"I think I'll be playing only bowling alleys from here on out. There's something to it. I have to admit, I had a little trepidation when the guy said, 'Oh, it's a bowling alley.' I was a little nervous."
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That was Bruce Springsteen on January 26, 1996, sitting on the stage of the Bronco Bowl, which was reopening after $6 million worth of renovations. He didn't have a band that night, just a row of acoustic guitars and a harmonica. My then-girlfriend and I sat in the Golden Horseshoe, a few rows from the stage; our tickets costs around $70. Total. On my list of Greatest Concerts Ever, it's No. 2 ... and 4 and 6 and 7 and 10.
Springsteen was early into his Ghost of Tom Joad tour. He would, through the course of the night, play the entirety of that record. There were the immortals too: "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Born in the U.S.A," "State Trooper," "Mansion on the Hill," "Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?," "Adam Raised a Cain." And the Oscar-winner, of course.
Occasionally, somebody in the audience would shout, "Brooooooce!" Even after he said: Don't. "It's a community event," he said after opening with the title track, "so if there's somebody around you just kinda making a little too much noise, you should feel free to band together and, in a very constructive spirit, just ask them to please shut the fuck up." It was that kinda night.
I've been looking for this on and off since forever and stumbled across it just a few days ago while searching for an entirely different Bronco Bowl memory. The Bronco Bowl's gone, of course. It fell into Chapter 11 and was 'dozed about eight years back for that Home Depot. But this moment, which I thought was lost, lives forever.