Backstreets — We’re bound by decades of theater-media tradition not to review Springsteenon Broadway while it’s in previews, making the October 5 performance I was lucky enough to witness off-limits for setlists, spoilers or critical interpretation.
For instance, I can’t say “Holy (redacted)-ing (redacted)”; I can’t tell you how many times my hair stood on end, how many tears fell, or how many times I had to stuff a Playbill in mouth to stop from screaming “HE’S PLAYING (REDACTED) ON (BLANK)” and getting booted right into Dear Evan Hansen. On the other hand, for hours after after I left the Walter Kerr, the best I could come up with is “Gah,” and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t need to be redacted.
Can I bring a backpack? The nice people at Jujamcyn Theaters, which is a word I cannot say (every time I try, it comes out “calvary”), ask in a pre-show email to “Please avoid bringing large bags or backpacks” and later to “Please refrain from bringing large bags and backpacks.” As you may have determined, these are less “hard restrictions” and more “polite requests.” I brought in a backpack containing a portable charger, a notebook, my wife’s backup shoes and a bag of airline almonds I’d totally forgotten about. But the seats are a tight enough squeeze that Jujamcyn probably has the right idea.
The Loop / Golf Digest — Thirty-three years ago today, an event of monumental cultural significance took place just down the road here in Terre Haute, Ind., a quiet, unassuming southern Indiana town known primarily for smelling like a barn full of tire fires.
The event: The first-ever production of a music compact disc—a.k.a. the CD—which occurred on Sept. 21, 1984, forever burning in Indiana’s place in music history, alongside (rifles through papers) Michael Jackson and Cole Porter and Axl Rose and Hoagy Carmichael and John Mellencamp and David Lee Roth and Wes Montgomery and yes I get me a little defensive about Indiana. You guys make your flyover-corn and Fat Bob Knight gags, but without us, there would be no “Mr. Brownstone” and that is a Hoosier fact.
Live Nation TV — Something is wrong with Bruce Springsteen. On Tuesday night, to open a three-night series at MetLife Stadium in his home state of New Jersey, he played three hours and 52 minutes–his longest-ever show on U.S. soil and a demonstration of terrifying fitness for a 66-year-old. On Thursday night, at the same stadium, he ambled right out and promptly beat his record by eight minutes. His TWO-DAY-OLD RECORD. If you’re seeing him on Sunday night, bring protein bars.
Whatever your count, Thursday’s show is easily the speediest-feeling four-hour anything I’ve attended. It’s important to note that in the mythological Legends of Springsteen passed down through the generations, the marathon shows he performed on the Darkness and River tours often included an intermission, or a long speech about how he met Clarence, at the very least an encore break. The MetLife shows had zero of these. For the second night in Jersey, Bruce eschewed the full-River construct that was the basis for the River Tour in the first place, but dug up a bunch of the album’s high spots, including “I’m a Rocker,” “Cadillac Ranch,” and “Hungry Heart,” which he sang, naturally, strolling around the floor. Here’s what else he did.
Success — Jumping right into the book of Guinness World Records with the mission of finding one to break is daunting. You’re not simply trying to decide how to order your eggs or which project to launch, you’re trying to be remembered for something incredible—something that will etch your name into a metaphorical mountain that will endure time, memory and erosion. Have you ever sat down and said, “All right, at what thing should I become the best in the world?” It’s scary. Big ambition can be. So I went with the only thing I knew I was really good at.
This image contains coded patterns which mystically herald the coming of the Apocalypse or some crap.
Island Packet (Stolen Hastily From November 2009) — ‘What do you think about this 2012 madness?” Paul Mitchell asks me via the newsroom’s instant-message system earlier this week. Paul Mitchell is a line of high-end hair care products, but he also is an actual human person who works in the newsroom. At one time Paul, being of a considerably younger vintage, failed to correctly identify Bruce Springsteen on the television. Illogically, we’re friends anyway.
The movie looks like silliness, I reply, but on the other hand, “Independence Day” was a pretty great movie in which many objects were indiscriminately exploded, such as the White House and Lone Star from “Spaceballs,” so it might be fun.
“Not the movie,” Paul says, an icy fear creeping noticeably into his online voice. “All I gotta say is I’m panicking if that mess comes my way in three years.”
Paul was, I surmised, referring to the Mayan prophecy that says the end of times will take place in the year 2012. It’s also the hook of “2012,” a new movie by destroyed-landmark fetishist and director Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day,” “The Day After Tomorrow”) that stars John Cusack, both of whom, it turns out, appear in a strong percentage of Mayan prophecies. In their lore, Cusack is actually immortal.
Thrilled and honored to contribute to the relaunched — and slick-looking! — official site of Bruce Springsteen, as part of a team that includes such Bruce luminaries as Chris Phillips, editor of the legendary Backstreetsmagazine, Caryn Roseand Glenn Radecki. The site’s a treasure box for Bruce fans and features blurbs for albums, tours and videos, which feature my contributions throughout. If you’re interested, I also wrote a handful of band bios, including those for Springsteen, Stevie Van Zandt, Nils LofgrenandSoozie Tyrell. Check it out!
Twice now, through no appreciable talent or skill of my own, I’ve been lucky enough to fly to New York City— at not very many moments’ notice — to stalk Bruce Springsteen. I did it last year when he performed on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” thanks to the success and unprovoked generosity of an old friend who books the musical talent and is inexplicably gracious to inveterate obsessives. On that first tripa buddy and I found ourselves, suddenly and without adequate warning, in a conversation with Bruce Springsteen about children, parenting and the community of siblings, a three-minute galactic improbability that sort of resulted in the birth of my second son. (Long story.)
