With the ‘Magic’ Tour still going strong and two concerts in Barcelona to look forward to, I’ve been thinking about Bruce Springsteen a lot lately. About all those great fan moments I’ve had over the past 21 years and about being a Bruce fan in general.
He was my first fan love and he’s my oldest. He may not be the one I have traveled for furthest, but the one I have traveled for most. He is not the one who played the first concert I ever attended, but the one of whose concerts I have seen the most. He is also the one who can still make my jaw drop and leave me in awe and the one who will draw me in, no matter if I am front row or in the last seat in the house. The one who speaks to my heart and has written much of the soundtrack of my life.
When his music found me, I was mere 15. I fell in love with the lyrics first, even though I didn’t really get what he was singing about back then. Next thing that got me was that amazing sound of guitars, saxophone and longing. I was helplessly drawn into this fan thing that I had no clue about at all. I just knew that I needed to listen to this music, needed to get more music, needed to find out, who this guy was who spoke to my heart and soul. He told stories, stories of people who grew up on the wrong side of town, stories of those who refused to give up and kept on fighting, but most of all, stories about me. He knew exactly what I was feeling, what my fears were and my dreams and he gave me hope that someday things would turn for the better. Yes, I had loved music and especially certain television series before, but never like this. Nothing before meant so much to me. Not much has since (fanwise that is).
Now, 21 years and – so far – 45 concerts later he is still top of my list when it comes to music. Sure, there are better singers out there and people who write better lyrics. There even may be people who play better shows, but none of them is The Boss and no one ever will be. To this day, his music picks me up when I’m down and to this day, I have not gotten bored with his concerts. They are still a huge event for me and as silly or scripted as they may be, to me, that hard working rock ‘n’ roller is still there and sometimes, all the years on stage fall off him and he is that guy again, that scrawny, insecure kid he was when he first walked on stage and sang the songs of ‘Greetings from Asbury Park’, the bearded, shy young man who belted out ‘Born to Run’ or the guy in his late 20ies who let all his pent-up anger and disappointment flow into ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’. Now all these incarnations of Bruce where there and gone before I turned up on the scene. I vaguely remember the all-muscle ‘Born in the USA’ Bruce and when I became a fan he sang sad songs about love gone wrong that I was way to young to understand. After that he took a break and then made two albums about happy family life and when I finally got to see him on stage he sang rather depressing stuff about the dark side of the American Dream. He has changed over the years and so have I, but through all these years and all his albums, I have always found something that was mine, a song, a line, a phrase, or a feeling I got from a song that I could relate to, that went straight to my heart and never came back.
I remember ‘Brilliant Disguise’ on the radio and listening, really listening to those beautiful lyrics and I remember that one line which caught my attention: “When you look at me, you better look hard and look twice – is that me, Baby, or just a brilliant disguise.” That was me, always trying to be someone I was not, hiding my real feelings behind a mask, pretending and I was getting good at letting nobody see the real me. That song hit home and I was hooked. And I didn’t care at all that the song was about relationships and I could not relate to anything else but that line. That song grabbed my attention, but the song that really made me a fan was ‘Born to Run’. It must have been a few weeks later that I heard it, the live version from the ‘live 1975-85’ album. That sound, that music, those lyrics and the feeling it brought across absolutely blew me away. I realized then and there that I had to see Bruce live. It would be almost 9 years before I finally did.
I remember the year after when my brother told me Bruce would play in Bremen, but he did not have time to go with me. The show was two days before my 16th birthday, but my parents decided I was too young. Little did I know that I might not have gotten a ticket anyway, but I remember being eternally pissed of about not being allowed to go, but not daring enough to go alone. The same year I bought all the singles with the live B-Sides and finally got the last albums too. Among those B-Sides was ‘Be true’ which became an instant favorite:
“You see romantic movies, you dream to take the boys home
But when the action fades you’re left all alone
You deserve better than this, little girl can’t you see you do?
Do you need somebody to prove i to you?”
This was one of the many songs where I felt Bruce was singing about me. I was that girl who dreamed of taking the movie heroes home. Always dreaming of better days and yes, waiting for the one who would prove it to me. These days, the little girl has grown up. I’m still a dreamer, but ‘Be true’ has only sentimental value now. Back then, it gave me hope and I much needed that.
So many songs that have moved me, made me laugh and cry and made me think. They spoke to me then and they still do now. I have lived through the songs on ‘Darkness on he Edge of Town’ or at least it felt as if I did. I know the true meaning of the lines
“You hear their voices, tell you not to go
They’ve made their choices and they’ll never know
What it means to steal, to cheat to lie
What it’s like to live and die”
And I cannot remember how many times I have screamed ‘Badlands’ at the top of my lungs, feeling, believing, living every word. I have asked myself “is a dream a lie if it don’t come true or is it something worse?” and occasionally I have learned more from a three-minute-record than I ever learned in school too.
