Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Promise

As a young girl and later a teenager I did, from time to time, try to keep a diary. I never kept them up for longer than a few months and I don't have any of them now.

Writing my Springsteen journey I wish, nearly every week, that I had kept at least a few notes about my day to day life.  On what date did I buy 'Born to Run'? Why did we decide to go to our first gig?  When did we make the decision to go to New York? - it was only last year but I can't remember. 

I still don't write a diary but when The Darkness Box set was announced I thought I might like to chart it's journey from announcement to release date.  Then in years to come I won't have to rack my brain to remember any details so...

Countdown to The Promise was born.  I set up a new blog but (to cut a long story short) something imported from another site must have corrupted the data.  I couldn't continue to post using that blog.
Instead I'm now going to post here.

Oh and first note for new diary -  29 September 2010: ordered The Promise

Friday, 24 September 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 37

'Now it's some old Stones' song the band is trashin' If you feel like dancin', baby I'm askin''

We made friends for life during those few days in New York, fell in love with both the city and Jersey. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t mention it and promise ourselves we will go back one day.

Day to day life goes on but we will always have the memories of a never to be repeated time.

Mike and I were let down gently because we had a Southside Johnny gig to go to on 14th November.

It was a strange one this.  Southside usually plays in rather more, shall we say, basic surroundings and the audience are usually standing.  This was at York Opera House.  We were in the second row - front and centre - a great position.  Well it would have been if anyone had stood up. 

I felt really uncomfortable sitting down throughout, it was a bit embarrassing.  I tried to get involved, by clapping, singing along and doing some sitting down dancing- you know what I mean - it involves a bit of bouncing around in your seat!  

My enthusiasm was rewarded with a copy of the set list.

During the usual shout out for requests Mike asked for 'All The Way Home'. Either Johnny didn't hear or he ignored him!  To make up for it here you are Mike

Bruce fans tend to be a little obsessive and very persistent in their quest to find any snippet of news about him when he isn’t touring or publicising an album release.  We get photos of him walking in New York or sightings of him in Red Bank.  A gig by one of Bruce‘s contemporaries can excite days of speculation beforehand as to whether he might put in a guest appearance.  If he does we all start clamouring for pictures and YouTube clips.

But …we didn’t have to delve very deep to find out about The Kennedy Centre awards.

On 6th December 2009, at the 32nd Kennedy Centre Honors, Bruce received an award.  At the time I knew nothing about The John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts but I know a little now:-

The Kennedy Centre is in Washington DC ( there is also one in Belfast but it’s a shopping centre!) next door to the (infamous) Watergate Complex.  It opened in September 1971, is the USA’s busiest performing arts facility and annually hosts approximately 2,000 performances for audiences totalling nearly two million

Who knew that following Bruce would be educational too?  Come to think of it my geographical knowledge of New Jersey is exclusively down to Bruce!

Here are some pictures remind us how proud we are of our man.

And a final thought for this week.  The honours celebrate, and I quote from the website here ‘individuals who have spent their lives enriching, inspiring and elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world.’ - Need I say more ???

Saturday, 18 September 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 36

'You make up your mind. You choose the chance you take'

Sunday - another beautiful day in New York City - God I love this place!

Went for a long walk today.  Had a cup of tea at Tea and Sympathy in Chelsea and walked down Bleeker Street. T-shirt weather.

Popped in to Mustang Harry’s before the gig, on the off chance we could find anybody to foist our company upon, and - hey - Ceinwen, Sinead, Steve and Hywel were there with other friends.  Kept them company until we all set off for the gig.

We were really looking forward to this night.  When we set off for NYC on 5th November we didn’t know what Bruce was going to do.  Going back to my really early blogs you will see that ‘The River’ was one of the first albums I listened to - albeit on a copied cassette.  I hadn’t particularly liked it at the time but it has become one of my favourites over the years.

Tonight we are sat, perhaps, just short of halfway along on Clarence’s side.  If you have the boot that’s floating around it’s filmed from a similar sort of position.  I turned to the couple on my right hand side - Laura and Tony - blimey they are from Manchester - only about 40 miles away from where we live!  

Then Mike chats to the couple on his left and they live a stone’s throw away - 5 miles at the most!!  Strangely enough, although we have kept in touch with Tony and Laura via the net, we haven’t seen ‘English Steve’ and his wife since that night.

This night was really special for me.  Perhaps because I knew it was the last gig I was going to see for no-one-knows-how-long and the culmination of a whole year of making new friends and going to concerts. When Bruce came on stage and said 'Good evening New York City' I knew life couldn’t get any better.  Even thinking about it now sends tingles down my spine.

So what can I say about the set list?  Never before performed. Just this one time. Too long to do it again. Loved it, loved it, loved it. Lots of sing-a-long songs, sad songs, some tragic songs and the hidden masterpiece of ’Crush on you’.

