In a way normally only the football team (now) and baseball team (days gone by) can do, Bruce Spingsteen and The E Street Band brought Baltimore together last night.
Granted, not everyone in First Mariner Arena was a Baltimorean – there were LOTS of out-of-towners there to see perhaps the penultimate show in the band’s history – but Baltimore, and only Baltimore, was a winner last night.
Over the years, sports has been the connection between the people and Baltimore. The baseball team previously occupied that spot in everyone’s heart until their decade of despair and now – nearly on a year round basis – the football team brings people together in a way that only those who are involved in the love affair can completely understand.
Consider Friday night a one-night stand of epic proportions with Bruce and his gang.
And if everyone wasn’t in love before the 3-hour-30-minute “session”, they sure were when the final notes of “Glory Days” sounded just before 11:45 pm.
The Arena doesn’t have a plaque honoring those who have played in their hallowed halls. If they did, there’d be basketball players, indoor soccer players, hockey players, tennis players and rock-n-rollers from decades of shows at 201 W. Baltimore St.
Springsteen would have earned Hall of Fame status with last night’s show and it’s only the second time he’s stepped foot in the place. He joked last night that way back in 1973, he opened for “Chicago” and late in his 30-minute set, a guy yelled out, “Get off the stage, we didn’t come here to see you.”
36 years later, a mammoth, almost-definitely-illegal crowd of well over 14,000 showed up and everyone in the place wanted Bruce to stay, not leave.
I worked in that old barn for 17 years and at one point early in the 1980’s, we sold out 56 games in a row with a capacity of 11,500 or so. I’ve seen other sold out concerts — in fact, I just saw Jay-Z at First Mariner about a month or so ago — but none of them ever had the electricity or the sheer power that last night’s show produced.
And it was a night for the ages.
I saw a 70-something-year-old couple singing “Born to Run” at the top of their lungs. Bruce brought a 10-year old cutie up on stage to join him in “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”. By the way, she was probably one or two years old when the album came out in early 2002.
They showed the crowd on the three big screens throughout the night and every piece of Baltimore life was seen at some point. Young, old, black, white, girls, boys, men, women…it couldn’t have been more symbolic of Charm City.
Springsteen didn’t want to leave. When they finished playing “Higher and Higher”, the whole band took one last bow and retreated for a bottled water and fresh towels. They all walked off. Bruce stayed. And when they turned around to see why the crowd was roaring, Bruce gave them the “come back up here” wave. No one objected…he is, of course, The Boss. And then he said, “We don’t have anywhere to go…” as he kick-started “Glory Days”.
More than any other song, perhaps, “Glory Days” was the way to finish it all last night.
For nearly four decades now, Springsteen has been bringing glory to his followers.
It’s rare that I attend a concert and think to myself when I’m there, “I’m proud to be here”. But last night, I was.
I saw John Daue of Winner Distributing dancing in the aisles to “Land of Hopes and Dreams” and he yelled out to me, “This is a great night for Baltimore!”
Indeed, it was.
Everyone was united. No one, for a night at least, thought about the struggles of our economy or the embarrassment of a standing Mayor on trial or the fear that our country is being divided both politically and socially.
People danced. Hugged. Laughed. Cried. Sang.
Every inch of the building was occupied. There was hardly room to breathe.
But Bruce made it all OK.
If the rumors are true and the E Street Band is calling it a day after tomorrow night’s show in Buffalo, that’s fine…it’s part of life, regrettably, that all the good things can’t last forever.
For anyone who was there last night, though, that show will go on forever. No one will ever forget it.
And if Bruce would have had his way, it probably would still be going on now.
No one wanted to leave on Friday night.
Especially The Boss.
And he stayed around long enough to remind all of us who fell in love with his music over the years why we did so in the first place.