Magic in the Night: An Evening With Springsteen

I have a confession to make. I left my husband at home last night and spent the evening with another man, whom I adore almost beyond measure! But my husband knows all about it, so there's no need for keeping secrets. Yes, I danced the night away with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who performed at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center on Monday evening.

What a show they put on! They played from 8:05 pm until about 11:40 pm, barely stopping for any breaks, each time charging - with a "ONE TWO THREE FOUR!" from The Boss - straight into the next song. I've seen Bruce and the band twice already before, once in February 2000 for their Reunion Tour, and again in November of 2012, just after Hurricane Sandy. This was my third time seeing them, and my very first time going to a concert alone!

They performed the entire 1980 album The River to celebrate its 35th anniversary which took place last year, and finished up with some additional favorites: Badlands, The Promised Land, Because the Night (featuring a STUNNING guitar solo by Nils Lofgren), The Rising, Jungleland (a crowd request), Thunder Road (hearing Bruce sing "The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves" over the intro tinkling piano bit actually made the hairs on my arms stand on end!), Born in the USA, Born to Run (yes, the two Born songs, back to back!), Dancing in the Dark, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, and Shout. The total setlist was an unbelievable 33 songs, but energy and enthusiasm ran high among both the performers and the crowd.

I had a ticket in the nosebleed seats, but I had a perfectly fine view, though a bit far up. And for the first time ever at any event of this kind, I ignored the stated "don't bring any cameras" rule, and sneaked my smaller camera (the Canon PowerShot SX 120 IS, with 10X zoom) in to take some photos. Photographically speaking, it was a very interesting and I'd also have to say very challenging event to photograph.

Even though I knew I could not have sneaked it in because it was too big, boy did I miss my go-to camera, the Canon PowerShot SX 50 HS, with its awesome 50X zoom. Further challenges beyond just the distance included contrasting and colored light effects, low light, and lots of subjects jumping up and down (just YOU try photographing a half-dozen jumping beans, and you'll see what I mean).

My best view, of course, was on the jumbo screen above the stage in front of us. There were a number of them all around the arena. So we could catch a closer view of what was going on if we wanted to, but of course that displayed just a tiny subset of the action. I was in section 227 row Q seat 103. The only thing behind me was a WALL. With a nice shelf, actually, which turned out to be a good place to stow my fanny pack and jacket. I had to squeeze past two ladies to get into my seat, but the good news was that nobody showed up to claim the seat next to me, so I had a bit of elbow room for stretching out (and taking pictures!).

The first trick was getting the camera past security, which was plenty tight. There was a long line to get in, and a guy near the doors wanding people with some kind of wand. Checking for guns? Or who knows what. Everything, I guess. These days you can't be too careful. There was also a friendly lady canning for the local food bank, as that is a cause that is supported at all Springsteen concerts.

The guy with the wand asked me to open my fanny pack, and I did - tissues, money, antibacterial soap - he didn't spot the camera underneath, and maybe he wouldn't have cared, as friends have told me that nobody minds if you bring in small, non-professional cameras anyway. Still, I didn't want to take any risks.

But when I got to my seat, and with the light as poor as it was, I had full access to view the stage and could easily take as many photos as I wanted without drawing any attention. The surprise for me, though, was that I have not used the SX 120 IS camera in a while, and boy, did it zip through the batteries. It takes 2 AA alkalines, and that's supposed to get me 150 shots or so.

Well, about 50 photos in, the battery light blinked and I changed batteries. It blinked again about 50 pics later. So I went through FOUR batteries for the 110 or so photos I took? Unbelievable! I don't remember it being such a battery hog when it used to be my go-to camera. It also takes a tiny battery which holds the date and time, and as far as I know, that is fine. So let's just file this under . . . hmmm.

The band members were on high energy, but they are all looking a bit older these days. The sound was as good as ever. Mighty Max, dressed like a banker in a nice vest and pinstripe shirt, was a madman on the drum set. Little Steven and Bruce played off each other all evening, especially during Two Hearts.

Bruce looked out for Jake, the newest Clemons on the sax, and seemed proud to see him do so well. Jakie was clearly a crowd favorite, as they roared every time he performed a solo bit, and he grinned like he'd won the lottery. And indeed he has: he's playing next to one of the most famous rock and rollers of all time! Those who are Clemons fans may be interested in this Rolling Stone interview with Jakie where he talks about his uncle Clarence, and what it means to him to pick up Excalibur, one of the most famous saxes in the history of rock and roll.

Bruce worked the crowd like a pro, and spent plenty of time walking along the edges and up and down the structures that had been set up for that purpose. At one point, he launched himself fully into the crowd, who roared, and moved him along on their hands until he reached the stage again.

