GateHouse — People ask me why it is I am pulling for the New Orleans Saints today instead of my near-hometown Colts, and there are many reasons, most of which are comical and dumb, but here’s the main reason I am rooting against Indianapolis: They sit down at Bruce Springsteen concerts in Indianapolis.
Much has and will be written about Indy, which, to many New Orleansianians, went from a pleasant, corn-smelling spot on the map last week to a rival arch-nemesis empire that must be vanquished (however unlikely this is gonna be) this week. There have been snarky remarks about its status as a large suburb, its sudden obsession with the tenderloin and the lively diversity of its thousands upon thousands of Chili’s restaurants. And there have been jokes about Peyton Manning, a pleasant-looking sort who apparently plays football if he’s not plugging products on television, which happens almost 20 minutes every day.
But I will not join in the seasonal-affective piling-on, for a very good reason: My friends will be mad at me, and I like getting calls on my birthday. It is a perfectly lovely place, except for the thing about the Bruce.
Many years ago, I’m there in the shiny, scrubbed and new-smelling Conseco Fieldhouse, which resembles a sizable Lego set, watching Springsteen and the E Street Band. The lights go down. And as people do when the lights go down, I stand up.
This arrangement suits everybody for about 30 seconds, or until the moment when the guy behind me — swear to God, blue short-sleeved Polo and a smart pair of khakis — taps me on the shoulder and asks politely if I mind, indicating my chair with his index finger.
Now, granted, it’s like a Sunday night. The show had to be rescheduled because of a Big Man-related illness, and the crowd, as such, does not have the numbers it otherwise might, and seems a little subdued because of the date change. All understandable. It’s also, and I don’t mean to speak out of turn, an older crowd, and if you’re settling in for a three-hour show you have to conserve your energies.
But Todd in the row behind me is like twentysomething, nicely dressed, munching a pretzel and escorting what appears to be Malibu Stacy. So I kind of just stare blankly for a second, waiting for the punch line, or the next move. He doesn’t say anything. Bruce plays on, and valuable “Rising” time is elapsing. So I take the only course available to me: I beat the guy senseless with his pretzel, unleashing punch after salted punch until he … OK, OK, fine, that didn’t happen. My equally beflummoxed buddy and I just grabbed our coats and made for another section, two sections over, where we’d found a friend earlier. I didn’t exactly have sweet seats in the first place, but now we’re at a considerably higher altitude, about as geographically far away from the stage as is possible while remaining inside the building.
The show goes on for about two hours, and though I’m in an underpopulated section in a hospital-like arena with all the soul of a self-cleaning oven, we’re enjoying ourselves. You can tell we’re enjoying ourselves, because me and my cohorts are four of the approximately 80 people or so in the arena standing up. This is a fact not lost on Bruce, so during “Mary’s Place,” an extended rocker wherein he takes an extended break to do a little preacher-man schtick, he gets what I might call disgruntled.
“You need two very important things if you’re gonna have a house party,” he announces to the yawning crowd, much of which has begun reading magazines.
“No. 1: The music has got to be righteous!” This gets a little stir. “And No. 2: You’ve got to get up off your ass out there!” This last line is delivered with emphasis on its second half, during which he goes from his soulful cadence to a very Bruce-ian howl, which seems to briefly rouse about half of the crowd from its restful slumber.
“You ain’t that old!” Bruce goes on, pacing the stage and waiting. “I’m older than you are!” He is laughing, but not ha-ha laughing. To be fair, this seems to work. People get up and stay up at this point, although it should be noted that this part of the show comes about 90 minutes in.
So I’m not here to judge; I fully plan to visit soon for a nice, fat Awesome Blossom or three. I’d just like to humbly offer the helpful suggestion that when you’re at a rock concert, in whatever city you happen to find yourself in, act like you mean it. On the other hand, people in Indy may just be resting comfortably, knowing they are going to win by 70.