Friday, April 15, 2016

The Bruce Springsteen Diet - The Palace of Auburn Hills, April 14, 2016

I dragged myself on the bathroom scale this morning. It was reading kind of low. Good, good, I thought, I haven't seen that number in months. That's when I realized, the Springsteen diet works!

Oh, I got that Fitbit and I track my steps and my climbs. But on Bruce show night, I walked twice as many steps and climbed twice as many floors.

It starts with the 10 minute walk in. That can be tripled if the teenage daughter leaves her ticket in the car -- unplanned benefits!

Then the show starts, and there are so many opportunities! Free weights, during "Hungry Heart." Lateral motion, during "I'm a Rocker." Hand grip exercises, for "Drive All Night"; bring your own cell phone or lighter. Aerobics, during "Dancing in the Dark"; the teenage daughter offers to take lead. Voice exercises, during "Backstreets." Jumping, during "Shout." And, of course, staying upright for three and a half hours with no break. Just keep wearing those rock and roll shoes, and never be afraid of large group exercises.
Bruce has even been kind enough to provide the perfect tour shirt for a totally hot exercise. It's a plaid job, looks just like the cover of The River and that thing is hot! Look around the arena and it's clear: Many people are on to the wardrobe portion of the Springsteen diet.

With most diets, we might struggle to lose a pound or two a week. The Springsteen diet is good for 3 pounds per night! There are some caveats, of course: No cold beer, not at a reasonable price or at any price. No bathroom breaks; after all, bathroom breaks might lead to warm beer at unreasonable prices and besides, that means missing a song. No periscoping. And no sitting down.

Do these things, and it's 3 pounds per night, every night! Unless, of course, you are Bruce Springsteen, in which case everyone is just gawking at you and saying, "do I need to go on the Springsteen diet to look like that?"

There's also the food for thought, no calories attached. Bruce provided that during the encores, with this statement: "Michigan is considering bills similar to the ones that forced us to cancel our show in North Carolina. So just on behalf of the LGBT community and many caring people of this state, we hope the bill doesn't pass, because we love playing in Michigan! So keep your heads up." Then he launched an absolutely thunderous this-is-OUR-flag reading of "Born in the USA." Who said that music, politics and exercise don't mix? They're not on the Springsteen diet.

Last night, Bob Seger took the stage to join the E Street Band for the final two songs. Bob looks great... for a guy who's not on the Springsteen diet. But he learned fast: He shook that tambourine, twirled around, and he didn't even need that plaid shirt to work up a sweat as he was in some vest thing that looked like it would have kept him warm at 20 below. I bet he lost five pounds last night.
Another thing about the Springsteen diet: It's fun. The morning after, you don't wake up thinking, "damn, less than 4 hours sleep again and my head is hurting and I never ate dinner and I think I left the poster tube at the arena." No! You don't wake up thinking, "that was too expensive and my taxes aren't done." No!!! You don't wake up thinking about the election, except to wonder, "did Bruce sing, "I didn't vote for this package deal" last night? You wake up and think, "well, that was fun, and I lost 3 pounds, too!"

The Springsteen diet isn't for everyone. It can be really expensive, especially for people who travel to participate. And there's really no substitute for being there; periscope just isn't the same. So this was probably my last night on the Springsteen diet for a while. I may be in withdrawal for a while.

note: pictures previously appeared in backstreets.com

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Springsteen's North Carolina Boycott

Earlier today, Bruce Springsteen canceled an upcoming show in Greensboro, North Carolina.

This is hardly the first time he's canceled a scheduled concert, not even on relatively short notice (the show was scheduled two days from now). Just 10 weeks ago, he postponed a show in New York just hours before the scheduled start time. In 2009, he canceled a show in Kansas City after some fans had already arrived at the arena for the show. In 1992, I traveled to California to see a pair of Springsteen shows in Mountain View, and they were both postponed, just a day before the first show.

Of course, the circumstances were different each time. The New York show was postponed due to a major snow storm. The Kansas City show was canceled due to the death of one of Bruce's cousins who was also part of the crew for that show. The California shows were canceled due to illness.

This time, it's different. This time, Bruce is choosing not to play the show. He's choosing not to play the show because of a law signed in to law in North Carolina just 16 days ago, commonly referred to as the "bathroom bill" due to some of the bill's openly discriminatory language.