When I eventually embraced ‘The River’ I found I preferred the faster tracks - ‘The Ties That Bind’, ’Jackson Cage’, ’Two Hearts’, etc etc.  ‘Out in the Street’ is a favourite oh oh oh oh oh and I picked up on the funny little story of ’Sherry Darling’ only a couple of years ago.  I’m not so keen on ’You can Look’ (it goes on a bit on Live in NYC) or Ramrod.  The buddy boy antics of Bruce and Steve don’t really do it for me.  Maybe it worked when they were younger but sadly I wasn’t there to see it.

Mike likes the slower tracks - ‘The River’ itself, ‘Point Blank‘.  He’s always loved ’Independence Day’ but actually prefers The Waterboys version - If you want to try it ... you have to go to about 2 minutes in before they start singing 

‘Point Blank’ wasn’t a particular favourite of mine but it was great live. I ahhhhhhhhd along with the rest when Bruce danced with Patti during ‘I Wanna Marry You’ and sobbed all the way through ‘Drive all Night’.   Oh and of course 'The Price You Pay'.  He didn't save it for us but a rarity if ever there was one and did we all wonder if we had missed this after The Spectrum on 20 October?

An added bonus for Mike was ’Atlantic City’.  He doesn’t know why but it always brings a tear to his eye. Special to hear this on his last gig for a while.

And what can you say about ’Can’t Help Falling in Love’.  So unexpected, a bit shambolic but really, well - sweet - is the only way I can think of putting it.  What about this version from 1988?

I didn’t want it to end - me and twenty thousand other people I suspect - but it did and we set off for Mustang Harry’s in a bid to keep the magic going a bit longer by talking about it.  We met more fans in there, some who I will remember and others I wont, but regardless, I hope we will all meet again sometime.

We stayed in New York until Tuesday.  Did loads more sightseeing, a bit of souvenir shopping and savoured the atmosphere of (probably) the greatest city in the World.  I can’t wait to go back.  It really was the best few days of my life and, if Bruce is true to his word, those of us there on The River night really did have a once in a lifetime experience, something that money-can’t-buy.

So it might not be Martin Luther King and his ‘ I have a Dream’ speech but when I’m in my dotage sitting in the nursing home I will be able to say ‘I was at Madison Square Garden when Bruce Springsteen played The River in full’.

Set List

Wrecking Ball
The Ties that Bind
Sherry Darling
Jackson Cage
Two Hearts
Independence Day
Hungry Heart
Out in the Street
Crush on You
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
I Wanna Marry You
The River
Point Blank
Cadillac Ranch
I'm a Rocker
Fade Away
Stolen Car
The Price You Pay
Drive All Night
Wreck on the Highway
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
Atlantic City
Born to Run
Seven Nights to Rock
Sweet Soul Music
No Surrender
American Land
Dancing in the Dark
Can't Help Falling in Love
Higher and Higher

Saturday, 11 September 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 35

'She slips, she slides, she slops, she bops, she bumps, she grinds'

Our day in New Jersey flew by far too quickly.  Looking back I think I was so intent on getting photos of everything that I forgot to just sit down and savour the moment.  But wow! wow! wow! it was just the best day - just the best.

Sat nav gave up as we were leaving Asbury Park but Hywel got us back safely anyway.  Then back to NYC for a quick freshen up and our Light of Day gig at Jesse Malin’s club in The Bowery.

Caught the 6 train to Bleeker Street.  We calculated that with a short walk this would bring us out half way down The Bowery.  Trouble was I had forgotten to bring the actual address and we had no idea what number we were looking for.  Wandered up and down for a while - I wonder now about the wisdom of meandering about looking lost, in a strange New York street, in the dark.  To be honest we were both a bit jittery.  In the end we called in a shop for directions.  The owner hadn’t heard of The Bowery Electric but checked on the internet for us and pointed us in the right direction.

The place was heaving and very hot.  I have never been at the cutting edge of the club scene so possibly for the first time in my life I felt cool (despite the heat).

Joe Verso and The Stone Caravan were the main band.

We knew of them through Bruce and The Light of Day organisation.  They did a great rocking set,  Joe looking like he enjoyed every minute and the bass player Mr Lou obviously having a ball.  Before them there was the fabulous Sarah Solovay - only 15 I think and destined for greater things.


Outside The Box did a great version of 'Kitty’s Back' presumably knowing there were Bruce fans around.   Here's a version from The Paramount Theatre in January 2010.

All in all we had a great evening but both of us were dog tired and left pretty early.

Sinead, Steve, Ceinwen and Hywel stayed on, met Joe (and Jeff Cafone from Outside The Box I think) and by all accounts had a great night.

