East Rutherford, Metlife Stadium, Night 3, September 22, 2012

(First, the notes about/review of the show. Some thoughts on the delay and decision to start the show rather than postpone follow).

In reviewing the Saturday night show – and still get an objective result – one has to separate out the actual time Springsteen was on stage from the other things taking place that night.

Certainly, this show could be on a list of “latest ending shows” or “strangest shows” or “shows most affected by weather,” but those rankings don’t address how good (or not) a show was. It would be easy to simply note that one had a great time and a unique experience and claim this as one of the best shows “ever!”

And, of course – this show was fun. A lot of fun, in particular, with Bruce’s humorous acknowledgement of his birthday. But this show also suffered from pacing problems, and transitions from song to song that didn’t work so well. Contrasted to Friday night, where Bruce’s audibles brought the show higher, tonight’s audibles – and some setlist choices – had the opposite effect.

As shows go, this one would most accurately described as uneven. With all of the maneuvering and the late start, things did not begin with much energy, and “Out in the Street” and “The Ties That Bind” fell flat. “Cynthia” was no help in this regard, and the audible call for “Badlands” as the fourth song indicated that Bruce was feeling the same way.

This was the one show where I think Bruce should have come out on stage (with the houselights up) and blasted straight in to “Born to Run.” I do admittedly have the advantage of hindsight but there’s no denying that the show needed more energy at the start. Further, early placement of “Born to Run” in the show would have been an appropriate concession to the larger than normal number of fans who would certainly be missing it due to their leaving the show early. This would not have required any kind of artistic concession to make happen.

I was disappointed by the choice of “Cynthia” in the show, as I’ve always felt the song is a lesser corner of the Bruce canon and a poor choice given the superior alternatives that were soundchecked (“Where the Bands Are,” in particular). Admittedly, this is personal bias and it is unlikely that the crowd reaction would have been any different for “Bands.”

“Cover Me” proved to be an extremely welcome choice, not simply as a rarity but also for the outstanding performance, including Bruce’s introductory and ending guitar parts. Other standout performances this night included an excellent “Shackled and Drawn,” from Bruce’s dance moves to his impassioned duet with Cindy at the end of the song. “Meeting Across the River,” with Curt again performing the trumpet part was a treat, one that I think could work as a standalone piece in the set (rather than always preceding “Jungleland”).

“Into the Fire” was obviously very powerful, given the dedication to Lt. Rich Nappi of the New York City Fire Department. Yet even if one was unaware of the backstory, the delivery of the song by the band was still extraordinary. Bruce and Soozie started at center stage, with spotlights on each. The extra backing vocalists were a fantastic addition to the “may your strength give us strength” chorus.

My personal preference remains that “Jungleland” be retired. Bruce clearly disagrees, although I wonder if it will perhaps return to that status now that it’s been played once in the key American cities. That being said, it can’t be denied that the crowd was quite happy to hear it, and that the performance of the song was solid. Bruce embracing Jake after the sax solo was a touching moment.

I was delighted to see “Rocky Ground” appear again in the encores (its first consecutive-show appearance in months). Bruce was putting more concentration and focus into this performance than perhaps any other all night and consequently, this may well have been the best version of the song he’s done to date.

It would be fair to say that generally, Bruce Springsteen’s touring operation has kept the fans’ best interests in mind while running a multimillion dollar international operation. It would be equally fair to say that they, in conjunction with MetLife Stadium, did an extremely poor job of that last night. It was plainly unacceptable to start this show at 10:30 PM. Without question, the show should have been postponed to the next night. (I say this as someone who would have had to miss the show had a postponement occurred).

When choosing to sign a contract to play at this venue, Bruce Springsteen and his staff had a responsibility to know what time their full-length show needed to end by so that people can get home via public transportation. No, neither MetLife Stadium nor Bruce’s staff are in charge of New Jersey Transit’s train schedules. But they chose to play a venue that advertises public transit, that advises customers to arrive via public transit and yet completely disregarded the need for people to use that same public transit to get home. Even if one had driven to the show, the 10:30 PM start was ridiculous in that people make their plans based on reasonable expectations of how long the event will last, whether that is booking a babysitter or determining whether they need a hotel or how long their drive home is after the show. It is irresponsible to end your concert at 2:00 AM when you’ve got an attendance of 55,000 because by doing so, you are forcing thousands to unreasonably alter their plans – or – be forced to leave early from the show they paid a significant sum of money to attend. This is not a venue in the middle of a large city, with restaurants and hotels and 24-hour public transit all in easy walking distance; this is not a club show where the “spontaneity” of rock and roll is expected. This is a professionaly organized event and should have gone off as one.

I don’t doubt that safety was an overriding concern given the abundance of caution in holding the start of the show. Ultimately, though, there needs to be a drop-dead point where a decision was made that the show simply wasn’t going to happen that night. Given that the thunderstorms never actually showed up (just lots of rain and some wind) one is left wondering about the effectiveness of this plan.

A word is also due regarding the the patrons with field tickets: because of the location of where these ticketholders were kept waiting (the outer stadium ramps) there was no way for them to hear the in-stadium announcements about how things were progressing. Neither Stadium nor Bruce’s staff checked with those ticketholders to ensure that they were made aware of the status updates.

When it finally came time to actually move the GA customers on to the field, members of Bruce’s touring operation were nowhere to be found. There was no effort made whatsoever to keep the integrity of the line. It’s not rocket science, particularly given that customers had sequentially-numbered wristbands. But without direction from Bruce’s staff, the venue obviously lacked any incentive to try.

