There was a big full moon that night, during Ramrod on Roy’s solo at the piano (go Professor!) passed ont the big screens too, Bruce laughed at it, then began to jump all over the stage crying I think a Werewolf in on the prowl! Everybody HOWL now!!! and all the people shouting back Awhoooo! crazy, completely crazy.
In the picture, nice touch of me standing near the trash bins, BUT you’ll notice the finesse of having the t-shirt matching the stadium banners of the show (bahaha).
I have found a video from Ramrod, it’s not very good quality but I think it delivers the message, in a way. And we can see the big Man doing some very nice moves! It’s split in two parts:
It’s easy for two people losing each other in this tunnel of love.
1988. 25 years ago, where was I? Very simple, I was spending my glorious youth at the Tech University, and, in that particular June, with a ticket in hand ready for the Tunnel of Love Express Tour arriving in my town.
I’ve always thought that the global success achieved with Born in the USA, the platform of mega stardom of those years, then the nr. 1 spot for the 1975-1985 Live, the building legend of his as best rock act ever, all this influenced Bruce in an unforeseen way. Instead of goin’ to his head and transforming him in a big shot, he deflated. After all, he was the same man who teared off the posters of the Born to Run tour in London in 1975. And he was in his mid-thirties, with some problems on the horizons regarding his marriage.
That’s why he came out with a crepuscular album on the difficulties of human relationships, men and women struggling with the married life, an album with no hit single and no easy tunes. It is a collection of stories, not of teenage lust and romance and big epic dreams: these are the stories of grown up relationships and reality. I have always thought of Tunnel of Love as a very real Bruce who speaks of his life, who wants to do the right thing and wants everything to work out but begin to fear that it will not, in the end.
And the consequent Tour, in many ways, reflected his struggles on his private life.
First, he organized the tour throwing in the horns and re-arranging all the stage positions. That can appear as nothing big, but if the same people have all played together for 15 years, always in the same postion, that inevitably brings some comfort zone that leads to some automatism between the musicians, that consequently -being that order upset- will open out to confusion and some mistakes later on stage.
Plus, he rewrote the entire set list, cutting off most of the epic strong suit, keeping Hungry Heart but losing Born to run (!!!) deciding to try it acustic, restricting Rosalita to few appearances, keeping the same show, with minimun variations, for the entire American leg. That was the Tunnel of Love Express tour arriving in my hometown, but at the time I knew nothing of this, I was just happy to see him and the Band.
The E Street entered onstage in a precise way, first Roy with a strange riff on the synth to resemble the notes at the Amusement Park, then Terry McGovern as the ticket clerck, then the E Streeters adding gradually at Roy’s sound, then Patti in miniskirt, perm and balloons, then Bruce, black jeans and jacket, and here we go, on a Tunnel of love taking a ride into the unknown.
Already at the second song he floored us, with a mighty version of Boom Boom, and Adam raised a Cain. Ouch. Then he slowed down with Two faces and All that heaven, a little conversation with the Big Man, then he started up full force again with Seeds, a hint of Gimme shelter in Cover me, the piano intro in Spare parts (a little forgotten masterpiece), then War and Born in the USA to end the first set.
and let’s take a moment to remember that 25 years, at 35, he played two sets plus encores, now he palys the same, sometimes even more, with no pause, will someone please lend me the youth serum he is using?
While there’s the interval, and we laid in the ground spent drinking beer to recover, I try to focus on the show itself, leaving aside the emotions, because I’m always happy and grateful to see Bruce, that’s not the point. To me, there was something missing in the first set, starting from the choice of three songs like Seeds, War and Born in the USA, that’s a theme recurring that has not even a whole sense, in a show – supporting an album- that is completely focused on human relationships. But that’s just my opinion.
Anyway, the concert is resuming, with a set that is a compendium of modern rock’n’roll: the jungle beat of she’s the one, rockabilly from You can look, soul music from I’m a coward (when it comes to love).
Then Bruce declares that he’s a man with two faces, and brings us in some obscure places in I’m on fire, One step up and Because the night.
Then the sad, epic love of Backstreets, and the big final party begins with a Light of Day, with all the songs that you have in your pocket you choose an unreleased one, a gift to Joan Jett, and what a piece of rock’n’roll!
Born to run is acoustic and a whisper of hope, Have love will travel knocks us to the wall, and Twist and Shout definitely ends the game.
We go home happy, incredulous and tired.
A month after Bruce will announce his attendance at the Amnesty Tour, but his promoter and my professor of mathematical and statistical analysis did not agree on a convenient date and I had to skip that one.
I’m sad, but I’m a student, and anyway, he will come back, sooner or later, right?
Right. In fact, he will come back, 4 years later, and without the E Street Band. To see the Band again, I’ll have to wait exactly 3964 days. Not that I was counting, of course.
In 2000 I was 29, in a relationship with a guy I loved that we can describe as “complicated” aka He’s Just Not That into You, simple as that. In winter 1999 we were officially breaking up, and a Bruce bud of mine called me to ask to go overseas with him to see Bruce at the Madison Square Garden, he had just announced the closure of the Reunion Tour with a final set of 10 shows. So I was there, brokenhearted, with a chance to go to America for the first time AND see Bruce and the E Street Band… what do you think?
