I posted this on Backstreets and thought I would share with my Gl friends.
Some have commented on enjoying hearing from those of us who were there so in that spirit, here’s to you. Nukes was my first concert outside the shows I saw at the local, small arena in my small hometown, so I am pumped for the show. I am a freshman at a small college outside NYC and take the train in, to scalp, on the 21st to see Springsteen. Just imagine, 1979. Although not 75-78, 79 is exploding with relatively new bands that are setting the world on fire. The B-52’s, Geldof’s Boomtown Rats, The Cars, The Police, The Clash, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Graham Parker and the Rumor, The Ramones, Rockpile, Talking Heads, Madness, The Specials, The Jam, Blondie, are only some of the bands that were just beginning or hitting their prime. It is a great time for music. Before it would soon turn top forty, there is a commercial NYC FM station, WPIX, not WNEW, that is actually playing this stuff, all the time.
Radio’s influence on music is huge. WNEW played Darkness on the Edge of Town in its entirety when it came out, before broadcasting the Passaic show. We know Bruce is in NYC recording his new album. My new college friend, who went to all five WHO shows the week before Nukes, tells me Daltrey pointed to Springsteen when he sang “meet the new boss.” He tells me Townshend sliced his hand during a windmill, which if you watch the Nukes promo, Bruce is clearly imitating the windmill. The Clash is playing the Palladium during the Nukes shows, where the iconic photograph of Paul slamming his bass on stage is taken and will be seen around the world and on the cover of London Calling, which would hit record stores in three months, not Spotify or iTunes, but a record store, where I will see it in the front window prominently displayed.
You can feel the energy. I get to the Garden and some guy is selling 8th row seats for 50 dollars. I’m in. As I walk away with my ticket, I see the lineup for tonight’s show and tomorrow’s, and much prefer tomorrow’s, with Petty and Tosh, but I only have enough money for one show. I go back and ask for tomorrow’s show. No problem. I get my Birthday Nukes ticket and head back to the train station to go back to campus and wait, again, for my first Springsteen concert.
Tomorrow doesn’t come fast enough, but it is here. Train into NYC, buy the long sleeve Nukes shirt with red arms, and enter the world’s most famous arena, where my beloved Rangers just got their ass kicked in the Stanley Cup finals four months ago. But it is music tonight. No losing. Eighth row, stage left. On top of the world.
Gil Scott-Heron is tearing it up on piano, singing about almost losing Detroit. Tosh is smoking the biggest joint I have ever seen, slowing walking across the front of the stage, and Petty puts his hand on his forehead to help him see all the way on the other side of the Garden. He is clearly in uncharted territory. But not for long. Little did I know in a month’s time, Damn the Torpedoes will be released, with everyone in the world singing and dancing to Don’t Do Me Like That, catapulting Petty into a household name ever since.
We are “Bruce-ing” throughout the night but now louder, and more people are joining in. There is this huge guy next to me. Says he came from Cleveland, for both shows. He’s ready. The crowd explodes. There they are. Bruce prowls the stage looking out into the audience to connect with us and we lock eyes, just for a second. Prove it all night, just like the album. Clarence’s first sax solo. He’s so happy. So big. So much love. Bruce’s first solo. Then just Bruce and Max. Everyone in the band is cooking, connecting with each other on stage, and with us. The band and Bruce want to perform live. They are so tight. Badlands erupts with sonic speed. It sure ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive. I’m feeling it. Promised Land rips. Did he just toss his harmonica into the audience? We start singing Happy Birthday. “Don’t remind me.” He’s not happy turning thirty, which is a big deal, especially for a rocker. Looks like a couple of people are lovingly bringing him a birthday cake, which he soon turns into frisbee, throwing it back into the audience. “Send me the laundry bill.”
A new song, The River. Just harmonica and guitar. Holy shit. WTF was that. This show is blowing my mind. It’s going by too fast. Then Sherry Darling. That’s right. I have this from the Agora. Clarence smoking on the sax. Pure celebration. The transcendent harmonica and piano introduction of Thunder Road precedes one of the most defining Springsteen concert moments when all he needs to say is one word “Go” to let us know what to do. We dive in. “Show a little faith . . .” And everything, and everybody, at the Garden is “all right.” A pure Dionysian moment if there ever was one.
Then my favorite. Roy’s piano solo. The crowd starts clapping in unison. We are one. “The Rangers had a homecoming . . .” I am home, with all these other fans, the E Street Band, and Springsteen, “down in Jungleland.” We need no request from Springsteen to sing that line back to him. Song after song is blowing my mind. I have never experienced anything like this before, at least in public. Can you even top this epic moment? Of course.
Bruce begins to strum his guitar, Max now toying with the cymbals, Danny’s swirling organ kicks in, Roy lightly playing the piano, Clarence joins in by softly blowing the sax. The entire E Street Band is preparing for something huge. “Let’s go” is the command that proceeds the tsunami of sound that is Rosalita.
The band leaves the stage. This can’t be over. Will they let him do an encore? Come on. The band blast off with Born to Run. I’m losing my mind. Is this the end?
There’s more. Max starts off, followed by Steve and Danny playing as smooth as you’ll ever experience a rhythm section play. I know this one. Jackson Browne. That’s right. Stay. Play a little longer. Everyone is in on this party.
Then the pièce de resistance: Quarter to Three. If I had only one clip to show someone what Rock and Roll is, the unedited film of this performance is the one I would show. The film speaks for itself. I’m keeping this positive, so I’ll leave Springsteen dragging Goldsmith on stage for another day.
I remember the show ending around one. I stayed on the floor, not wanting to leave. Not wanting this experience to end. Wanting more. I finally left the Garden and went outside with a few others to try to catch Bruce leaving. We saw Clarence and other band members get in vehicles, one I remember a van, and drive past us but we never saw Bruce.
I wanted to see the band again, the next night. That’s how great the show was.