Up bright and early next morning to queue for Bruce tickets at MSG.  Mike will tell you that I am not as careful as I should be with my credit cards but, boy, did I look after my card when I knew I had to show it to pick up the tickets.  Can’t imagine what it must be like to have tickets sitting at the box office and being unable to get your hands on them.
We chatted to a British couple in front of us in the queue.  They were going Saturday and regretted not trying for tickets for Sunday.  We met them again, by chance, outside the United Nations Building on Tuesday morning - pretty remarkable considering we were just randomly sightseeing.

Mustang Harry’s before the show.  Just up the street from MSG so not unexpectedly it was packed.  Now some very well organised Lakers - Sinead among them I think - had arranged this get together.  We had name badges to assist in identification but to be honest it was all a bit overwhelming - you know - didn’t know who to speak to first.  We chatted to a Scandinavian guy for quite a while and my normally good memory deserts me here because I can’t remember his name.  Met loads of other people - Elaine who we have since become friends with, The Amigos - Mark lives just down the road from us and many others whose faces are familiar from photo’s I have seen since but whose names I can’t remember.  It was an amazing get-together - another reason to cite my mantra - what did we do before the internet?

It’s in these situations I realise my social skills are a bit lacking.  I am rather uncomfortable in large groups and not very good at striking up random conversations - mental note - need practice, must get out more !!.

We were behind the stage very near the back for this gig - so much so that a more accurate description might be above the stage.  We were looking down almost directly onto Max’s head.  There was a big screen facing our way.  Certainly a different view and I wouldn’t hesitate to sit there again.

On my left hand side were a group of teenagers.  The lad next to me was so excited he couldn’t sit still.  I asked his age afterwards - 15.  He was thrilled to get ‘Seeds’ and he stayed in his seat for ‘New York City Serenade’ although his mates, who I understand were a little older, went for a bathroom break.  I actually heard one of them groan when the first strains of the piano intro started!

Now WIESS is not Mike’s favourite album. It’s grown on me.  I fell in love with 'Sandy' after I heard Johnnie Walker play the live version and I think I’ve mentioned before that 'Rosie' has wheedled it’s way into my affections.

'New York City Serenade' came on my ipod one day not many years ago when I was working out on our cross trainer.  I remember it because I had promised myself I would stop after the next song… ten minutes later!  It had obviously passed me by previously but I liked it straight away - even whilst I was gasping for air!!

'Incident' is a fabulous story song,  'The E Street Shuffle' is OK and I have even grown into 'Kitty' a little but (sorry Tony if you are still reading this) I haven’t yet come around to Wild Billy’s Circus Story.

Mike who, as I write this, is loading Bruce’s back catalogue to his new ipod Touch says that 'Sandy' and 'Serenade' are OK but he will happily de select the other tracks.

Here lies the difference between us.  Mike is comfortable if he doesn’t like a track.  I think I am missing something.

Anyway back to the show.  I just felt so privileged to be there. It’s hard to explain.  We had paid good money to be in that seat.  I was entitled to be there yet I knew I was lucky to be sitting in MSG watching Bruce Springsteen.  Lucky to have this passion in life.  Lucky to share it with Mike.  Many people have passions and yes I have laughed at anoraks who love train spotting or bird watching but what’s wrong with having a passion.  Whatever it is - your football team, stamp collecting, gardening (as long as it isn’t doing anyone else any harm) it can only enrich your life.

Bruce opened with 'Thundercrack' which I’ve always liked and, hey, a bit of a rarity live, which is good. ‘Prove It’ has been one of my favourites since Live in NYC (I love the opening few tracks on that DVD) and we hadn’t heard ’Human Touch’ since our first gig in April 1993. I am not as anti Lucky Touch as some people so it was great to hear this again.

I get really excited about going to gigs, so much so that on a few occasions I have made myself ill.  Thought, at my age, I would've grown out of this by now.  This night I had the most awful stomach cramps by the end of the show so we went straight back to the hotel via a Starbucks where I picked up a cup of tea to go.  I didn’t want to be ill for ’The River’ night which we were both really looking forward to.

Set List

Prove It All Night
Hungry Heart
Working On A Dream
The E Street Shuffle
4th July Asbury Park (Sandy)
Kittys Back
Wild Billy's Circus Story
Incident On 57th Street
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
New York City Serenade
Waitin' On A Sunny Day
Raise Your Hand
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
Glory Days
Human Touch
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born To Run
Wrecking Ball
Bobby Jean
American Land
Dancing In The Dark
Higher and Higher (With Elvis Costello)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

My Bruce Journey - Part 34

'The pier lights our carnival life forever.  Oh love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever'

Anybody who knows us well - and that isn’t many people - know that we are quite a private couple.  We don’t have a wide circle of friends and spend most of our time in each other’s company.  So I think we surprised ourselves by agreeing so readily to spend a day in New Jersey with four people we hardly knew. We didn’t have to think twice.  It just felt right.

