As I write this I'm listening to a mix of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs, by now you probably know why...:) A few weeks ago, when we got the call to open for the Boss at Magnetic Hill in Moncton, we were really excited. We've opened for many legendary acts over the years and we were stoked to add Bruce Springsteen and the E street band to this formidable list.
We've played all kinds of shows in our ten plus years on the road, from dives to stadiums and everything in between and one thing we've learned in those years is "manage our expectations". Our motto has always been to treat every gig with the same amount of importance whether it be opening for the Stones or playing a small dive in nowheresville.
To be honest, sometimes the really big gigs aren't all that they're cracked up to be. Usually we're on early in the day for a short set, we don't get to sound check, so the monitors are crap, and its over before it feels like it's started. Furthermore, the crowd is not necessarily there for you so they can be a bit cold and oftentimes we don't even get to shake hands with the star of the show. In this case it seemed even farther fetched that we'd get to meet the Boss because he doesn't usually have opening acts so there's really no protocol for a "meet and greet". So although we were excited about the opportunity, we tried our best not to get ahead of ourselves and "manage our expectations".
WELL., our set, despite being a throw and go, went fantastic with the people of Moncton showing us just how hard they can rock at four o'clock in the afternoon - a true testament to the east coast spirit. Thanks for coming out early and singing along with us, you made our set thoroughly enjoyable and truly memorable.
After us was Tom Cochrane who did a great job. We decompressed backstage to his repertoire of Canadian classics. About half hour after Tom was finished we were summoned by Springsteen's road manager to the side of the stage for a chance to say hi to the Boss as he made his way onstage. He informed us that Bruce likes to stay really focused before his gigs so we shouldn't make small talk or take up too much of his time. We could totally relate to this and were just thankful for the opportunity to get a pic with the legend himself. Security was really tight, as we watched the E street band approach the stage on foot, behind them was a big procession of black SUV Escalades and behind that was a couple of racing golf carts. One golf cart in particular was zigging and zagging recklessly all over the road making its way to the stage. As I waited for the Escalades to reach us, eager to meet one of my childhood heroes, I couldn't keep my eye of the reckless golf cart. I thought to myself "whoever is driving that golf cart is gonna run over one of these guys and get in heaps of s#*t!". As the procession came to a stop right in front of us, I expected to see Bruce emerge from one of the back seats but still couldn't take my eyes off of this crazy golf cart. As the cart got closer and skid to a stop in front of us, it dawned on me, the guy driving the golf cart was... BRUCE!.
He was giving Max Weinberg and Little Steven (i still think of him as Sil!) a ride to the stage in his own out of control way! - what a guy! He drove right up to where we were standing, hops out and in that raspy voice of his asked "how you guys doing? Where ya from? How was your set? You ready for a rock show!!". HELL YEAH!! He was as awesome and down to earth in person as you imagine he would be. After doing a few pics I thought "awesome it can't get better then this" ....THEN he turns around and says "hey do you guys know Twist and Shout?"
"umm yes,The Boss, we know Twist and Shout",
"well, we're doing it in the encore, why don't you boys come up and sing it with us!" ... Sure no problem Bruce...
Now the first thought that runs through ones mind when asked to play with Bruce Springsteen is "Holy S#*T!"
the second one is "we better stay sober enough for the next three hours to play good!"
and the third thought is "BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN JUST ASKED US TO SING IN HIS F#*King ENCORE, HOLY S#*T THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE I'M CALLING EVERYBODY I KNOW!".
I couldn't believe it, I still can't believe it. But it happened. Then the show began, Bruce Springsteen and the band put on the BEST LIVE SHOW I'VE EVER SEEN. He played a bunch of new tunes from his latest album Wrecking Ball, a bunch of classics and even took requests from the rabid crowd. It goes without saying that he's the most charismatic and energetic front man out there. He really knows how to make the crowd feel the spirit.
I monitored my post show libations to ensure that i would be fully lucid during our guest appearance. After a thrilling three hour set we were gathered to the side of the stage, then I hear the man himself yell to the crowd "let's bring up the TREWS!". The boys and I crowded onto the stage as Twist and Shout began.
I was stationed next to Nils Lofsgren and got to share a mic with him , how cool is that! Tambourine in hand, I shouted the back up vocals and looked out over the enormous crowd. The boss looked over at us all grinning ear to ear the whole time, it was unbelievable. He kept extending the song, he would do a faux ending "James Brown style" and then BAM! back into another verse. The whole rendition clocked in at 10 minutes which was fine by me, the more time onstage with this incredible band the better.
Then it was over, Bruce waved goodbye to the crowd and we followed him off stage. After hugs and high fives all round he and the band got into the black SUVs (that's what they were there for!) and promptly "left the building".
It still feels like a dream, its been three days since that epic night and I'm still pinching myself to see if I'll wake up. But as facebook and youtube has shown me time and again, it was absolutely real and definitely the highlight of my career as a musician thus far...
Bruce has sat in with a lot of great bands over the years but we got to sit in with Bruce AND the E Street Band! Trewly honored and grateful for the experience. What a way to end the summer! Expectations met and FAR exceeded!!