This past week an old friend of mine posted to her Facebook page a fond remembrance of her first Bruce Springsteen concert on December 9, 1980. My first Springsteen show was a bit earlier — in July, 1975, at Kutztown State College — but I was also at the show at the Philadelphia Spectrum on December 9, 1980.
My friend’s reminiscence reminded me that a decade earlier I had posted my own recollection of that concert in response to a post on rec.music.artists.springsteen (for those of you old enough to remember Usenet newsgroups). Here (with a few minor editorial tweaks) is what I wrote ten years ago about that night two decades earlier:
I was there that night. It was amazing.
Tickets were nearly impossible to get for that show but, through a stroke of luck, I had a friend with an extra ticket who invited me to the concert as her guest.
When I woke up that morning, my very first thought was “I’m gonna see Bruce tonight.” I was ecstatic.
Then I turned on the Today Show and heard the news. Mark David Chapman had shot and killed John Lennon the previous night. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed impossible.
I didn’t know what to think about the concert that night. Would Bruce still go on? Will he give a short concert and then retire to his home to be alone? As the lights went down at the Spectrum that night you could sense the strange mood of the crowd — anticipation mixed with sadness and apprehension.
Then Bruce stepped on stage and — rather than doing the usual countdown for the opening number — walked to the microphone and said (as I recall it from 20 years ago*). “It’s hard to come out here tonight. ‘Twist and Shout’ was the first song I ever learned. But sometimes you just gotta go on…”.
Then he shouted “One, two…” and the band tore into “Born to Run.” And the concert began. The band seemed to play with a desperate intensity that night. As if it were the only thing you could do; the only thing that mattered.
Then, after an incredible concert that ended with a version of the “Detroit Medley” that seemed to go on forever, the band broke into “Twist and Shout”. The Spectrum house lights were up throughout the song and you could see everyone in the crowd singing and dancing.
And, I know it sounds corny now, but — there, at that moment — I thought: rock and roll is important. It can change people’s lives. And it will go on forever.