Saturday, October 10, 2009

Au Revoir, Les Giants

So that’s it for Giants Stadium, and for the epic event known as “Bruce at The Meadowlands.” Over. Done. No more. And not only was I not there, I wasn’t in contact—The Twitter, The Facebook, The Blackberry—with anyone who was. And you know what—that's just fine with me.

Now, if you know me at all, you know I’m not a big fan of these technologies, but that wasn’t the reason. Nope, the reason was I simply didn’t care. That’s right, Didn’t Care. To me, Giants Stadium is not hallowed ground, a place in which everything of significance in my entire life has taken place. It holds no special piece of my heart, no acreage in my memory bank. Nope, to me, Giants is merely a place where New Jersey’s masses go to Party in the Parking Lot and Maybe Hear Some Music Later. You know, pay way too much to park (take up two or three spots—one is needed for car, the others for grill and/or tent, chairs, etc.), get really drunk on (mostly cheap) beer, play with fire/grill, toss a football (or some other available object), play whatever new conglomeration of game—hacky sack, etc.—that passes the time and you can play whilst inebriated, pee in really disgusting porta-potties, eat way too much, talk really loudly about yourself and where you’re sitting tonight, blast some random bootleg that everyone’s heard a million times, ogle that hot girl/guy that just walked by and generally annoy everyone in the immediate vicinity in whatever way you can. Giants Stadium is New Jersey’s Main Street, The Parking Lot to that great big outdoor shopping mall known as The Garden State. Never wanted to be anything else, never tried. And to me, that’s exactly as it should be.

But not being from New Jersey, I have never understood parking lots or tailgating. You might get to an event a bit early to scope out the place, but in Washington DC in the ‘70s there was no such thing as hanging out in the parking lot. You got your ass inside and into your seat, and that was that. After all, there was a game to be watched. My parents were Washington Redskins season ticket holders back in the day, so I know from game day activities. On Sundays (and later Monday nights too) you’d get up and get down to the stadium no later than 11:30 am--just in time for pre-game warm-ups (except every once in a while you’d maybe grab a hot dog along the way if Mom hadn’t had time the night before to make sandwiches). It was well nigh impossible to get into RFK Stadium in those days, and by god you were there to pay attention. There was no thought of doing anything else. And to this day, the smell of peanuts and spilled beer makes me nostalgic for that simpler time when football was just football, when it had the power to miraculously unite one of the most diverse, divided cities in America around a single cause for just those three hours or so on those long ago fall afternoons of my youth.

So tailgating, not so much. And beyond that, well, I have already discussed my feelings about Bruce, about this tour. I felt at the beginning—and this opinion hasn’t changed—that the latest record was rushed, poorly thought out, mediocre. Bruce didn’t seem to have anything of any great import to say on Working on a Dream, and the live shows were just concrete evidence of this. I don’t know whether it’s getting older, being distracted by parenthood, or maybe just life getting in the way—realizing that there was more than just The Music—I don’t know, and maybe he doesn’t either. But I do know uninspired material when I hear it.

And then there were the performances, which to me reeked of desperation, of trying too hard. And for someone like Bruce, for whom it was once all so effortless—the danger, drama, excitement, pathos, despair, resurrection—to have fallen to the ranks of the mere mortal, well, I just couldn’t bear to watch. He once spent hours carefully plotting out set lists, orchestrating each moment of his nightly marathons, and this laser-like focus resulted in some of the best live performances on record. But the shows he does now have no direction, no purpose. And sadly, though he has recognized that there is something drastically out of whack, Bruce seems to have absolutely no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it. So he’s resorted to the old throw-it-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks method: light shows, giant graphics or crawling lyrics on a giant screen behind the stage, backup singers, stage dives, endless audience participation schtick and most heinous of all, request time. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the shows are so lackluster that Bruce needs to do these things, or the fact that he’s up there doing shows at all. All I know is that the whole thing made me cringe, made me embarrassed for him, made me want to get up and shake him to his senses. At one point in my life I would have been so distraught that I would have written him a letter or something, but now I just can’t be bothered. Because to me, though he spends hours in the gym, rehearsing the band, etc., Bruce just doesn’t seem to have a real good reason to be there, and if he doesn’t care, why should I? What once meant Everything to him now seems like something he’s doing just because he doesn’t know what else to do with himself. I don’t know, maybe it’s just that he felt like he needed to get out of the house for a while. But for god's sake, do I have to pay over a hundred dollars to see it?

I know some of this is just me (and Bruce) getting older, having different priorities. But dammit, I know in my heart that he’s still got it in him; the Seeger Sessions Tour was proof of that. I know the old, risk-taking Bruce is in there still, but it seems that something has made him sad and desperate, has sapped all of the old desire and longing and purpose from his music, from his life. He thought he was falling into the bottomless pit of aimlessness known as Midlife Crisis, and so he grabbed at the one thing he knew he could always count on: The E Street Band. I wish I could tell him that he doesn’t need them anymore, that he has all he needs within himself if he would only dig a little deeper. I want to take him and shake him and tell him those old things don’t matter anymore. I wonder if he’d even listen.

But All Things Must Pass, or so they say. To me, The E Street Band’s finest hour, its apex, was the 2004 Vote For Change Tour. I really hoped Bruce would see that, too, and would call it quits. But his myopia is such that he can no longer see what’s right in front of him, no longer sense what used to be second nature. And that just makes me sad.

So no Giants Stadium for me, and maybe even no Spectrum, too. I don’t know if I’m going to any more Springsteen shows this year at all, and I can’t really say that I’m too upset about it. Life goes on and all that. Besides, there’s this band from Liverpool that has a new box set out…

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