalized that the concert was almost over, and we would be back for two more shows in August. I begrudgingly conceded and we left the show as Bruce continued Bobby Jean. It was the first and only time I left a concert early.

In the parking lot, as we started our long walk to the car, I felt worse than before. Each step I took was like a punch across my entire body. My head was on fire, my feet ached, my lungs wheezed, and everything hurt. My wife had to practically hold me up as we searched the parking lot for our car.

When we arrived at the vehicle, I slumped into the passenger seat, argued about how we shouldn’t be leaving, and passed out. The Mrs. later told me she was worried something serious had happened to me, and if it weren’t for my snoring, she would have taken me to a hospital.

Obviously, I slept well that night, and about three days later, I was back to my old self again. I would see Bruce two more times that summer, and both shows would be amazing, but nothing would compare to that night. I was glad to have fought myself and attended the show, and I was thankful for being able to see what I saw. It would have been nice to have witnessed the complete show, but at that moment, it felt nice to pass out in the car.

My Love Will Not Let You Down
The Promised Land
Two Hearts
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Darlington County
Mansion on the Hill
The River
Murder, Inc.
Out in the Street
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Where the Bands Are
Working on the Highway
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Street of Philadelphia
Light of Day
Stand On It
Hungry Heart
Born To Run
Bobby Jean (Cousin Ryo is forced to leave)
Thunder Road
If I Should Fall Behind
Land of Hopes and Dreams

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