Anyone who knows me knows that Bruce Springsteen’s music has been a major part of my life. Ever since my awesome Uncle Joe and Aunt Kathy took me to my first Bruce concert in August of 1985 at Philadelphia’s Vet Stadium, I was hooked. Born the Run was the first album I played in the car on the day that I got my driver’s license. My 1999 summer vacation consisted of seeing 12 Bruce concerts at The Meadowlands (thanks to my equally awesome Aunt Lil and Uncle Steve, who let me crash at their house during the run of shows). When I proposed to my wife, “I Wanna Marry You” was on the turntable. I could provide many more examples of Bruce’s music as the soundtrack to my life, but these are just a sampling of the biggest ones.
Thirty-one years and over 100 Bruce concerts later, I finally experienced the magical moment above in Bruce’s hometown, Freehold, New Jersey at the local Barnes and Noble. It’s a moment that might never have happened if not for my Aunt Kathy’s text informing me she found out that Bruce would be making this appearance in support of his autobiography, Born To Run, released today. Thanks to her, I have the photo above to cherish for the rest of my life along with the beautifully autographed edition of the book pictured below. Bruce fans love to cite his song lyrics “faith will be rewarded.” For me and about 2,000 other fans today, that was truer than ever. Thank you, Bruce, for taking the time to do this. Thanks also to the amazing staff at the Freehold Barnes and Noble for all of your hard work. The event was superbly organized and extremely well run. I have never been to a high-profile celebrity appearance that was run so well. I might have been born to run, but after finally catching up to Bruce, I’m ready to stop running — at least for a little bit — and just savor the moment. Thanks Bruce!
Shortly after Prince passed away, The Revolution announced that they were going to get back together for some shows to honor Prince. I had only seen The Revolution live once before, in November of 1984 on Prince’s Purple Rain tour in Philadelphia at The Spectrum, but that one night changed my life. A major Prince fan ever since, I’ve seen him in concert many times (I stopped counting after 20 shows). He played with many talented musicians over the years, but in my opinion The Revolution remain the best group of musicians that Prince ever assembled. The music that Prince and The Revolution created together surpassed anything he could have created by himself. Sure, the music was always Prince’s vision and the end result was music directed by him, but he could not have created the masterpiece that is the Purple Rain album without this exceptionally rare combination of just the right musicians playing together with just the right material at just the right time. Whether or not they actually received official writing credits (they actually did receive songwriting credits occasionally, but probably not as often as they deserved them) The Revolution contributed in a songwriting capacity too. The whole of that group added up to way more than the sum of its parts. They were never a backing band, they were simply a band. And Prince was their leader. Even though they have rarely played together recently with the exception of a few benefit shows here and there, when they lost their leader on April 21, The Revolution mourned with the rest of the world. They soon announced that they would get back together for some concerts to mourn and celebrate Prince. They needed closure and they knew that Prince’s fans did too. I have heard a minuscule number of “fans” grumbling that these three concerts are simply a way for the band to cash in on Prince’s passing. To those critics, I simply say “bullshit.” The Revolution is not getting rich from a three-night stand at a venue that fits 1,500 people. I knew that these shows were planned from the heart by people who were right there with Prince during the period that many fans consider the golden age of his music. These shows would be heartfelt, emotional and special. I had to be there.
When the initial two Revolution concerts for September 2 and 3 (note: the September 1 show was added soon after the first two shows instantly sold out) were announced, I knew that I must make the trip from New Jersey to Minneapolis for these shows. There is no better way to celebrate the music that Prince left us than watching the musicians who (in my opinion) had been integral in helping him create the greatest music of his career. Growing up with the music of Prince and the Revolution in my most formative musical years, The Revolution had become family to me. If you add up all the time I spent listening to their music, it probably adds up to more time than I spent with most of my actual family. There was no way I was going to miss these shows. Tickets were nearly impossible to get, but I did my research and with the help of my online Prince family (you know who you are) I was able to get the password for what I called the “PRE-Presale.” I quickly had tickets for all three nights and for the last few months my friends and coworkers have probably grown sick of hearing me talk about my upcoming purple pilgrimage. But everyone knows how important Prince’s music has been to me, so they understood.
I arrived in Minneapolis the afternoon of September 1 feeling like a kid about to open presents on Christmas. After dropping off my bags at my hotel, I walked down to First Avenue to get a few pictures in front of the historic venue. A few shots in front of the marquee, a few with the poster for the shows, and a few standing next to Prince’s star painted on the building. I immediately found a group of fans doing the same thing. We talked about Prince, the importance of his music on our lives, and how excited we all were to be fortunate enough to make it to these shows. I met fans from Texas, Connecticut, New York, California, Virginia, Belgium, The United Kingdom and all over the world.
The first show was very emotional. You could hear a pin drop when the rest of the band left the stage leaving only Wendy and Lisa remaining. The two played a gorgeous new arrangement of Sometimes It Snows in April. Wendy broke down trying to make it through the song, but she fought through it. It was emotionally painful and inspiring at the same time. The majority of the show was a funky, rocking celebration of Prince’s life and music, but this moment stood out to me as the most touching. There were a few technical glitches on night #1. It was really difficult to hear Dez Dickerson’s guitar solo on Little Red Corvette. But for a band that hadn’t played together in years, they were tight.
The second night’s setlist was identical to the first, but the crowd’s pre-show energy (fueled by Questlove’s awesome DJ set of Prince music) seemed more rabidly excited than the crowd was on the first night. There were not many technical glitches. The band seemed to be tighter and the weight that came with the opening night seemed to be lifted from their shoulders. It was another amazing night.
The third show, in my opinion, was the best of the three nights. The band came out on fire and really let loose. Their onstage energy was fierce and relentless. They came out and played their asses off and blew the proverbial roof off the joint. It was one of the most magical concert experiences I have ever had.
A lot has been written about these shows already in the media, but most of the articles made the shows sound like funerals. The opposite is true. These shows were wildly energetic celebrations of Prince’s life and music. There were emotional moments throughout the stand, but overall these shows were way more energetic than portrayed in most of the reviews.
The icing on the cake on night #1 was getting Bobby Z, Brownmark and Dr. Fink to sign my original Prince and The Revolution ticket stub from my first concert on November 24, 1984. I’ll cherish this forever. I also had the opportunity to get pictures with Andre Cymone and Dez Dickerson, who were beyond gracious and generous. I would have loved to get pictures with Wendy and Lisa, but I wasn’t able to track them down during my stay. Luckily there was a beautiful poster sold at the shows that was designed by Kii Arens. It commemorated the three-night run and was hand signed by Wendy, Lisa, Brownmark, Dr. Fink, Bobby Z., and Dez Dickerson.
Even the weather cooperated, with not a drop of rain in sight for my entire trip. It was as if the heavens were watching over the engagement, but I like to think it was Prince.