9/11/2001 – A pretty significant day in American history. I remember where I was and what I was doing on that day. It was also my best friend’s 20th birthday so I hung around Oakland after school was cancelled so we could “celebrate”. I’m the person that watches the history channel every year leading up to the date because I am still infatuated by the event that forever changed America. Last year we weren’t sure if we would be spending September 11th in New Zealand or if it would be the last one in US, at least for awhile.
When I learned that Bruce Springsteen would be returning to Pittsburgh on his 2016 The River Tour and he would be there on 9/11, there was no way I was taking a chance I would miss the event. I had already missed him opening the tour in Pittsburgh on 1/16/16. Anthony and I were on vacation in St. John. (I know, poor us suffering at our favorite place on earth.) The concert was said to be epic and it never hurts when it’s on a weekend.
When the tickets for Bruce’s return to the Burgh went on sale, I was sure to be online at exactly 10:00 AM to get them. Anthony thought we might be moved by then, but I wasn’t going to chance missing him again. Good thing I know better than to listen to Anthony when it comes to music and concerts because we were still in the States on 9/11/2016.
9/11/2016 – It was great for me on so many levels. I was at the concert, on one of the most significant days in American history. I got to listen to the songs from the Rising, which Bruce wrote after the September 11th attacks. My friend got tickets last minute so we were able to spend her birthday together. We were together in 2001 and now again in 2016. Who knows when we will get to spend her birthday together again??? Overall, I got to watch one of my favorite artists, with some of my favorite people, before we made the big move. That is pretty epic in my book of life.
During that concert I told everyone that I was ready to travel to see Bruce in Auckland, if and when he made it to New Zealand. Only three days later I woke up to an email announcing Bruce’s 2017 Australia-New Zealand summer tour. So excited, I opened the email to find that Bruce was not only going to be playing in Auckland, he would be playing in Christchurch New Zealand for the first time EVER! While that may not be a big deal to most people, this music-lover was more than excited.
I attended the concert on Tuesday night in Christchurch. Bruce came because the people of Christchurch put together a petition to get him to play here. He not only played in Christchurch, he played on the eve of one of the worst days in Christchurch history, the eve of the deadly quake that occurred 6 years before.
Anthony really isn’t a fan of the Boss (at least not yet). Since I had 2 tickets to the concert it only seemed fitting to invite Maree. While we will never be able to repay her for her continued hospitality, we continue to try.
Here’s a little background for the scene of the event. It was held at AMI stadium. This is a make-shift stadium they built after the quake as a temporary stadium since the original (and proper) AMI stadium was condemned after the 2010-2011 quakes. The stands were made from scaffolding material, the seats were so small I almost didn’t fit in them, and bathrooms were in shipping containers/trailers. It basically looked like it would fit in South Park fairgrounds.
However, they were able to fit a little over 30,000 people into the stadium because of the standing room only areas on the field. I believe this was the biggest concert Christchurch has had since the earthquakes. It was a big deal for the city, and for this Pittsburgh girl. When I learned he was playing here for the first time, it made me feel like Christchurch was the right spot for us.
Maree and I made our way into the concert at 6:50 pm. Bruce was set to start at 7:00 pm, which I knew wasn’t going to be the case. I made my way to the bathroom and then we went directly to the seats because the queue (aka line) for the bar was almost halfway around the stadium.
At 7:30 pm he opened with No Surrender, a favorite of mine, and a song I told Anthony I would love to hear that night. He then continued with 2 sign requests, as everyone was waiting for the sun to set. In the summer there is a lot of daylight in New Zealand. To give a better idea, in early summer we have gone to bed at 10:00 pm and it is as bright as it is 5:00 pm. Since it is later in summer it has been getting dark earlier (8:30ish).
If you have any interest you can check out the setlist. My goal is to give you an idea of what my experience was at my first concert outside of the US. To sum it up, it was different. (FYI, I believe I’ve seen Bruce on at least 7 different occasions in different venues, more if I count repeat venues.)
Early on in the concert there was not too much excitement or engagement except from those in the first few rows. I started to get a bit alarmed when Bruce played My City of Ruins (song 8 in the setlist). I had read this was supposed to be the unofficial anthem for the city after the quakes. I believe it was at this point I said something to Maree and she explained that the people of Christchurch have a British influence and people are more reserved. We had read that before moving here, but had also heard about how much people get on the piss here too (piss means drinking). It was at this moment when I realized I had to be more open-minded about the experience. Not every city is going to have fans like the Bruce fans in the Burgh.
The fans here really stepped it up for a few songs – Glory Days, Born to Run, My Hometown. I personally think My Hometown seemed like more of the Bruce anthem for Christchurch. It was uplifting to see all of the fans on their feet singing with intensity and heart.
By the way, I need to make sure I am very clear, Bruce and the E Street Band rocked it. They are some of the ultimate performers. Their intensity never missed a beat even though Bruce could never really get true crowd-engagement (basing this on US Bruce shows). Whenever he turned the microphone to the crowd, it was quite disappointing and you could almost hear crickets. It was a bit sad to a Bruce fan like myself, but again, a different country/city equals a different experience.
Bruce truly went out of his way to try to cater to and engage the audience. Even though the crowd’s singing was lackluster he was able to get everyone to join in during certain songs by getting them to sway their arms or clap. He brought quite a few people up on stage during Dancing with the Dark and was always acknowledging the audience’s signs throughout the evening.
It was very interesting to see which songs the audience loved most and ones in which they were engaged. In the States Badlands is always a fan-favorite where everyone is on their feet singing and dancing. That was definitely not the scene here during the song. I was the solo person on her feet in the stands, at least for as far as I could see. Actually, Maree was up with me so there were 2 of us on our feet dancing.
I thought Bobby Jean was the last song of the encore since it was 10:30 so Maree and I started making our way out of the stands. We were making our way towards the exit when I heard an acoustic Thunder Road. While I have been lucky enough to hear Thunder Road acoustic before, you still do not leave during this song. If anyone from Christchurch reads this, please go back and re-read that last sentence. You DO NOT leave. At one point Bruce turned the microphone to the crowd to sing. It was the same as before, crickets. At this point I think even Bruce was starting to feel a bit defeated. He did everything he could. It’s like they say, you can lead the horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Don’t worry though, I was definitely belting out my best version of Thunder Road even though no one around me was.
The next day, I overheard 2 people talking about the concert in the kitchen area at work. He had gone to the show while she did not. She had asked if he was tired from all the dancing the night before. He responded that he didn’t dance much. He said he didn’t know many of the songs and that they were too new for someone that grew up in the 80’s. While I have heard older generations indicate that they aren’t fans of Bruce’s newer music, I can’t agree with the gentleman at my work. This was not a concert that focused on Bruce’s newer albums. It was a solid set list of Bruce’s hits, especially older ones.
Overall, I had a great experience at the concert. You don’t move halfway around the world for everything to be the same. The one positive that was the same is that Bruce and the E Street Band killed it, as usual.
Anthony and I are getting ready to depart for Auckland tomorrow to see Bruce’s last show of the tour. I can’t wait for Anthony’s first experience at a Bruce concert and cannot wait to see what Bruce and the boys have in store for their final show. Oh, and I am definitely curious about how this experience will be compared to Tuesday’s show in Christchurch. We’re looking at you Auckland.