To this day, the most beautiful lines in any love song ever are
“Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright
And that’s alright with me”
I know that it takes a leap of faith to get things going. And sometimes its good to remember that it’s so easy for two people to lose each other in this tunnel of love. After all, I have found my good companion for this part of the ride and Bruce has given us the soundtrack.
I remember the day I heard that Bruce had fired the E Street band and was taking a leave of absence and thinking that I would never ever see him and them live now.
Then the two new albums came out in 1992 and I managed to miss the entire tour. Yeah, great days without Internet.
Fast forward to 1996. I had heard rumors of a tour for half a year. Tickets were not sold in Osnabrück, where I lived, but in Münster, where my then boyfriend lived. I remember kicking him out of bed early in the morning and getting to the ticket seller before they opened. Hamburg was already sold out by then. I clearly recall the woman in front of me wanting 4 seats together and me thinking “if they are sold out because of you, I will strangle you”. Then finally I held the ticket for the Düsseldorf show in my hand and a surge of happiness ran through me.
Concert day I was so excited. I just knew it was going to be special. To my right sat an overly excited teenager, jumping up and down in her seat. I was just going to say something when I caught that look of total awe and happiness in her eyes and suddenly saw myself. Had I still been 14 that would have been me.
When the show started there were goose bumps all over me and from the very first notes I was completely mesmerized. I could not believe that after all those years my dream was finally coming true. That night Bruce made me laugh and he made me cry, he entertained me and he left me with the feeling of having witnessed something very special. There are no words to describe that. That night he was singing just for me and as long as he did, nothing else mattered.
After the show I wanted to meet him and I was not the only one, but no such luck. I took some more years before that finally happened. Yet I went home elated and my feet did not touch ground for days.
I remember camping outside the Wuhlheide in Berlin with my best friend in 1999 because we could not afford the tickets for two nights and a hotel. I will always remember how she scored a front row spot for us both nights while I was still standing at the gates waiting for my backpack to be searched. Finally I got to see the E Street Band, after I had almost given up hope. I will never forget the thoughts running through my head when first the band and then Bruce entered the stage “Oh my god, it’s so close. This is live, this is real!” everything after that is a complete blur, but I know I had a blast that night and there is no one I would have rather shared those moments with.
I remember finally meeting Bruce outside his hotel in Leipzig and how J. and I sang for him. So without him, J. and I would have never met. When Bruce looked at me though, I lost my ability to speak – any language and every time I have met him since, it has been the same. The man has meant too much to me for too long.
I remember my birthday show in New Jersey that same year, being without tickets and the nice security guard who let me in anyway. ‘Trapped’ is connected to that moment in my mind. The other memories I have of that night are 10 000 people singing “Down in Jungleland” and being so exhausted that I had to sit down during the encores.
During the ‘Rising’ tour, I was without a job, without a clue about my future and my world was falling apart. Bruce and the band offered a nice escape from real life and gave me great moments to cherish. I finally managed to get a picture with him too.
On the ‘Devils and Dust’ Tour the greatest memory is that of everyone jumping up in Dublin when Bruce entered the stage. I was far in the back, but again, I felt as if he was only playing for me. That night, ‘Long time coming’ took on a special meaning and I swear that he has never since sung the lines
“Well if I had one wish in this god forsaken world, kids
It’d be that your mistakes would be your own
Yeah your sins would be your own”
with the same passion he did that night.
I remember the wonderful show at Arena di Verona in 2006 and how much fun Bruce had with the Seeger Sessions band on that tour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so loose and I truly enjoyed that. I remember the chaos before the show in Frankfurt and the wonderful setlist that made me forget all about it and again beautiful concerts in Dublin.
Now, with the “Magic” tour, things have come full circle. Once again, Bruce is touring with the E Street Band and once again, people claim it may be the last time. And even though they have lost one of their members this year, I don’t believe it’s true. They are enjoying themselves too much. For me, new memories to cherish have come with this tour from “Because the night” that has long been on my list of songs to hear to those moments in Hamburg that I will never forget.
So many concerts and so many memories. Ticket anxiety and tailgating. Travel and new friends. Escapes from real life and my tour family. 21 years have passed since ‘Brilliant Disguise’ caught my attention, over 12 years have gone by since that first concert, but the excitement is still as real today as it was then and I not only hope, but know it will not fade away.
After all those years Bruce is like an old childhood friend. I may occasionally lose touch, but when I return it feels as if I have never left. I know I can turn to him in times of trouble and when he cannot help me to find the answer, he will at least make sure I have a good time. And he has a knack for knowing just what I need at any given time. His music has found me when I needed it, has provided guidance in dark times and has generally been a good companion on this strange trip we call life. For that I am grateful. For that, I have loved Bruce all those years and will continue to do so.