From the Braver Institute
As I was saying last week, my kid sister, Badger Annie, and I were trying to climb the stairs from the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills, but we were in insane amounts of pain from having been on our feet for the past seven hours waiting for, and then watching Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform.
Oh, wait...maybe I hadn’t gotten that far...anyway, we were in dreadful pain as we feebly made our way back to the car. Seeing the show from the floor was well worth the pain, but in my mind I knew I would never put myself through that again. At least that is how I felt until the next day when we were on our way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
I don’t know which one of us said it first, but we both agreed that we would do it all over again without hesitation, and for the next couple of years we anxiously awaited news of a tour. It was plenty of time to rest up, and get in shape for the next show.
Now Clarence wasn’t the first E Streeter to depart for that great gig in the sky (organist Danny Federici died in 2008), but the Big Man was an integral part of the onstage hijinks that make E Street shows so great. It was impossible to imagine a show without him, and we started to doubt that Springsteen would ever tour with the E Street band again.
But life goes on, and on January 22nd of this year Springsteen and company announced they would be going on tour, and they would be playing the Palace in April. Tickets went on sale January 28th, and the Badger bought ours the moment they became available. We were as good as there.
On our way to the show we managed to get stuck in traffic, and nearly missed getting into the lottery for access to the pit area, but once we had our wristbands securely in place, we could sit back and relax having been through this process before. We knew we could sit for a while.
This time the cattle corrals were replaced with traffic cones to simply guide us, not cage us, which made things so much easier.
While waiting for the drawing I noticed two familiar faces. The first was megaphone guy, who was actually using the megaphone to give instructions this time, and the second was Mr. 496! The jerk who had filled us with false hope during the last lottery. Once again I had to keep the Badger from punching him right in the neck.
Mr. Megaphone announced that the drawing was about to happen, and that 450 people would be allowed into the pit area. He asked a fan to reach into a container, and pull out number 261. Our numbers were 701 and 702 respectively. Our hearts sunk because the quick math told us we were out, but the guy behind us did the math on his cell phone, and calmly announced “we’re in”.
Actually we were just barely in. The cut-off was 711, but it didn’t matter—we would be near the stage. We would be in the center of the party.
Since we were the last of those who could enter the pit area, we were not able to get right up to the stage, but even at the back of the area, our vantage point made it seem more like we were in a small auditorium as opposed to a 23,000 seat concert hall.
On top of that, Springsteen was using the mid-audience stage again, and we took positions just a couple of feet away from it.
The show started and the party began. The roar of the crowd was nearly as loud as the band.
Fourteen songs into the show, Springsteen made his way out to the middle stage, and we were right there to greet him. The rest of the crowd now packed in behind us, and we all had our hands in the air as we sang along.
On the last tour Springsteen did a fair amount of crowd surfing from the middle stage to the main stage, but The Boss is 62 years old now, and most likely a bit trepidatious about trusting his life to an audience full of AARP members.
He stood there, and as the band played he stared down at us, perhaps surveying the crowd, looking for fans healthy enough to keep him from plunging to the floor. My hands were already in the air, and I motioned for him to fall this way, at the same time I said “come on”. With that he turned around and fell backwards.
Now here is where I save Bruce Springsteen’s life.
The person in front of me was able to hold up his legs, as were the Badger and a few other people around, BUT I was taller than everyone else around me, therefore I caught the full weight of Springsteen. Now I am a strong guy, but it has been a long time since I held another human being over my head, and I was not prepared for such an event.
At this point I figured that I had three options. The first was that I could carry Springsteen to the main stage like a pro-wrestler getting ready to body-slam his opponent.
Option two was to collapse under his weight—which I immediately ruled out.
Option three was to hand him off to the others behind me, so that is what I tried to do, except they couldn’t reach him. So now I had to unlock my elbows to lower him to a level where others could take over, and this is a very weak position to hold something up, but they still couldn’t reach him. Suddenly I felt myself being pushed backward toward the main stage by the crowd, all the while holding this guy in the air. I started to feel my knees buckling, and I was certain that The Boss would be meeting the concrete below us shortly. After three or four steps backward, my hands now behind my head and bent backward like a limbo dancer, I was able to pass him off to the rest of the crowd, thus saving his life.
As he passed over the top of me, I had to hand-over-hand him back all the while thinking “I don’t want to touch his butt. I don’t want to touch his butt.” Thankfully I did not have to.
Springsteen made it safely back to the stage, and what could have ended in catastrophe, turned out to be perhaps the best show of the tour. It was certainly the longest, clocking in at close to three-and-a-half hours.
So there you have it. If I had dropped Springsteen, he would probably be dead, but instead I saved his life.
He didn’t even say thanks.