A some of you might have figured or guessed by my many posts about Bruce Springsteen, I am an avid Bruce Springsteen fan, maybe even a bit on the crazy obsessive side…
Anyway, after hearing that Bruce would be playing multiple night shows over months on Broadway, and with chances being low of him doing the same in Europe I decided to try and see if I could get some tickets for one of his shows. In the first run I did not get any tickets since Ticketmaster thought I was not a “verified fan” (as if anyone can believe that…!). Luckily in October, during the second run of tickets I scored tickets for Dad and me. This meant I would be travelling to the United States during the third week of January.
So, since the US is not on my top priority list of countries I wanted to visit I was still a little sceptical if I really wanted to go to the States, but then again, you only get one chance to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway, so I took my chances with the US.
On the 11.01 it finally was time to pack my suitcases, travel to Frankfurt and take the 6 hour flight to Newark. The flight alone already was a highlight for me, seeing all the space and weight wasted for the commodity of the travellers. Additionally the views of Wales and Ireland as well as Nova Scotia and frozen lakes and rivers, as well as Manhattan’s Skyline during the landing were spectacular.
After having to wait 2 hours at the border control we finally took the train into Penn Station and were immediately in the centre of New York, directly below Madison Square Garden. As a frequent concert goer I had already checked out events in New York that day, and Billy Joel was playing his monthly show in the Garden that night. With having about 1 hour until the concert started we got some last minute tickets and had a pizza across the road. We then encountered a problem: we had two big suitcases of luggage and 2 smaller ones with us and needed to get these into the venue. Even if people were looking at us out of their corner of the eye wondering what we were doing there with all our luggage and with two explosive sniffing dogs checking our baggage the local staff were really friendly and helpful and stored our baggage in an extra cloakroom. We were then ushered to our seats and as it turned out, the spare tickets we got were some of the best in the house. Directly opposite from the stage with sufficient legroom and our own personal steward. What a luxury!
After waiting a bit the concert started and what a concert it was. having so far only ever seen video of Bruce playing in the Garden it was great to finally be there ant then get to see Billy Joel performing in front of his home crowd. Starting the night of with Miami 2017 (Seen the lights go out on Broadway) already was spectacular. Hearing him sing of all the places just outside the venue doors. Each time he mentioned a local sight the crowd would cheer and it would pop up on the video screens in the background. After that the setlist was pretty much similar to the one I got to here in Frankfurt two years earlier. What I really liked was that he always told a little story about the next song and gave the audience a choice of two songs and the one which got the loudest cheer was the one he played next. Some of my favourite songs he played were The Entertainer, Allentown, New York State of Mind, obviously We didn’t start the Fire, Downeaster Alexa, Piano Man and Uptown Girl.
After the concert and with the time difference I was knackered but what a start to a week in New York that was. Our hotel was only a short walk away from Madison Square Garden and with a room on the 40th floor (it actually only was the 39th since they forgot number 13th… funnily enough they have got a platform 13…?) we had a great view of the Empire State building at night.
The next morning after having a lie in we explored New York on foot, looking at all the sites like Times Square, Central Park, the Rockefeller Centre and Grand Central. On the way we stopped by at the Walter Kerr theatre to take a scope of the venue and take some obligatory tour photos. At the theatre we spotted a few fellow Bruce fans how had obviously come to New York for the same reasons as we did.
What quite surprised me was that it was so cold that Central Park was covered with a thick layer of mist and that all the lakes were frozen. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side, and after having some spicy Indian food at Grand Central we got soaked walking back to the hotel. In the evening we then waited 3 hours in front of the theatre to get a chance of a photo with Bruce and an autograph. Dad was lucky enough to get to talk to Bruce and thank him for playing a song for us in Paris during the River Tour 2016 but I was unlucky again.
After being quite downcast about this we headed of into Chinatown and had a great meal. Did I mention that the portions everywhere were gigantic. Dad and I took the leftovers from the Chinese back home with us and had them for the next two years. How can people manage to eat these portions during one meal?!
Anyhow, after that we walked down to (…the River and into the River we dived – it was just slightly cold…) the East River and I took some great photos of Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge at night. After that we got slightly lost walking back through Chinatown.
The next day was a nice sunny but windy and cold day. So we walked to Ground Zero and had a look at the One World Trade Center. After that we walked along the Hudson River right down to the Battery Park were we boarded the Staten Island ferry and had some great views of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. We then took the tube up North to look at the Flat Iron building which I really wanted to see before we then headed to the Chrysler building and the United Nations headquarters. Here I just want to mention how negatively surprised I was about the local transport in New York, the tube system was chaotic and hard to understand, nothing was signposted and it was easy to get lost!
