Fans like us, baby we were born to reminisce a little

The State, 2002-12-10, by: Michael Miller
The morning after a Bruce Springsteen concert has never been the most energetic time for me, and it's getting tougher as the years go by.

I can only wonder how Bruce feels this morning. He did all the work, and he's even older than I am. I feel as if I could use his masseuse, personal trainer, chiropractor and even Madame Marie right now.

It was a great show at the new Carolina Center, but I'm thinking the party afterward at Nightcaps contributed more to my morning fog than those blasts from Miami Steve's electric guitar. But, hey, the fun part of any big rock 'n' roll event is getting together with friends afterward to share favorite moments from the show, offer opinions about the performance and lament the songs we didn't hear.

During our lively post-concert discussion, a friend asked where I'd rate Monday's show on my list of Springsteen experiences. Now, some Bruce-o-philes have seen the Boss a couple of hundred times, and I don't have nearly that much experience from which to draw. But it was my 10th Springsteen concert, and since ratings are generally done on a one-to-10 scale, I feel I can at least judge it in that respect.

I'd place last night's show right in the middle, not as awe inspiring as his gigs from the '70s and early '80s, but more focused and driven than his work in the 1990s.

This is primarily because he's touring to support the album "The Rising," which represents his first studio work with the E Street Band in 18 years. The show leaned heavily on the new record by opening with "The Rising" and "Lonesome Day," and included seven more new tunes in the 16-song opening set.

I wasn't as completely enamored with "The Rising" as many rock critics were, and to be honest, the whole I-feel-the-nation's- 9/11 pain didn't resonate with me. But after seeing Bruce perform songs such as "Empty Sky" and "Into the Fire," I felt a deeper conviction in his words and a broader meaning in his message.

For many Bruce fans, however, the inclusion of "Growin' Up" as the ninth tune of the night was a real surprise and an exciting treat. The song was not on the original set list, and from my vantage point at stage right, I knew something was up when he called out to drummer Max Weinberg and pianist Roy "The Professor" Bittan, then started picking the tune's intro on his guitar. Internet action has been hot and heavy with the news of the song's being played in Columbia, and it's stirred the envy of Springsteen fans in other parts of the country.

The song that did it for me, as usual, was "She's the One," the supercharged party tune from 1975's "Born to Run" album. I sang the chorus as loud as I could, just as if I were harmonizing with Miami Steve. The people sitting around me weren't thrilled, but I didn't care.

Other cool memories I have on this fuzzy, foggy morning include the guy holding up the eye chart for Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons, who recently had retina surgery. Clemons jokingly covered one eye and then the other as if he were taking a vision test.

There was the dancing couple in the pit who managed to find a shagging groove during "Countin' on a Miracle." And then there was the stunned reaction of the old folks sitting a few rows in front of me when Bruce strode over and told them to get off their, um, backsides during "Mary's Place."

I'm sure a lot more cool memories are floating around in my head somewhere, but I'll have to wait for the fog to lift before I can recollect them. Maybe next time I'll go straight home after the show.

Nah.

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2002-12-09 USC Arena, Columbia, SC