The doors open. We rush across the floor and take our positions ten feet away from the edge of the stage. Paul is not satisfied. He works his way up as people change position. I stay where I am. I can see everything. Roadies flutter across the stage making last minute adjustments—there’s been a lengthy sound check and Bruce has explored every nook and cranny to verify that the audio is flawless. The hall fills with people like water in a plugged sink. I recognize the faces of people I have seen here before—Dead fans, Hot Tuna fans, Humble Pie fans, Bowie fans, Genesis fans, Who fans. They are all glowing. Another meeting of the tribe.
Bruce is punctual because he respects us, and we love him for that. The neon clock above the stage approaches the scheduled start time. I stand and turn in a gradual circle surveying the hall—every seat is filled—people are packed around me.
Clap—clap—cheering—vibrations of feet stomping on the floor. At exactly 9 o’clock Bill comes onstage. “Good evening and thank you all for coming. Would you welcome please, the Chairman of the Board, the Great One…Bruce Springsteen!”—I can hear the capital letters in his announcement. Simultaneous screaming from every member of the audience. Bruce says: “How ya doin? It’s good to be in San Francisco”—the screams and cheers increase in magnitude. “ONE TWO!”—seven beats on the drums—“Badlands” breaks out —“Lights out tonight trouble in the heartland.” The audio is perfectly balanced. The band, the audience, the building start rocking. From the first minute there’s no doubt that this performance is already tethered to legend—“honey I want the heart I want the soul I want control right now!”
It’s a band filled with heroes—not just Bruce. Miami Steve joins the chorus—“poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, but a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.” The line is a statement of reality and a rejection of greed. Bruce’s guitar solo slices through the air like a hot knife—Clarence’s first sax solo rises triumphantly—he’s a hero also—reinforced by four repeated power chords that reveal the inner heart of rock n’roll. A sudden stop—Max’s drums and flowing chords from Roy’s piano sustain a quiet moment—the audience humming the melody that Bruce sings wordlessly—then the cardiac rocking begins again until five exalted guitar notes—chirping with feedback that teases the end of the song.