Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Springsteen, Mountain View 1988

Show #4: Mountain View, May 1988

This show marked the beginning of a good luck streak for me associated with Bruce shows. I can’t remember why, but I hadn't even tried to buy tickets to this show. But a couple of weeks out, a friend of ours offered up two tickets, and I ended up going with my friend Tim, who I’d met when we were both waiters for the late, lamented Chuck’s Steak House of Hawaii (alas, the one in Sacramento, not Waikiki). Tim is also a huge Springsteen fan, and had been lucky enough to catch both legs of the Born in the USA tour.

Tim is also a huge sports fan, another reason for our friendship. He’s been a member of my fantasy football league since 1986, and has managed the capture the league title four times, as many as anyone else during that period (my total stands at 3, without a championship since 1993). We’re also big fans of the San Francisco Giants, and for a few years running in the late 1980s, attended the opening day/night game with a group of friends. That year we were part of a group comprised mostly of highway patrolmen from Fremont, who rented a Winnebago for the day. And when I say day, I mean it - this was an all-day affair, one which began in the early morning hours with the ceremonial tapping of the first keg. By lottery, one unlucky soul was selected as the designated driver, but for the rest it was “let the bacchanal begin!”

In 1988, one of the highway patrolmen was, to put it mildly, one of the loudest and most obnoxious people I’ve met in my entire life. Every word that came out of his mouth that day was spoken at eardrum-splitting volume, and nearly everything he said fell somewhere between “offensive” and “actionable from a legal standpoint.” In short, a real a—hole. We were careful to make sure our tickets weren’t right next to his, because this guy was a fight waiting to happen. He was just waiting for someone to tell him to shut the f—k up. But that was not going to be us, and 16 hours later we parted, thankfully.

Flash forward a month later, as Tim and I are settling into our “seats” at the Shoreline Amphitheater. At the Shoreline, less than half of the seating actually comes with a seat; the remainder is situated in a “picnic area,” which essentially means that you stake out your spot, throw down a blanket, and hope for the best. As with most Bruce shows, the show began with a few high-energy, raucous songs, and then slowed down with some introspective, quieter music. As that section began, most of the folks in the picnic area settled down on their blankets. All of a sudden, we hear some guy just going out of his mind, yelling “Sit the F—K Down!! Sit your f—kin’ a—down!” This went on for the better part of a song, and all of a sudden we realize, ohmigod – it’s the same dude from the Giants game! And then a minute or so later, we start to hear, “hey a—hole! why don’t YOU shut the f—k up!” By this time we’re laughing, and saying to each other, “oh man, here we go, this is gonna be good.” Fortunately someone with some sense stepped in (probably the guy’s girlfriend), and order was restored.

For the Tunnel of Love tour, Bruce added a horn section to the E Street Band, and also had some of the band members change positions. If I recall correctly, Max was situated towards the left side of the stage instead of directly in the middle (to allow for the horn section on the right), and I think that Max and Danny traded spots, playing their regular instruments but switching places onstage. Whether Bruce knew at the time that this was going to be the last E Street tour for more than ten years is hard to know, but obviously he was in the mood for some changes. In retrospect, change was the order of the day. With the release of Tunnel of Love it became obvious (or should have) that Bruce’s marriage to Julianne Phillips was on the rocks, and perhaps nearing an end. Songs like the title track, “Two Faces,” and “One Step Up” painted a picture of Springsteen struggling in the relationship, and sounding a lot like someone who doubted whether he had made a good decision. Before the end of the tour the marriage would be over, and his relationship with Patti Scialfa (which would result in the marriage that lasts to this day) would become public.

Partly because of the horns and partly because he seemed energized by the outdoor, but reasonably small venue, this was an incredible show. Chestnuts like “Be True” and “Roulette” were finally given a place to shine, and the horns on “Seeds,” “Spare Parts,” “War,” and “Born in the USA” added a dimension to those songs that pushed them beyond the category of great and well into mythic. The second half of the show was mostly rocking, and featured some rarities/oddities like “I’m A Coward,” “Part Man Part Monkey,” and even “Backstreets,” my all-time favorite Bruce song. I clearly remember Tim saying to me as Roy began to play the first notes (with Bruce saying something along the lines of “this one’s for the folks who have been around for a long time), “is this the greatest moment of your life?”

Well, probably not. But certainly one to remember.

Set list:

Tunnel Of Love / Be True / Adam Raised A Cain / Two Faces / All That Heaven Will Allow / Seeds / Roulette / Cover Me / Brilliant Disguise / Spare Parts / War / Born In The USA / Tougher Than The Rest / Ain't Got You - She's The One / You Can Look ... / I'm A Coward / I'm On Fire / One Step Up / Part Man Part Monkey / Backstreets / Dancing In The Dark / Light Of Day / Born To Run (Acoustic) / Hungry Heart / Glory Days / Rosalita / Have Love Will Travel / 10th Avenue Freeze-Out / Sweet Soul Music / Raise Your Hand / Little Latin Lupe Lu / Twist And Shout

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