A few weeks ago, when the Bruce Springsteen tickets went on sale for the "Magic" tour's shows at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, I was poised at my computer, ready to scoop up 3 tickets (for myself, my husband, and our son) the second, the very instant they were available. My credit card number already saved. I knew my password. I was so ready click "Find Tickets!" So were a few other people apparently, because I could not buy 3 tickets to save my life. Panic! What if we couldn't go?! What if all the tickets got sold to other people! Well, that just couldn't happen. Absolutely not. Precious moments were ticking by. I tried for 2 tickets. Again the message came back that no tickets were available. So I tried for 1. I got it! I did that two more times, and I had 3 seats, albeit singles in different sections. But fine, we could watch the show and compare notes on the way home. "Thank God!" our son said. "I don't want to sit with you guys."
Yesterday was the big day. We zoomed up to LA after my son and husband got home from school and work, respectively. We found a meeting place in front of the West Entrance near some pictures of people playing some sport or other. (Hockey? Basketball? Not important.) Then we all went to find our seats. After I found mine, I went to my son's. I said, "See that big red 15 on the wall over there? I'm sitting right in front of that." A searing glare hit me like a radioactive laser beam. "OK, then, I'll just be off to my seat now, shall I?" I didn't wait for an answer.
I was in seat 11. In seat 10 was a man with white hair. An old dude. Oh, wait. I guess I had some hair that color before I had it done on Sunday. The man asked me if I was one of Larry's friends, too. I said, "No, I don't believe I have had the pleasure of meeting Larry." Apparently, Larry had bought quite a number of seats in this row and in some other rows too. And he had also flown to New York for two other Bruce shows. I said, "I can understand that." So the man next to me--let's just call him "John" or "Mike" or "Bill" to keep it simple, OK? I didn't get his name--"Bill" said, "Years ago, this was waaaaay back in the seventies, I went to another Bruce show next door here at the Colisseum. That's a huge place. Too big."
I said to "Bill," "I think you're talking about The River tour. That was in '81. Good show. I was there, too." That was the first time I saw Bruce hold the mic for the audience, who sang together,
Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride, and I never went back.
Like a river that don't know where's flowing,
I took a wrong turn, and I just kept going.
Now lots of people let the audience sing their songs--Bon Jovi, Tom Petty--but that was the first time I'd seen that happen.
"Great show," "Bill" agreed. "You're right. It was '81." We chatted. "Bill"'s wife doesn't like Bruce. "Too much hype, back when--"
"Born to Run came out."
"Exactly," "Bill" said. He'd missed the shows at The Staples Center. (My husband and I went to two of those.) He'd been to a couple of others that he told me about. And I told him about some. The County Bowl in Santa Barbara. Madison Square Garden. The show in Atlanta--I drove 18 hours to get there--that was canceled because Bruce had a sore throat. Lots of shows over lots of years. "He's great," "Bill" said. "He just keeps changing and evolving and growing. You gotta love him for that."
"You do," I agreed. "You sure do."
A lot of seats were still empty and the house lights were still on, even though it was past the official start time. There was no sign of Larry, either. We watched roadies tune guitars on stage. One of them let fly with the opening licks of "Radio Nowhere," probably setting off a wave of panic in the hot-dog line.
"And the lyrics!" "Bill" put a hand to his heart.
"Killer," I said, shaking my head in admiration.
"Layers of meaning," said "Bill."
"You're so right," I agreed. I didn't get into the unexplained mystery of how lyrics about misery, despair, and the gaping space between the way things were supposed to be and the way they actually turned out can elevate thousands of people to simultaneous euphoria. That's just too hard to put into words, indefinable, like intuition, or, well, magic.
"Bill" is a programmer, he told me. Freelance, I take it, because right now, he's working at home in a desert community in eastern San Diego County, but last year, he commuted to LA. His wife takes care of an elderly person. He didn't ask what I did. "Hey, what's taking so long?" "Bill" looked at his watch, then at the empty stage. His friend still hadn't materialized, either. "I can't call Larry and find out where they are," he said, "because they're, you know, sort of opposed to cell phones, so they don't have one." He shook his head. "I guess I'll get a beer. You want one?"
"I'm good," I said. "Thanks, though."
"Bill" had just made it back with his beer when the lights went down, and the place exploded. The first song was "Radio Nowhere." "Bill" and I and most of the other old people remained on our feet and in motion for the next 2 1/2 hours. My fist pumped to the words, "No retreat, baby, no surrender!" I held my lighted cell phone aloft when called upon to do so. It was a good thing that the music was about as loud as an airplane taking off in the same room, because the noise made it hard for people to hear me singing. And I was singing. A lot. But so were "Bill" and a lot of other people. By the time they got to "Born to Run" during the encore, I could feel the building moving under my feet.
After the show, I found my husband and son, and we began our long, slow journey out of the parking lot. "Did you love it?" I asked our son. I got the radioactive laser glare. "Did you dance?" I asked my husband. "Did you sing and everything?"
My husband shook his head emphatically. "I don't do that." He loves Bruce as much as the next guy, but dancing and singing and pumping his fist in the air? That's downright undignified.
I can't tell you how happy I was about scoring those 3 single tickets in 3 different sections, which allowed us to enjoy 3 separate but perfect concert experiences.