The first time I went to see Bruce Springsteen was back in 1988 when I was 18 and a first year student at Edinburgh University. I had been a big fan for a few years, ever since I had seen him singing Born in the USA on The Old Grey Whistle Test, and even though he wasn't playing anywhere further north than Birmingham on that tour I knew that I was going if I could get a ticket. No-one wanted to come with me so I ended up getting the overnight bus down the day before, arriving in plenty of time to get a great spot near the front before travelling back on another overnight bus.
I've mentioned it before on this blog, but it was worth every minute on the bus and hanging around Birmingham as the show was amazing. I couldn't believe how incredible the band was and Bruce was everything I had heard or read and more. Full of energy, it seemed he wanted to connect with everyone in the audience and they played and played, until after four hours everyone was exhausted. There were serious moments, anger and sadness, but mostly just joy and exuberance. The excitement of the audience and the reflection of this in the Bruce and the band was incredible.
Needless to say that evening has stayed with me every since and Bruce's music has been a constant throughout the many years that followed. I managed to see him live once more in London in 1999, but since moving to Australia in 2002 there haven't been a lot of opportunities to see him play live ...
And then early last year I heard some rumours that he might be touring Australia late in 2012. Nothing seemed to come of them, but then in November last year there were low-key adverts in the paper announcing dates in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Hanging Rock. At the time only one date had been announced in Melbourne, so I knew the demand for tickets was going to be sky-high. I signed up to get into the advance sale and we tried to book as soon as they went on sale. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to get any. We tried again when general tickets went on sale, when the next night was announced and then when the third and final night went on sale. Still didn't manage to get any tickets.
Getting pretty desperate, a friend who had also been trying to get tickets put us on to a guy who had two tickets for sale. They were mobile phone tickets and not in the best seats, but he was selling them at face value and seemed pretty genuine. My wife wanted to get them as birthday present, so she drove over to his house, paid the cash and he texted her the tickets. Whew, sorted we thought.
Over the last few weeks excitement was rising and we decided that since K was just getting back from a training course in Brisbane on the Sunday afternoon that son number one would come with me. Sure it would be a late night and might mean a day off school, but if you are going to go to your first rock concert at eight years old, you might as well make it a good one.
So, Sunday evening we set off full of excitement and anticipation. I am not sure what son number one was expecting, but I guess he was probably thinking how could it possibly live up to my build-up. He was impressed by the number of people, but not by the queuing and then imagine my disappointment and shock when the tickets didn't work. Someone had already used them and was inside sitting in the seats we thought were ours.
More queueing at the ticket office and they confirmed that yes, the tickets had already been used – someone entered using them just after the doors opened. As we hadn't bought them ourselves there was nothing we could do.
By now it was about 7.29 pm and Bruce and the band were due on stage at 7.30 pm, so staying calm (but inside feeling like I wanted to drive round to someone's house and break all his legs) we checked at the ticket sales window just in case there were some tickets behind the stage left. Then the miracle.
'Yes, we do have a couple of tickets for sale in the seating just behind the general admission area.'
'Okay, we'll take them. What row did you say they were in?'
'Row A, in the middle.'
Not wanting to get too excited, but thinking there must be some mistake. I scribbled my signature on the credit card slip, grabbed the tickets and we tried not to run too fast to get inside. One quick toilet stop to empty an eight year old bladder and buy drinks and we were inside. The seats were incredible – probably the best in the arena. Straight in front of Bruce's microphone, slightly raised so that we had a great view over all the standing general admission crowd and right next the walkway he would use when he came out into the crowd.
Wow, it doesn't get any better than this I thought. A few minutes later the house lights went down and the band kicks into Out in the Street. A couple of minutes in and Bruce makes his way down into the crowd and round onto the walkway. He spots son number one smiles, shakes his hand and gives him the guitar plectrum he was using. Unbelievable.
Ten minutes ago we had no tickets and were looking at a pretty dismal walk back to the train station and home, and now we are sitting (well standing mostly) in the best seats at Rod Laver and Bruce has just shaken my son's hand ...
The rest of the evening is a bit of a blur, but you can see the set-list here. Bruce came past a few more times, including giving number one son another plectrum, crowd-surfing his way from just in front of us up to the stage during Hungry Heart, standing right next to us during the emotional tribute to Clarence and Danny during the encore and getting number one son to sing a line of Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.
So, Mr Eddie Black, you may be a con man and a miserable person, but if you weren't a dishonest fraud we wouldn't have been in those seats and had the most incredible night. Only problem is that I now have to somehow explain to number one son that when he goes to concerts in future he may not get to shake hands and sing with band!