People held up signs, begging for dances, for songs, for special favors (BRUCE - PLEASE SIGN MY ARM!) He lifted a girl up onstage during Dancing in the Dark, just like in that MTV video that features Courteney Cox as the dancing girl Bruce pulls out of the crowd. But THIS girl even got to play guitar with the band!

And in between the songs, Bruce talked a bit. About the making of The River. About what it all meant; what they had been trying to do: to make something more, something better. The older Bruce is more reflective, and spoke about walking side-by-side with his own mortality; about trying to pull it all together and make a good life: pick a mate, get a job, raise a family, have enough money to get by.

And he sang the song, of course, The River, which I consider to be my husband's and my wedding song. And so for me, it was one of the big highlights of the night, to hear it live. For I have told you here about how my own wedding day was not what I ever expected. With the man I loved possibly dying and not having medical insurance, we got married in a great big hurry at the Justice of the Peace, with no family or friends present.

We exchanged our vows before I took my brand new husband and dropped him off at the hospital so he'd be on my insurance, finally, and they could try to save his life. He got a miracle and lived; so we did have a happy ending, though I think pretty much everybody would agree it all started with a rather sucky wedding day. But hey, it makes a better story; suffering always does. Yes, it went something like this:

"We went down to the courthouse, where the judge put it all to rest,
No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle, no flowers, no wedding dress."

But we were not sad on this day! No, no. Mostly, we partied, and we danced! And we boogied in the aisles until the cows came home! I sang along, I clapped, I shouted, I shook my booty, I hollered BRUUUUUUUUUUCE with the rest of them. No, that's not BOO you hear the crowd calling at a Springsteen concert; it's simply his name! I felt fully alive, and happy, and young. It was the land of hope and dreams. Though sadly that song - one of my all-time favorites - was not on the setlist for this night.

And near the end of the show, they played Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. And at the part where "the Big Man joined the band," they played a montage of photos of Clarence, as Jakie wailed away on the sax. It was fantastic, and we all wiped away tears. Big Man, we love and miss you still! And we carry you with us; we carry you in our hearts.

And then finally they played the last song - SHOUT! - and I had danced all I could dance, and it was time to go home. Bruce and the band disappeared and a soundtrack kicked on: can you believe the first song was the incomparable Alison Krauss, with Down To the River to Pray? (Which made me wonder if ALL the songs playing before and after the show had been river songs. Hmm. I didn't notice!)

The mob of people moved out of the Jordan Center all as one, and headed for their cars like a swarm of locusts. I had parked all the way at the other end of campus at the Nittany Lion Inn parking deck, so off I went into the darkness. Yes, I am generally unafraid to walk alone on campus, even in the late-night dark.

By the way, since I had planned to park there anyway, I had had dinner at the Inn before the show - yes, my favorite, LOBSTER BISQUE! Be still my beating heart: Springsteen AND bisque in the same night? *swoon* I was like Nic Cage in Moonstruck, who got to have both Cher AND the opera. I can die happy now! The waitress asked me if I was in any kind of hurry for she knew there were some big events going on in town. I smiled sweetly at her and said, "I have a date with Bruce Springsteen later, but I think we have a bit of time."

I am a strong, fast walker, so when the show ended, I quickly outpaced everyone. It had been a beautiful day, sunny with blue skies and temps near 80 degrees F, and the night was warm - in the 60s F - so that I didn't even need the light jacket I had brought along. When I got to the parking deck, I leaped in my car, fired it up, and took a back way home. I may have seen a handful of cars; that was it. By shortly after 12:30 am, I was home. By 1 am, I had fallen into bed, totally played out. I didn't even brush my teeth. And I fell asleep, and I dreamed a happy dream: that I had spent the night with Bruce Springsteen. Only it wasn't a dream. It was REAL!!! Oh yeah, still dancing here . . . dancing in the dark.

Now, the song to accompany this posting just HAS to be The River. It's the name of the tour, and it's the name of my wedding song. And can you believe I've never featured it in any of my Blips? So here are two versions: one from the original The River tour back in 1980, and the other from the current 2016 tour (for the record, he was wearing that very same outfit on this night!). Enjoy! Long live The Boss!

About the photos: the main photo features Little Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren (who is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated guitar players in rock and roll; man, that dude can SIZZLE on the strings; if you doubt it, watch Nils go mano a mano with Mark Knopfler in this performance at Wembley in 1985), as a girl in the crowd holds up a sign that says "CAN I HAVE THIS DANCE?" In the extras, I've included a full shot of the band (no, the redhead isn't Patti; for whatever reason, she was not with them on this night). I have also included a shot of Bruce with the crowd (with Little Steven looking on in the lower left of the shot), with their arms reaching out to try to touch him. Yes, there is a love affair that goes on between an artist and his/her crowd!

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