8/2/08, 3:15 AM. After seeing Tandy’s sets at the Rodeo Bar, I pick up my luggage and get on the Night Owl in Penn Station. I get about 4 hours total of train sleep in three separate batches: 90 minutes till New Haven, 90 minutes till the guy snoring in the seat ahead of me wakes up everyone in the car, and 60 minutes between Providence and Boston.
12 noon. After training to Greenbush where my sister Monica picks me up, I’m on the beach watching the tide come up to the sea wall. This year the beach has totally disappeared; high tide lasts for something like six hours.
2:30. After a pass-out nap, Mon and I head to my cousin Joe’s place in Marlboro. Joe and his wife Holly are coming to show with us; the four of us are sitting on the floor in section B2.
4PM. Tailgating at Gillette Stadium with Joe, Holly, their neighbor Ken, and three of Ken’s friends whose names I have caddishly forgotten. We spend half the time eating and the other half propping up the crippled tent we’ve erected in the parking lot. The center supporting struts are all broken, and the ribs are all bent or cracked. It sits there on the tarmac like a dog with three broken legs, and about once every ten minutes, one of the struts pops loose and swings down like a pendulum, narrowly missing a different person each time.
5:30. Three cops on bicycles roll up to the four kids getting ready to grill hot dogs and drink Buds three cars away from us and ask to see ID’s. The guy who owns the car hands his over; evidently he’s 21, but the two girls are 15/16 and the other guy looks like he’s 12, so the cops take all the beer away. And I mean all of it, which means the kid may not be as old as his ID says he is, because when you’re 21 you know enough to (a) always hide a six somewhere just in case and (b) have a couple of empty Pepsi cans for the underagers, who can fill them up in the back seat when no one’s looking.
6:30. Because I’m a neurotic old fart who hates to be late, I make everyone start packing up so we can be in the stadium for the ticketed 7:30 start time.
6:50. While walking out of the parking lot, we pass the tent where the police are tailgating with their wives and girlfriends (yes, all the police are all male). I notice the three cops who took the Buds from the kids near us, and wonder if those beers are what everybody is drinking right now. Silly question; of course they are. This is Massachusetts, after all –- the place where the juvenile delinquent who used to kick your ass in high school grows up to be the State Trooper who gives you a speeding ticket on Route 3.
7:10. When I talk to my friend Bill on Sunday about the concert, he asks what the ticket situation was like. “We saw no one looking for tickets,” I reply. Unlike New York, where you can take a bus to the Meadowlands and hang around to see if anyone has a ticket to sell, Foxboro is one long-ass car drive from civilization as we know it. A bitch to get to, and a bitch with attitude to get out of, Foxboro is the venue equivalent of a dentist’s office – you never go there unless you have to, and you sure as hell don’t go there and hang out in the waiting room hoping for an appointment to open up.
7:15. Having said that? The stadium owners are turning the place into a little city, with a cinema, boutiques, restaurants, and a projected hotel. They know it’s at the ass end of nowhere, so they’re going to make sure that ass is wearing nothing but the finest Victoria’s Secret panties.
7:20. I get patted down at the front gate. There’s a “No Camera” provision printed on the ticket; the guy searching me taps my binoculars and my wallet and asks what they are, but when he taps my camera case he says nothing. Score! (Little I do know; see below.)
7:30. At the souvenir stands, the event T-shirt is only available in XX size, which is big enough to be a nightgown for Shaquille O’Neal.
7:45. The stadium is empty. Where is everyone? Traffic jam? (Quite possible.) Threat of rain keeping everyone away? (Also possible.) General e-mail to everyone but us that the show is really starting at 8:30? (Better than even bet.) But looking at the sky? Oh yeah--people are totally afraid it's going to rain.
8:20. As I’m one person away from getting a T-shirt, and bemoaning the fact that I’m not 11 feet tall, and therefore cannot wear the XX event T, I hear what sounds like fireworks. Is the show starting with a video? Now that would be unique in the annals of E Street. But it’s not fireworks. It’s thunder, and lightning, and in less than a minute, the skies that have been threatening since 5 PM open up over Gillette Stadium and dump an ocean of golfball-sized raindrops on our heads, like God just defrosted His refrigerator and decided to dump the melted ice onto Foxboro. Ninety seconds later I’m in my poncho; ninety-five seconds later every exposed piece of clothing on my body has become leisure wear for Aquaman. Including my running shoes, which will still smell like ass on Monday morning before I go to work. I tell Joseph “They are so opening up with Who’ll Stop The Rain tonight,” and the words are barely out of my mouth before the floor Nazis are shooing us off the metal flooring on the field and into the stands so that, when lightning strikes, we all won’t fry like an extra in The Green Room. Ten minutes later we’re allowed back to our seats. Fifteen minutes later, it’s like someone dumped a plastic bag of people into the stands—the place is jam-packed.