We could not afford to stay for three weeks, so we settled for a fortnight, seeing the total of the last six shows. We shared the room with another friend, and we bought the tickets online. There was a slight problem with the last two nights, but we managed to have upper upper UPPER level, not very cool but we were just happy to be inside, you know what I mean. For the other 4 shows we had very good sections, and so off to the United States for 15 days!
That was one of the most beautiful holidays of my life, we were (relatively) young, free, wandering all day long in New York City and in the evening Bruce and the Band… life doesn’t get better than that!
We saw everything we could, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, Ellis Island looking for traces of our ancestors (my great-grandmother’s brother came to America at the beginning of the last Century to start a life here) and the Twin Towers, we ate hot dogs at Coney Island and ice cream on the Brooklyn Bridge, we bought vynils at the Greenwich Village and cds at Broadway’s Tower Records, we spent an afternoon queueing up because Little Steven was signing cd copies, we chased icons of Bruce’s youth and references: the Cafè Wha?, the Bottom Line, the 57th Street in Midtown (looking for an incident and/or an ambulance, ah ah).
It was a hot, intense, wonderful summer, and we enjoyed it plenty. We had two days off shows, so we rented a car and travelled to New Jersey, spending hours in Asbury Park were the Amusement Palace was still standing, looking for Bruce landmarks and references everywhere we could: Belmar, Atlantic City, Long Branch, Freehold,
Out hotel was in the Flatiron District, so at the end of each show we went to have pizza and birra at Sbarro, or we stopped for a coffee and a macadama cookie in one the Deli of the area, slowly walking home, talking about the show and what have happened onstage. To see six (or for the lucky ones, ten) shows in a row is spectacular, first because basically Bruce unwraps all sorts of rarities and goodies just not to repeat himself, and second because you don’t have the logistics issues that currently ensue when you see six shows in a row but traveling: planes, buses, hotels, check ins, check outs, other planes, car sharing and so on.
Just on the first night we listened to Incident on 57th street and Something in the night, then Meeting across the river and Jungleland, Loose ends, Back in your arms, Racing, The promise, The ties that bind, again Jungleland, and many many other songs. Bruce and the Band were in full swing shape, it was the end of the tour so they have grew accustomed to play with close-knit harmony, and the E Street was, well, the Band: Danny and Roy, Garry and Max, Steve and Nils, Patti, Bruce and Clarence. Soozie played once or twice, I remember her in Lost in the flood, but mainly the Band had no sways, and they delivered hardcore rock’n’roll everynight.
For me, well, it was rock’n’roll heaven, it was living one of those cassettes we used to put together for the car radio in our youth. You took some bootlegs and picked all the songs you preferred, the result a happy glorious mix of an impossible set list: and those songs beyond imagination (for a european fan) were played evening after evening just in front of me, I was not comprehending in full what was happening, but boy was I happy!
For the last two nights, as I said, we were in a far-away section of the stage. Even from overseas we heard the stories of the Men in black. Bruce had become quite fed up with the same faces in the front rows night after night after night, more interested in showing up to say I’m in first row than in the concert itself, always chatting aloud and unpolitely abandoning the seats during the ballads to go and pick up beers Therefore Bruce decided to hand up the tickets of the first two rows to the people in the far sections of the building. Staff members (always wearing mainly black, thus originating the name Men in black among the fans) an hour or so before the show wandered in the third level, looking for fans in pair (they handed up two tickets, it was easier), and sending them happily ever after down in the front FRONT field. Legend said that there was a girl who had been approached while the male was buying the beers, and since she suspected foul tickets she refused the exchange with the Man in Black, imagine the horror of her boyfriend when he came back!
We decided to try our luck on the last night: we entered very early, and we positioned ourselves in our seats in the third level. My friend after a while wanted to go out and have a beer, but I was looking down at the first two rows, they were still empty so it meant the tickets had not been handed yet. It passed almost an hour, it was seven o’clock and the show started at 7.30. We had to go to the bathroom and eat, we did not know what to do, I was standing eating my nails and considering it could have been a good day to start smoking. Then a voice behind me said Excuse me? I turned around to see a young woman (woman! IN BLACK! SHE’S WEARING BLACK! oh my GOD!) who asked me very politely: Are you interested in exchanging your tickets? My friend just stood up speechless, I just managed to say: Yes, thank you. She handed us the two front rows tickets, and she tied our access wristbands; when I saw the tickets I said sincerely: We are not worthy!, and she laughed and said you are the wortiest! then we said like a gazillions thanks and off she went to bless some other people. Me and my friend looked at each other and hugged so close to actually hurt. Then we picked up our bags and hurried to the elevators, but we were so upset we were not able to find the exit from our section, we managed to sweep the entire third floor without being able to find anything. We actually ended up meeting again our personal Woman in Black who laughed seeing us so distressed and told us where to go. A valet at the stairs looked at our tickets and marveled at how far we have managed to go: You are on the third level! you have to go down! YES! WE KNOW THAT!
In my mind I was already seeing Bruce entering the stage and performing the unperformable, I don’t know, The Wish maybe?, while I was still trapped in an elevator. Finally we arrived down, in our seats, and what can I say? I was so happy that still now, 15 years later, I think at that moment and smile.
I know you understand me: it was Bruce magic, just another gift from the man, the perfect end of a perfect journey. Life can be so good sometimes!