Fans Go the Extra Mile to Hear Their Hero

Syracuse Post, 1992-11-14, by: Mark Bialczak
Mike Gorham and Don Pinagro thought they had collected some pretty good Bruce Springsteen stories before Friday night. Then they saw their hero emerge from the back door of the Carrier Dome some two hours before showtime. They shook hands. They got autographs. A pretty big moment for two Springsteen veterans who collect memories like so many ticket stubs.

Some 30,000 Springsteen fans -- not the sellout many were expecting -- filed into the Carrier Dome Friday night -- concert veterans happy to add another notch to their belt of Springsteen experiences, concert virgins eager to be baptised by the Boss. Once inside, nobody cared much that scalpers out in the rain were unloading $25 tickets for $10.

The crowd, many of them maturing out of the usual rock age right along with the 43-year-old Springsteen, was greeted by two large screens at stage side, the better to appreciate close-ups. They met the dimming of the house lights with a hush, then the usual cries of "Bruuuce," right up until the opening strains of "Better Days".

Jeff Ross of Toronto considers himself a Springsteen neophyte, with Friday's performance "just No. 16" on a list of Springsteen shows he's seen. His first Springsteen show was on "The River" tour. "January 20, 1981," he recalls with ease. "Now I just can't get enough." So far on this tour, Ross has travelled to East Rutherford, N.J.; Richfield, Ohio; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Worcester, Mass.; Toronto; and Syracuse.

The worst of times, Ross says, was his trip to Springsteen's Garden State. "I had to go 45 hours without sleep to go to that show," he said. The best of times was in '84, in Toronto, when Ross managed to slip a note under Springsteen's door at the Harbour Castle Hilton before the show. "I called the hotel from the front lobby and asked for the room of his manager. I saw the room number light up on the switchboard.," Ross recalled. "I took the elevator to the 32nd floor. When I got out, the guard said, 'Where do you think you're going?' I said, 'Probably right back to the lobby. But I got this far. Will you let me leave a note?' " The guard obliged.

On the note was the tale of how Ross was attending the show the next day with his father, in hope of forging a better relationship. Ross said he had to know if the delivery got through. "So at 2 a.m., I called the manager's room, and Bruce answered. He told me he'd gotten the note and that he would drop the song 'My Father's House' into the show. And that song saved my relationship with my father," Ross said.

Mike Gorham of Liverpool was at the show Friday night, along with his brother Pat and sister Megan. Their parents were there, too, but only their seats were together. It was Mike Gorham's fifth Springsteen concert, all on this tour. He's still kicking himself that he didn't take Pat up on his offer to go along in 1985, the last time Springsteen played the Dome. "My brother had an extra ticket. And I didn't go," Gorham said, shaking his head. "I thought I was too young. I was 14. It's the biggest regret in my life."

Mother Sue recalled how she thought Pat was crazy to go that cold winter's night. He had mononucleosis. "He said he had to go even if it was in an ambulance," she said. "And when he got back, he said was a religious experience."

"I've got to admit. I'm a 'Born in the U.S.A.' junkie," Mike Gorham said. I remember sitting making fun of the video 'Dancing in the Dark' with my younger sister Megan. I mean, the guy just couldn't dance. Then Pat bought me the album."

Seven years later, Gorham owns more than 500 different Springsteen performances on "bootleg" tapes. He's got a handful of Springsteen pen pals he met through the "Backstreets" fan magazine, including Brian Platt of Youngstown, Ohio, who joined him at the Dome Friday night. Unfortunately, when pen pal Phil Grey visited from England two summers ago, Springsteen wasn't on tour.

Platt was a little weary from a seven-hour drive but happy nonetheless. " 'Cause once you've seen him live, there ain't nothin' better. It's better that sex," Platt said. Gorham still flushes when he recalls his first show, in Worcester this summer. "To finally out a vision to it...He puts on a show that just knocks you away," said Gorham, a student at Onadaga Community College, "It's incredible how honest he is with his audience, how true he is."

That honesty brought Pinagro to the Dome Friday night from Plantation, Fla. It was his sixth show on this tour. He already has tickets for concerts in Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, and two in Boston. "I don't even want to add up the expenses for the tour. It was 400 bucks for airline tickets for this one alone," he said, as he waited for two of his friends from Boston to show up to share their 50th row seats on the floor.

"All of us Bruce heads get together for these shows," Pinagro said. Mark Silver and Gloria Digirolao also drove to Syracuse from Toronto. It was SIlver's 11th or 12th show. For Digirolao, it was her 31st. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, the pair waited at the Dome box office, even though they already had pretty good seats on the side of the stadium.

They wanted to buy seats close to the stage, called "release" tickets by Springsteen veterans because they are released at most concerts hours before show time as the roadies finish stage configurations. The pair left to catch a couple hours of sleep without geting better seats.

John Hart of Liverpool remembered the time he saw Springsteen play a show at the Saratogo Performing Arts Center in Saratogo Springs in the summer of '86. He recalled how the crowd arrived early, despite a steady downpour, with 10,000 people milling about in the mud with the concert several hours away.

"People were wearing garbage bags. You know, that kind of outdoor concert stuff, "Hart said. Then Springsteen came out for the sound check. He played Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain." Hart said it rained no more that day.

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1992-11-13 Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY