Whether or not you like Bruce Springsteen, I bet you have a friend or two that does. And most folks don’t just like him – they LOOOOOVE him (or hate him as the case may be). Growin’ up (song reference # 1) in Philly (check blog # 1 for more info on that: http://www.santafe.com/blogs/eric-davis) when I did, it was hard not to like Bruce. It was, in fact, antisocial in my circle of friends not to be a total Springsteen freak. But, actually, I was less than overwhelmed when people tried to turn me on to him. I remember sitting in a friend’s basement around 1974 listening to his second album and not being too impressed. Even “Rosalita” did not win me over. I heard the stories of his live shows from ’73, ’74, and ’75 from buddies who saw him in small theaters and clubs – yet I was still not a fan. (Years later, thanks to the magic of bootlegging, I heard many of these shows – and was so sorry I hadn’t found him earlier. One of the best – a radio broadcast from 2/5/75 at the tiny Main Point Café, in the Philly suburb of Bryn Mawr, PA – became my holy grail.)
In 1975, when the "Born To Run" album came out, I do remember liking the title track. When he played the Spectrum (his first time headlining an arena) on October 25, 1976, another friend had an extra ticket, and all but forced me to go with him. This was only my second concert ever (Paul McCartney and Wings a few months earlier was my first) and I was excited, even though I was not really familiar with Bruce’s material.
When the big night arrived, we hit the road to South Philly for the show. The parking lot was filled with Bruce maniacs, and I got to hang with a bunch of really cool folks. After we entered the arena, we began to climb to the top of the stairs. Our seats were in the very last row, literally. Our backs were against the wall, and we were as far from the stage as you could get. With no binoculars, everything was pretty small and distant. I wasn’t sure that I was going to enjoy this experience.
Well let me tell you – from the first notes of the opening song “Night,” I was enthralled. Bruce jumped around the stage like a dervish, dove into the audience during the third song (“Spirit in the Night”), told stories between songs, (the one best remembered was about being in Catholic school and having the nuns there punish him), played amazing guitar and just killed it. Period. And the band was everything that you imagined a rock and roll band should be. They were tight, powerful, theatrical, sharp, fun, etc. The E Street Band was not a group given to half-measures – it was “balls to the wall” from the word go.
After “Rosalita” capped a two-hour spectacle, the band left the stage. The crowd demanded an encore. The guys (no girls in the band at this point in time) came back, played “Sandy,” “A Fine, Fine Girl” and a rollicking version of ‘Raise Your Hand.” The band again left the stage. “Wait a minute”, I thought to myself, “he hasn’t played ‘Born To Run.' ” The crowd realized it too, and demanded another encore. After a short time, Bruce came back to the stage by himself, sat at the piano, and introduced a new song that was not on the album – “The Promise.” A lone spotlight illuminated Bruce while he sang this slow ballad, solo. When finished, he got up, thanked the crowd for coming, and said good night. The spotlight went black, and in the darkness (song reference # 2), you could just barely see him walking across the stage toward the wings. Suddenly, at mid-stage he grabbed his guitar from the stand, and leapt toward the microphone. The stage lights came up, and we all saw that the band had snuck back onstage during the last song. With a drum roll, they slammed into “Born To Run.” The house lights came up, and me, along with 20,000 of my new friends, sang along, danced in the aisles and had one of those moments that in a normal life are few and far between. The song ended, the band left the stage, and we exited – exhausted and sweaty, yet energized. It felt like leaving a revival meeting, where we were all converted by the miracles that we saw on stage. Wow. I got it. Now I knew what the folks who had seen him previously were talking about.
To be continued…
Next Time – The “Darkness” stories…
All Photos by Eric Davis