8:45. Roadies come out and take the tarp off Max’s drum set. Everybody cheers and leaps to their feet. We do the same thing when they take the tarp off the keyboards and then the piano.
9:00. The HDTV screen turns on. It won’t be long now. Sure enough, two minutes later, the lights go down and carnival music starts playing. Then the band hits the stage and jumps right into Summertime Blues, followed by 10th Avenue Freezeout. It’s a great opening, and my inner party-boy is kvelling, but my inner photographer is pissed and cranky. Because we’re on the floor, every time there’s a light change to illuminate the crowd, it shines right in my face and screws up my camera settings. It takes me about three songs to kick my inner Weegee to the curb and enjoy myself.
9:45. First part: Summertime Blues, 10th Ave Freezeout, Radio Nowhere, Lonesome Day, Promised Land, Spirit in the Night, Tunnel of Love. (The Springsteen website says he did Light of Day after this, but don’t believe them; he didn’t.) After Tunnel of Love, Bruce walks up to the lip of the stage and takes request signs from the fans in the mosh pit. “Here’s one that’ll stump the band,” he said, holding up a sign that reads “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” Then he turns it over. “It’d stump me too except for this,” he says, and there on the back of the sign are the complete lyrics to the song and KEY OF F in big letters at the top. He does this, Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street, and Hungry Heart. After which he does Who’ll Stop The Rain. “You called it,” says my cousin.
11:00. Next section: Youngstown, Murder Incorporated, She’s The One, Living In The Future, Mary’s Place, The Rising, Last To Die, Long Walk Home, and Badlands. Little Steven takes a verse and chorus at the end of Long Walk Home and hearing his voice is like bumping into a long-lost friend. Oh man, I sure hope he gets a band together and tours on his own now that Sopranos is over. And as for Badlands, I can never hear that song without thinking of the Norwood Ave night when Tom and Donna and I danced and screamed to it before T&D drove me to South Station literally thirty seconds before my sleeper train left for DC. (A story for later.)
11:15. Bruce takes the next batch of requests for the encore: “the seldom-requested and even more seldom-performed” I’m Going Down and Jungleland. Then the stadium lights come up full and I get the only decent pix of the night when the band does Born To Run, Glory Days, Dancing In The Dark, American Land, and the final “I’m going to leave you with a New Jersey fairy tale,” Rosalita. After which Bruce yells out “Good night Boston -- or wherever the fuck we are!” He’s like me –- no matter where I am in Massachusetts, it’s always Boston.
12:20 AM. We head back to the parking lot, and instead of getting into a non-moving line of cars trying to get onto the highway while their engines idle for 90 minutes, we go green with the whole thing and fire up the grille for steak tips, hot dogs, and marinated turkey. But it’s cold (relatively speaking) – it’s 65 and I am totally not dressed for anything under 80. So I’m shivering. Plus I’m having those hallucinogenic fadeaway moments you get when you’re overtired. I guess four hours of train sleep is no longer enough to keep me awake for more than 18 hours. Thankfully, the chilly air plays Omar Sharif to my Lawrence of Arabia ass, whacking me awake every couple of minutes with the cautionary words “You were drifting.”
(Not me, but it sure could have been.)
1:30 AM. Parking lot traffic finally begins to move. We pack up and head back to Joe and Holly’s, where Monica and I bid them good night and drive back to the beach. More drifting from Matthew, during which I have a number of visions, fever dreams, and brilliant insights into the nature of the universe, none of which I can remember when I jerk back to wakefulness. We get back to the cottage around 3:15. Less than two minutes later I’m fast sleep.
POSTSCRIPT: SUNDAY. I wake up five hours later (as I usually do whenever I drink), and hit the beach about 9:15. It’s cloudy and overcast; there’s a couple with a golden retriever near where I usually sit, but nobody else for miles. Every time I get up to go into the water, the dog follows me there and back the way Security follows a suspected shoplifter. I read a couple of chapters of Colin Wilson’s Mysteries, ponder the nature of my various selves (participant, observer, photographer, writer, self-sabotager, resentful child, out-of-sight out-of-mind asshole, brilliant but unrecognized genius, eternal 19-year-old) and doze a little. The sun comes out about fifteen minutes before I leave to get lunch and check train times for the return to New York. Which is when God laughs and says “What train times, boy?” They’re all sold out, except for a first-class seat on the 3:10 Acela ($250) and a coach seat on the Night Owl ($89) which gets me into NYC at 2 AM. Or I can take the bus. The pluses: the bus leaves every half hour and it’s cheap. The minuses: it’s the fucking bus, which means cramped seats, a shitty movie, and people talking on their cellphones the entire ride. I book a ticket on the Night Owl, and wonder if it’s the gas crisis or the Springsteen concert that has everybody in the world heading back to New York today. Because I have always believed that art trumps real life, I vote for Springsteen.