You could say I began and ended the summer of 2012 with Bruce. Although technically, I started it this spring with the two shows over the Easter weekend at Madison Square Garden (which for me feels like the beginning of my most happy season, summer). But I definitely ended it with the shows on the Sunday and Monday of Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia. Since I already blogged about the first two shows, this blog will be about the last two shows.
As Bruce fans, Philly is symbolic for us. And even though I don’t live in Jersey or in the city proper, I think of myself as a Philly girl since I’ve been going to concerts there since I was 13. So I took it personally when he came out that first night and shouted, “MY PEOPLE!” Yes, that’s me!
Sunday felt like a party all night long…no school or work the next day! It was still summer! He called it The Labor of Love concert. It was hot and humid, and he played for 3 hours and 43 minutes. More important, it was my oldest daughter’s first time seeing Bruce in concert. This is the daughter I have a video of as a 2-year-old jumping on the bed singing “Born in the U.S.A.” at the top of her little lungs. She and Bruce had grown apart since then, but I felt the need to reconnect them—and for her to understand the live-ness that is a Bruce concert.
I got us seats way high up, near a bathroom and a place where she could get a fountain soda (Coke and Coke only), which is a requirement for her needs to be met. She liked the seats, since she is tiny and they afforded a perfect view of everything. The show felt really different than the Easter shows—not only longer, but looser, more spontaneous and relaxed, as you would expect from a band who has just traveled the world together. I told her that she could ask to leave at any time, since Bruce can be relentless. I’m happy to say she made it through the whole night and loved it. Her only critique was, “I will say he takes a long time to get into a song and a long time to get out of it,” which is true! But she also remarked on what an amazing band they are, with him the clear leader. She also said she was surprised at how funny and goofy he was. Charming all around, I’d say. I did a poor job of explaining who James Brown was when Bruce did a clear imitation of him at the end, pretending that he was finished, lying on the stage and writhing in exhaustion. (This was about 3 hours and 35 minutes in, so there was still some bit of something left.)
In front of us was a middle-aged woman who was like one of those normal-seeming mom types you would see in the mall or supermarket (unlike me, who is middle-aged and a mom, of course!). She was totally rocking out and had the moves when he finished the show with some classic Philly songs and “Twist and Shout.” Though my daughter is now 30, she is like most young people who can’t quite see us old folks as ever having really been young like them. What Bruce does is peel away the years for us and reveal that inside these middle-aged bodies, we are all hot “little girls” out for a good time on a sweet summer night. Here’s the damn truth of middle age: We all still got The Fever!
The highlight for me, other than hearing “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Human Touch” and “Wrecking Ball,” was hearing “Jersey Girl” live for the first time, and hearing it with my daughter who, I confessed to her, was the “little brat” when I was younger…. He so perfectly captures that feeling when you are young, have too many responsibilities, and just want to be loved and taken care of for a night. I had lived that song!
I see you on the street and you look so tired/I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired/When I come by to take you out to eat/You’re lyin’ all dressed up on the bed baby fast asleep/Go in the bathroom and put your makeup on/We’re gonna take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom’s/I know a place where the dancing’s free/Now baby won’t you come with me
But the word that came to mind as we tried to find our car was stamina. Bruce is about stamina. He’s got it and he sings about people who have it, and you really have to have it to enjoy seeing him live. I also said to my daughter (while we were still looking for our car) that reconnecting her with Bruce and experiencing the show together gave me the oddest feeling like I had completed my job as a parent to her. Of course a parents job is never done…but this felt like a sort of graduation ceremony. We found our car and drove home.
The day of Labor Day Monday was cold and rainy—you could feel fall fighting its way in. When I got into my car to drive back to Philadelphia (after getting home at 2 a.m. the night before), I had some doubts. There was a moment in stopped traffic on the Turnpike that I actually considered going home. After all, I just had one ticket for the pit, and no one would miss me. At a bathroom stop at the Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting, I discovered that my raincoat didn’t really protect me from the rain (it was a downpour), so I stopped to buy another one. But a funny thing happened: Once I parked my car at the stadium, the sun came out a bit, the rain stopped, and it felt like summer again! Inside that stadium it was still summer!
I was also excited about seeing Dave Marsh in person as he broadcast his E Street Radio show on Sirius XM right outside the stadium. I listen to that show on my drives in and out of New York, and I’ve learned so much from them that I just had to see them do it. It was cool! A much more intimate experience than I had pictured in my head listening in my car. I even got to introduce myself to Dave and thank him for commenting on my last blog. At the end, he asked if my name was Marie and I said no, Maria—a name Bruce sings about quite often in his songs, so maybe he’ll remember. (One of my favorite obscure Bruce songs is actually called “Maria’s Bed.”)
The Labor Day concert was different, more somber. If Sunday night was the party, Monday was the official honoring of all the hardworking people who truly built this country and this life. Stamina again. But even he looked a little bit tired. He sat down on the stage during the break between the main show and the encore, took off his boots, and dumped sweat out of them! There was a lot of sweat that night all over the place.
I stood next to a really awesome Jersey Girl who told me that when you live in Jersey, you like Bon Jovi when you are a kid, but when you finally grow up, it’s Bruce. She was funny. We thought we might get to touch Bruce, since we were standing where he came into the crowd the night before, but of course, he went to the other side instead that night, so there was no touching. When it was over, I looked at her and said, “Well, no touching tonight,” and she said, “Yeah, but we got ‘Jungleland!’” And it was true. I’d had the same thought.
What’s amazing about a Bruce concert is how much is different each night. I was also happy to hear “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” and “The River.” And I realized that’s another reason so many people go to so many Bruce concerts: Each one is so different, and it’s impossible to hear everything you want to hear, so you just embrace everything you hear as a gift…a gift that won’t last forever, because it’s clear Bruce is facing his mortality head-on and not one of those stars who thinks he’s exempt from the laws of the universe.
I actually can’t remember which song it was when he asked us all to light up our phones to mimic the fireflies on a summer night that he and his sister used to catch when they were kids. But I will never forget seeing that stadium filled with little lights as he said an official goodbye to summer.
This was a summer that I was determined to get the most out of. For all sorts of reasons that shall go unspoken, I wanted to enjoy every hot, sweaty moment. Thanks to Bruce, this summer came in with a bang and left with a bang. And I worked to wring every ounce of energy and pleasure out of it. That takes stamina. Stamina takes strength. And strength comes from hard work. During the last show I realized how much of my view of my work, and my values about people and myself are reflected in his songs. I am a “Jack of All Trades.” I believe in the America where “We Take Care of Our Own,” and yes, that means I’m patriotic AND a liberal (go figure!).
Summer’s over. An election is coming up. Who knows what’s going to happen. But I do know that it’s possible to unite all sorts of people with the power of music and the power of love.