Through the Haze...Chapter 2: Springsteen at Fenway
Early September is easily my favourite time of the year, coming out of the heat of the summer, into the crisp, early hints of autumn. Out for a morning walk today, the sunshine reminded me of one of my favourite concerts of all time, Bruce Springsteen at Fenway Park, on the Rising Tour of 2003.
After seeing two concerts on the tour already, including an epic performance at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the tour was hitting the home stretch, and through most of the summer was playing a series of concerts at ballparks. As soon as this news broke, and dates started trickling out slowly, I prayed that a Fenway date might be on the horizon.
There hadn't been any large concerts at the ballpaaaaaahk, but the still-new John Henry-led ownership group had shown that this was not your father's Red Sox, and were going to shake things up. My buddy Jeff, who dragged me kicking and screaming from metalhead to Springsteen fanatic while driving back and forth to University in '86 and '87, started floating the idea of making the pilgrimage to The Bean...never thinking we'd actually be lucky enough to score tickets to such a historic event.
At first, only one date (Saturday) was announced, and sold out instantly. However, luck, and a good internet connection was on my side, and we managed to pick up tickets for the second concert, seconds after it had been announced. After the initial shock subsided, logistics were mapped out.
There aren't many things to complain about in my line of work, but one of the golden rules of big-time radio stations is that during ratings, it's all hands on-deck, and no vacation time can be permitted for on-air types. This means that all of September and October (as well as March and April, for the Spring survey) is off-limits. Unfortunately, there's no 'Springsteen Exemption' despite my best efforts, so if I were to drive to the concert (airfare on short notice being what it was), there would have to be an all-nighter on the way back.
Oh well. It was a "once in a lifetime opportunity"...a phrase my wife informs me she has heard several times before, and since.
After picking up Jeff, who had spent all day at a brewery-sponsored charity golf tournament, it was quickly decided that I would do the driving to Boston, and he would drive back. Made it to downtown Boston in a little over six hours, which has to be some sorrt of record.
Boston in the early fall was glorious, and after some sightseeing (watching the Sox and Yankees on the big screen at the Cask and Flagon) we were getting close to Boss Time.
Mid-afternoon, Jeff and I were walking in the Kenmore Square area, listening to a seldom-played Springsteen nugget ('Frankie', originally from the mid-70s, but unreleased until the Tracks box set in 1998) coming out of a car stereo. After hearing a couple of passes at the chorus, and the song starting and stopping a couple times, we realized we were actually listening to the soundcheck from three streets over. It was going to be a special night, to say the least.
The setlist was fantastic...
Take Me Out to the Ballgame (Danny on organ)/Diddy Wah Diddy/The Rising/Lonesome Day/Adam Raised a Cain/Something in the Night/Empty Sky/Waitin' on a Sunny Day/Spirit in the Night/For You/Because the Night/She's the One/Badlands/Mary's Place/Frankie/Jungleland/Into the Fire/Thunder Road
First Encore: Further On Up the Road/Glory Days/Born to Run/Seven Nights to Rock
Second Encore: My City of Ruins/Born in the U.S.A. (full band)/Rosalita/Dancing in the Dark/Dirty Water (with Peter Wolf)
After resisting the 'Glory Days' for years and years, hearing it on a beautiful late summer night (with the house lights up, as Bruce always does for the encores) at Fenway Park finally made me a believer. The Standells' anthem 'Dirty Water', featuring Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band, finished off the night, although the crowd was still singing the chorus, long after spilling into the street.
Being a huge Springsteen fan and an even bigger Sox fan, life doesn't get any better, despite the fact that Bruce is a Yankees fan. In fact, a fairly large contingent made the trek from New York/New Jersey, wearing Yankees hats, but those differences were put aside, for a couple hours, at least.
The overnight drive back was epic, through Massachussetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and finally back to Halifax around 1pm. I made it in for my 3pm shift, really no worse for wear...even though Jeff and I quoted Danny Glover in Lethal Waepon on a number of occasions..."I'm getting too old for this shit". But then again, if Bruce can still make the trip, so could we!
No idea what the future holds for the E Street Band after the death of Clarence Clemons, but wherever Bruce goes, hopefully I can too.