We've now examined two layers of our Bruce Springsteen concert experience of the other night, and it's probably time to put it down for a while. You never know when the edge of another layer's going to appear, but if it does, it will probably take some time.
Meanwhile, a few loose ends:
The E Street Band is still extremely sound. Drummer Max Weinberg was a workhorse, doing yeoman's duty throughout the show. At 57 years of age, and having had some occupational hand troubles over the years, you might expect him to be slowing down, but he clearly wasn't. Maybe his steady TV gig has kept him in shape, but whatever the cause, he's still in the groove.
Nils Lofgren, who fell into the band quite by accident in the '80s, was a strong acquisition whose value becomes more apparent with every tour. His solos have become show-stoppers. He and Little Steven (Van Zandt) play such a mean pair of guitars that Bruce can lay off the strings whenever he wants and still have a phenomenally full rock sound behind him.
Clarence Clemons, the "Big Man," is still blowing fairly strong, but he's moving a little more gently now that he's into his Social Security years. It wouldn't be E Street without him, and when the sax breaks come in the older songs, the energy level in the hall picks up quite a bit.
The other players are Gary W. Tallent on bass, who's been there since the beginning; "Professor" Roy Bittan, whose piano is the melodic anchor of the crew; Soozie Tyrell, who provides background vocals and plays violin when it's called for; and a fellow named Charles Giordano, who has stepped in while original Bruce keyboardist Danny Federici is more or less sidelined with some serious medical issues. Bruce's wife Patty also sings and plays guitar with the band, but she was missing from this part of the tour -- home with the teenagers, who Bruce said would otherwise be taking pot cookies out of the oven right about concert time.
Speaking of concert time, the show began just over an hour after its scheduled 7:30 start time. The Rose Garden ushers, who always seem to have the inside scoop, mentioned something about a late flight, but by 8:30, they assured us that the artist was "in the building." Moments later, the lights went down and the festivities began.
By that time we were fairly fat and sassy. Between giving up on the mosh pit and heading to our seats, we spent a nice hour and change in the "taproom" inside the arena, on the ground level right across from where the old Cucina Cucina used to be. We had to show our tickets to get in there, and they had to be seat tickets, not floor tickets. Of course, we had both in our pockets, and we showed the seat tickets, which by that time we were resigned to use.
The taproom is adjacent to the main concourse, and from our stools we got to see the floor standees hustle along, headed for the magic door through which they would reach the Promised Land. They were all cautioned not to run, but the Mrs. and I, having been through the same drill six years ago, knew that at that point, containing one's self is pretty nigh impossible. You are that close to being that close, and it's "Feet, don't fail me now!"
We considered for a minute trying to use the floor tickets in my pocket to cheat our way into the pit. It looked as though it might have been possible -- there was an usher blocking the passageway between the taproom and the concourse, but she did let a couple of wristband people through. Could we finagle our way past her? She was probably the last line of defense between us and the stage!
Nah. We decided that we had already had sufficient ticket drama for one day. It was enough to get a vicarious thrill from watching the people trying to walk as quickly as they could without running.
We then settled in for some of the $8 microbrews that the Rose Garden is so well known for. But we were blessed with an incredible young waitperson who worked feverishly to make sure that everyone at her tables were being served well and not having to fret about the clock. Along with the second round of excellent beer, we decided to order some finger food, which was also fast and good (though not cheap). At one point, one of the gals we were sharing a table with spilled an expensive mixed drink, and our waiter had another one in her hand, on the house, within a couple of minutes. You really could not have asked for a better pre-concert venue.
Across from us in the taproom were two young women who were wearing identical T-shirts that said "Lesbians [Heart] Bruce." We smiled at that sentiment, but pretty much shrugged it off. Of course they do! Everybody in the place did.
It turned out, those two were part of a larger group of young women -- maybe 10 or so -- who were all wearing the matching shirts. During the second half of the show, we saw that the group of them had made their way into the mosh pit and were standing stage left, where the barrier stood between the pit and the rest of the standing room. As he wandered over that way during the instrumental segment of a song, Bruce noticed the shirts and gave a big grin. During his last number, "American Land," in which various nationalities of immigrants are recited, he threw in a reference to "lesbians" in where "Germans" would normally go. The guy doesn't miss a beat.
Now, there once was a time when I probably would have griped about the t-shirt crew wangling their way into the pit. They couldn't all have had winning wristband numbers, could they? But it was the end of another wonderful Bruce show, and somehow the concept of ticket line justice seemed pretty far away. God bless the lesbians, and the guy they were showing love to.
We also got quite a kick out of watching our friend Charles and his date literally right up against the stage next to Bruce's microphone throughout the concert. They appeared on the big overhead screens more than once, and we could see that they got in plenty of touches on the star and his guitar. A big night for them, even when Bruce was singing songs older than they were.
The only thing we would have enjoyed more was standing next to them. But hey, at least it was somebody we knew.