I did the same last week (fly to New York, not have a son), due to a second lightning strike of luck and babysitting, and found myself once again in the lobby at 30 Rock swarmed by a buzzing mass of Bruce people and happily dazed tourists. As it turned out, one of the swarming people in our ticket line looked a lot like Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers, a band that I’ve stalked a fair amount as well (my Billboard review of “I And Love And You,” and me interviewing them at Bonnaroo in 2010). You know that thing where you stare at somebody like an idiot, trying to see if it’s really that guy, but you can’t tell, and the wifi doesn’t work so you can’t Google image him so you stand there like a hopeless yokel until someone else confirms the identity for you? You do? Great.
The show, of course, was a delirious joy. Springsteen made a babushka joke, which, as a dutiful Slovak, I’m pretty sure was written just for me (thanks, Boss). The ’80s-bandanna/LMFAO sketchwas a perfect sequel. There was a bit during a commercial break in which the zipper on Springsteen’s black leather jacket got stuck, and the short version is for three minutes off-air two women struggled to free a fake-panicking Bruce Springsteen from his clothes while Jimmy Fallon impersonated Bruce’s preacher-man persona and the Roots laid down what I think was polka music. I very much enjoyed writing that sentence.
Swarm of the Plaid People. From left: myself, Ben French, Bruce and Jonathan Cohen.
On about a dozen occasions in just under five minutes, it becomes clear that the person talking to me is Bruce Springsteen. This, in case you are wondering, never stops feeling like getting walloped by a large rolling boulder, or shoved into an above-ground pool filled with half-melted ice cubes. You would think that after some time your brain would become used to realizing it’s maintaining eye contact with Actual Bruce Springsteen while simultaneously attempting to convince your hands to stop shaking like that, but curiously this never occurs. The net effect is that every few minutes I realize, for what seems like the first time, that I’m engaged in a real conversation with Bruce Springsteen and it would be best for everybody if I didn’t throw up or try to hug him.
Currently, Bruce Springsteen is talking to my friend Ben and I about parenting. I was introduced as having come to New York City from South Carolina, and Springsteen mentions how he just moved his daughter to Duke, and as someone who has equated Duke with cartoonish supervillainy since the early ’90s, I note that in talking to Bruce Springsteen for 14 seconds we’ve stumbled into the only topic on which I’ve ever really disagreed with him.
Ben (who is executive producer at RollingStone.com) mentions the pocket-sized baby girl his wife delivered two weeks prior, and this redirects the conversation into the kind of small talk you might have at the play gym, about how one day they’re newborns and the next day you’re moving them into a dorm and sweet weeping Jesus I’m talking to Bruce Springsteen about children and family units and how he and Patti — it’s strange the conventional role she plays in this particular narrative — enjoyed and facilitated their kids’ closeness. I should make clear that I’m completely paraphrasing this part, as obviously I have zero recall of the words Bruce Springsteen actually used when he was talking to me — for all I know he could have been reciting detailed schematics of the Starship Enterprise in Farsi — but I got the gist of it, or at least more than I would have thought I could while concentrating on not babbling like a drugged maniac.
It's shocking how little effort was required to find this.
GateHouse — The boy has gotten up twice tonight so far, unable to sleep due to concerns that Cat Heaven and People Heaven are entirely separate places.
But before we discuss how I’ve managed to defuse the situation with some serious ninja-level Ghost-Cat Fathering Awesomeness, a little background:
My son would very much like to get a pet, specifically a cat, which he has judged far superior to a dog based on both slobber volume and evidence provided by the film “The Adventures of Milo and Otis,” which, in his defense, makes a pretty compelling case. But sadly, Dad is allergic to cats — not, mind you, in the way that makes Dad a little snuffly, but in the way that makes his esophagus constrict like he’s being Force-choked by Vader for saying something snippy about his big stupid battle station with the gaping security problems. Believe me, if it was just a matter of knocking back some sinus pills to ensure my son’s joy I’d pop them like Rush Limbaugh on prom night, but I’m stuck.
Paste — Bruce Springsteen’s most recent eyebrow-removing live documentary is evidence that the aging process may be purely theoretical. “IS THERE ANYBODY ALIVE OUT THERE?” he shouts all of 12 minutes into the show, throwing down the gauntlet to the behemoth Hard Rock Calling Festival audience with a crazy-eyed boxer’s glare that’s part statement of purpose and part f*#&-you to the AARP Magazine cover. London Calling: Live at Hyde Park then explodes open with its ace in the hole: Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt tearing into the Clash like two scuzzy-looking punks thirsting to prove themselves, which is, of course, profoundly insane: By the time London Calling was shot in June 2009, Springsteen and the E Street Band, most loitering around the parking lot of 60, were firing on all cylinders, inventing more cylinders and then firing on those too, laying waste to festivals and towns huge and small with three-hour sweat-fests highlighted by nightly Stump The Band requests delivered via creative poster boards (the DVD’s: the Young Rascals’ fest-ready “Good Lovin’”).
Writer: GQ, Men’s Health,
the Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Indianapolis Monthly, Golf Digest, Vice, BruceSpringsteen.net,
the Indy 500, Fatherly, etc. Proud owner of a Bruce-related Guinness World Record. Even longer bio/clips.