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.