The next day we got a hire car and drove into the most important State in the United States: New Jersey, the birthplace of Bruce Springsteen! Our trip here included all the major sights of Bruce’s life and the places he sings about, like Asbury Park Convention Hall, the Boardwalk and Madam Maries. We had a short stop at the nearby hotel were there was a great exhibition of Bruce photos from Danny Clinch and were we met an entire bunch of Bruce fans from the UK all there for the Light of Day Festival. I then took some photos of the Stone Pony before we headed of to the famous street crossing of 10th Avenue and E-Street.
We then checked onto our nice little quaint hotel in Ocean Grove, before we had some pizza at Federici in Freehold. We then stopped by at the Light of Day Festival to an interesting array of bands in the Saint. The next morning we travelled back to Freehold to look at the houses Bruce had lived in on South Street and Randolph Street. We then tried to figure out were the Giant Maple tree had stood before we looked at Bruce’s old school and the small house at 39 1/2 on Institute street. Here again I tried to re-enact some of Bruce old photos. After that we stopped by at the textile mill factory Bruce sings about in My Hometown.
After that trip down memory line we decided to drive down to Philadelphia. Before we got there we had to continue our stalking trip so we checked out Bruce’s homes in Rumson and the Thrill Hill recording studios. Unfortunately we only got to see his body guards and not the man himself… It was incredible to see these huge ranches with all the pastures and miles between the next houses, with huge stables and extra ranches. What sheer wealth existed here as well as along the coast in towns such as Deal (which actually is the Hometown of Patty).
After finally having found Bruce’s home we then travelled down to Philadelphia were we got to see the Liberty Bell on Martin Luther King Day as well as the Independence hall were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States were singed. We then had a stroll through Philly and were surprised to remember that this was the town were Rocky prepared for his boxing matches against Apollo and co., so we just had to climb the famous steps and follow in Rockys footsteps.
We then travelled back to New York and searched ages for a restaurant that was open after midnight. Luckily enough we still found an Irish pub, with way to expensive beer, how can you pay 7 bucks for a bad beer?!
The next day was show-day, after walking along an old abandoned railway line in Manhattan (the Highline) with some great views of New Yorks streets and building sites from above I finally went for a run in the Central Park. Next to seeing Bruce and the Flat Iron building this was the thing I was most looking forward to New York and how great it was. Starting of in the middle of Manhattan I first had to navigate the New York traffic for 10 minutes before reaching Central Park, funnily enough, only the bikes next to me in the bike lane were faster then me since the cars had to wait at all the lights and got stuck in the traffic. After finally surviving the traffic I reached Central Park. In the midst of the giant pulsating city you could find quiet solitude in the gigantic park and take a stroll along the lakes and through the small winding paths and completely forget that you were in the middle of Manhattan. Another great running experience I had after my run in the Central park was scaling the 40 floors in our hotel. After reaching the top in 4minutes I was not just starting to feel dizzy from all the turns but my legs were also aching quite bad.
After freshening up I then tried once again to get an autograph in front of the Walter Kerr theatre and this time after waiting for about an hour I got lucky, I finally got an autograph on his vinyl Born to Run album. Finally after so many failed attempts over the years… now the next thing is a photo!
A few hours later it was time for the highlight of our trip, seeing Bruce play on Broadway. Upon entering the small theatre we were guided to our seats and advised not to take any pictures, so I haven’t got any of the actual show, but that was not necessary. After a short wait Bruce entered the stage and conjured pictures of his own. In his very own style he described his life story similar to his autobiography, mixing jokes and quotes from his songs in a humoristic way. Each stage of his life and about the people he met was accompanied with a short story, shedding new light on songs I thought I knew. Adding these insights to the places he was singing about that I had visited only days earlier opened my eyes and ears to a whole new level of intimacy in his songs. The theatre was a great venue for this kind of revelation, its peaceful, tranquil atmosphere and only 900 spectators meant that you could hear every chord that Bruce was playing and hear every slight change in his voice.
All in all the 2 1/2 hour show was unlike any I have ever seen and probably will ever see again. Its style was similar to the Devils and Dust tour back in 2005 but it was far more intense. During the show my mood and emotions were rapidly changing from happy to sadly crying, overjoyed and miserable, ecstatic and thoughtful. How one man can put so much thought, effort, energy and devotion into one lyric, one song, one album and still think of the bigger picture and be hopeful about the outcome of our future is still a mystery to me, but it started to unravel itself to during that evening. That we, as the tiny observer in this endless flow of time, are just stranded here for a short limited amount of time.
How lucky am I, to roam this place we call home at the same time as this man…
Returning back to our mostly boring live after a show like this is one of the most difficult challenges after every tour, but this time it was especially hard. Flying back home to Germany, university, deadlines and technical drawings still left to do left me thinking about the bigger picture and the part I play in this epic untold storyline ahead of us.
Thus, all this writing and listening to Bruce has got me way to pensive, thanks again for meeting so many old and new friends during my stay in the states!
Alas, it is time to say goodbye, so until we meet again further on up the road:
PS: If you get the chance to score tickets for Bruce on Broadway, try and do everything you possibly can to get there. It is definitely worth it!