This is a boycott.

I have never been prouder to be a fan, and I have never been happier with any "statement from Bruce Springsteen."

Which is not to say that I am happy. I am not simply "happy."

I am not happy, on account of my friends in North Carolina who will miss the only show they would have seen this tour.

I am not happy, on account of the people who would have been employed in some capacity at or near the venue, and who will lose their pay.

I am not happy, on account of my friend Mike Telesca, a North Carolina teacher who not only goes to Greensboro shows, but who routinely buys dozens of tickets so that some of his students can go as well.

I am not happy with the timing of the announcement, so close to show time, thus inconveniencing travelers with airline tickets or non-refundable hotel room reservations.

I am not happy with people who "oppose" this decision on one stated objection or another, when it's all too clear that their actual objection is with people who are LGBT.

Most of all, I am not happy that this law exists in the first place; I am not happy that elected legislators passed it and I am not happy that North Carolina's governor signed it.

But I am happy, thrilled, even, with this decision. It is a decision for civil rights. It is a decision to stand up for beliefs. It is a decision not to participate in the enforcement of the law, in any way. It is a decision to say to the people who created, passed, and ultimately signed this bill in to law that what they did was wrong. and that it will have economic consequences. It is a decision to lead by example, to help demonstrate that if enough others make similar decisions -- paypal.com now, or organizations like the NBA later (the NBA all-star game is scheduled to be in Charlotte next year), then change will be the only remedy to avoid economic calamity.

Some of my friends have argued that Bruce should have played this show. That if he disagreed with the law, he should have said so from the stage. That he could have given the proceeds to any number of worthy organizations in North Carolina fighting against this law. That he could have organized a separate disruptive rally, or taken some other action.

I understand their points: Many of these people were ticket holders and want to see the show. Some of them live in North Carolina and can't just move out of state over laws passed by legislators they didn't vote for. And, of course, some of them still want Bruce to just "shut up and sing."

It took Bruce time from the passage of this law to make his decision. This should surprise exactly zero people, as Bruce routinely uses all deliberate speed to make his big decisions. No doubt he had to consider the thousands of people who would be inconvenienced or financially impacted by his decision. In the end, the principle won out. I believe it is the right call.

I have never been more proud to be a Springsteen fan than I am right now.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Springsteen in Denver, March 31, 2016



Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at the Pepsi Center, Denver. March 31, 2016
Sometimes, opportunities arise unexpectedly. A trip that needs a change of planes. A tour that is stopping in a hub city. A chance, with just a bit of finesse, to make these intersect. That, more or less, is how I ended up in Denver this past Thursday night, as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band continued "The River" tour there.

A happy fan came a long way to get his wish.
Unlike in many Eastern venues, ticket sales in Denver were relatively soft; tickets could be had for substantially below face value in the days leading up to the show. Turnout for the "pit" lottery was relatively light by some recent standards, as well. Inside the venue, the limited edition silk screen posters failed to sell out.

Once the show started, none of that mattered. There may have been empty seats, but the Pepsi Center felt full, and it was hot and loud. Bruce seemed to feed off the energy of the crowd, and his voice was clear and strong. The core setlist started with the same 21 songs as every other show on this tour, presented with a sense of complete assurance. Yes, it's a play, and that part is pretty much identical each night. The crowd interaction moments vary each time out: this evening we got a man from Japan who got a guitar pick, and a young girl who with a green hat; later on there'd be a dance with a Navajo girl. But it's a really good play. When he comes surfing on by, it's permissible -- I think -- to pause a moment to think, "yes, that IS Bruce Springsteen above my head, and that I am helping to move on up the line."

For those of us who have seen multiple shows on this tour, there are small changes: An extended opening to the piano intro to Point Blank; a cell phone sea of lights during Drive All Night. In this venue, the occasional aroma of legally purchased marijuana, too. With Patti absent, the stage line-up had the surviving participants of the original sessions all stage left, with the newer band members all stage right. Max, of course, was the anchor, featured not just on the heavy rockers but on many of the slower songs as well. Jake Clemons is also improving greatly as a man who can play and dance -- and hoist -- at the same time.

The highlight of the encores, no doubt, was Backstreets, presented here as a meditation. "Forever friends," repeated, over and over again, followed by many repetitions of "Until the end." Almost as if the repetition could make time stop for just that moment.