For someone, like me, who is a little shy the internet is a Godsend. I wouldn’t have dreamt of telephoning Sinead or Ceinwen after meeting them in Dublin (chatting on the phone isn’t my thing anyway) but finding them on Facebook and chatting on line - no problem.

I hesitate to bang on about being ill again.  Having cancer wasn’t life changing for me.  I didn’t feel I needed to jack in the job, spend all my money and sail off around the world before I popped my clogs.  I didn’t ever feel as if I was going to die but it did make me less reticent, gave me more of a just do it attitude knowing that:-

   1. Whatever goes wrong in life can usually be put right.
   2. It doesn’t really matter what other people think

So if our day didn’t work out it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  If we hated each other we didn’t have to see one another again.

As it turns out we have become good friends.

Planning our trip to Jersey via FB was a great way of getting to know each other a little before we actually met up.  By the time Mike and I set off for the U S A I was sure our day together was going to be a highlight of the trip.

So we are on a shuttle bus heading into NYC.  The familiar shapes of the skyline are ahead of us and I am so excited.  Coming into the outskirts of the city a van driver cuts us up.  Our driver leans on his horn, sticks his head out the window and swears at him - welcome to New York City.  The noise of the car horns was overwhelming and constant and exciting and soooo New York - I was hooked.

We got lost between the shuttle bus drop off point and the hotel (a slight confusion between the avenues and the streets but we soon got the hang of it) and I was told off for jay walking by a guy on the sidewalk - it was getting dark and I was pulling my suitcase, rushing after Mike, scared of losing him.

The hotel was an oddity really.  It was housed in a terrace behind 42nd Street - a fabulous location - but because it was joined to other properties on both sides (and possibly the back) there was no view unless you had a room overlooking the street.  Some of the rooms didn’t have a window at all!  To be fair there was nothing wrong with the room.  It was very small but clean and the bathroom was lovely.  It just lacked any cosiness or atmosphere.  Hotel 41 web site

Our most important jobs on our first day in NYC were to find Madison Square Garden (so we knew where to pick up our tickets) and Penn Station to make sure we could get to Newark Airport to pick up the car for our day on The Jersey Shore.

Onwards then to Ground Zero - couldn’t go to New York without paying our respects.  A trip on The Staten Island Ferry was followed by a day of walking.  We walked from the ferry to Pier 17, over the Brooklyn Bridge then wended our way back to the hotel down Broadway.

Friday morning we were up at 5.00am and off to meet Sinead, Steve, Ceinwen and Hywel for a trip on The New Jersey Transit to Newark Airport.  Hywel had gamely volunteered to drive for the day and we were picking our car up at the airport.

The weather was fab - very cold but really bright and sunny.  First stop Freehold - oh the excitement when we saw the first road sign for the New Jersey Turnpike and Freehold - I was really here!!  We played The Wild The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle (to get us in the mood for Saturday) and The River disc 2 - I don’t think Sinead explained where disc 1 was.

Ceinwen had come armed with The Rock and Roll Tour of the Jersey Shore. (This guy obviously had it too) so we parked up and took photos at  all the appropriate places.  Then… where to go for breakfast? Mike’s love of diners took us to the Freehold Grill.  Lucky choice because the food was good, but more so, because this is the place where a lot of the Long Walk Home video was shot.  We didn't know this when we walked in but the waitress sussed
us (possibly because of Ceinwen‘s T shirt) and told us the story.

We were sussed again in Belmar at the E ST/10 Ave sign when some guy driving by popped his head out his window and told us Bruce would be along soon.  Needless to say he didn’t turn up!

So off to The Holy Grail that is Asbury Park.  We popped in to The Stone Pony.  Took photos of ourselves standing on the stage.  Ceinwen and I bought a T shirt.

We had lunch - don’t know what time it was - could have been a late lunch - at The Langosta Lounge. link here  Browsed around the few open shops, checked out Madame Marie’s (no one was there) and Tillie who is painted on The Wonder Bar (a copy of The Palace original I think).

The boardwalk was pretty much deserted - presumably not a place the locals go to on a cold Friday afternoon in November.  It’s a little dilapidated, a bit tired, but you can just feel the atmosphere of the place - maybe you have to be a Springsteen fan - but although there was nothing much to see beyond the derelict (but rather beautiful) casino to the south and the Convention Hall to the north it didn’t take much imagination to transport yourself back to the 70s and 4th July - Sandy, the boys from the casino, them silly New York girls.  It was just magical.

I have a favourite photo of Bruce.  He is leaning on a car which is parked in front of the Convention Hall. One day I was going to have my picture taken with The Asbury Park Convention Hall behind me and this day had come.  We took the photo from the wrong side though so, damn it, we are going to have to go back!

Are you up for it guys?