Finally, from a global perspective, this problem also comes down to money. Refunds would have been required had a postponement occured, which would have required a significant (but certainly not impossible) logistical effort. Money also dictated the choice of venue. It may not be a comfortable topic to discuss but it is the plain truth that Bruce makes substantially more money for less work (ie. playing fewer shows) when he chooses stadiums over arenas. If the concert had been indoors, the weather issues simply wouldn’t have mattered.

This entry was posted in Shows.

5 comments on “East Rutherford, Metlife Stadium, Night 3, September 22, 2012

  1. mbw1024 says:

    I largely agree with your feelings on the handling of the event. I was not in any part of GA so can’t comment on that but overall I think the MLS and/or Bruce’s team handled things poorly. As I understand it now GA people were never allowed on the field, Is that correct? We had been in the parking lot all day and had no idea that was taking place inside. When we entered the stadium and got to our seats in the 100 level and saw the field totally empty we knew we were in trouble.

    In my opinion they should have told people what was going on as they entered the Stadium so folks had a chance to decide whether to proceed in or continue to wait it out in the parking lot and in their cars. They had means to get the word around the parking lots. Get the State Troopers to drive around and make some announcements. Hand out flyers by the gates before people entered.

    Once the seating area was cleared the concourse on the 100 level was a dangerous, scary situation. There was a CRUSH of people going every which way that was difficult to navigate. All you need is one person to PANIC in that crowd and you would have had a very big problem on your hands.

    Add to the crush of humanity the fact that there were still concessions being sold. Of course! While trying to navigate the crowds there was a MLS employee pushing a large bakers cart filled with pretzels also going through the crowd. Are you kidding me???? We need more pretzels NOW???? That made me angry.

    Lastly, I think it was totally irresponsible to continue to sell alcohol during that emergency event and all throughout the show. I don’t know the percentage of those on public transit v. those who drove but I’d put it at 80/20 for the drivers. Many of which had been in the parking lots since 1pm having fun. Myself included but I pride myself on not being an idiot. Not everyone is the same. At a Saturday show I already expect to encounter a good number of drunken stumble bums but this was an epic event in that category. While navigating through a wall of people there was so much wine and beer being spilled on people and the floors it was a very dangerous situation. Beer was still being sold at 1am and then at 2am 80% of those folks hit the roads to head home.

    I agree the show should have been postponed but at the very least they handling could have been much better. MLS and the Bruce camp are lucky there was not a serious incident in that place.

  2. jack.obrien@ymail.com says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comments on the failed handling of the event. I am a young college student who traveled down to MLS the day of the event and planned on driving back after the show (probably not the best plan in the first place, but hey, I’m young). I had GA field tickets and entered the stadium around 6:00 only to be diverted to dreaded section 126, the GA rain delay staging area. After hours of standing around (which I did not have a problem with), we were literally left in the dark as to a timetable for the show or whether or not the show would even be played at all. Knowing that the show would end after 2:00, if it was to be played at all, I left the stadium around 10:00 knowing that I may not be able to safely drive home should the concert last into the wee hours of the morning. As I drove away, I was hoping for a postponement because, in the end, it’s not about the money or the drive or anything of the sort. It is about the experience of seeing the greatest performer to ever live and being part of something you will remember the rest of your life. When I heard the concert was to be played, I was nothing short of devastated. Had I known the concert was to be played, or even had some sort of timetable, I may have stayed and not missed this experience. In the end, I fault myself for leaving, but I did so as a responsible adult in the name of practicality and to simply look out for my own safety. Unfortunately, I have to live with the regret of not seeing the show. While there are worse things in life, I can not help thinking what might have been had MLS and others communicated more effectively and kept in mind the safety and best interests of those who matter most, the fans. Happy Birthday Bruce.

  3. jaydon23 says:

    I for one would not have been happy if the show was postponed til Sunday as I was on a morning flight out to visit my parents and couldnt change that. I know many people flew in from far and wide to see the show and probably would have been in the same situation of not being able to go sunday. I was lucky enough to be in the lounge and got there early so was pretty comfortable even after they let people who had been let into the seats in. We got our updates mostly via friends of band members or conversations overheard but it was my understanding that there were provisions made to have transportation run later and security stay later. You know Christie would do anything for Bruce. I guess where I was, while we waited , we were unaware of any mayhem and i know they held us back from going into pit until the lottery winners got in. Thru texting, word got out to people.

    As for the delay being a delay without cause, there were some bolts of lightning and apparently at I believe a nascar event, people were struck by lightning and lots of lawsuits followed. Stadiums are no longer taking chances nor should they. I recall sitting thru lightning and rain at Gillette a few years back and they didnt evacuate us. I was front center and made everyone move back so we weren’t sitting on metal. I would have preferred them taking the precautions of checking the weather cells and holding us back than letting everyone in and then evacuating.

    As to the pacing of the setlist, where we were side of pit, the energy from Out In The Street was very high. everyone around us was joyfully singing and dancing, happy that show started and that we were really going to have a true birthday show.

  4. Just A Fan says:

    I kind of feel like people who spent the rain delay in the lounge are the last people in the world I want to hear from regarding how onerous the problem truly was. If there’s a more pretentious sentence than “I got my updates from friends of band members” I don’t know what it is. 55,000 normal people didn’t have that access so you can’t offer it as any kind of excuse or explanation. No one cares you had a pass to the lounge

  5. Gregg says:

    The GA situation was horrendous. To make a long story short, the lottery system was dead in the water once metlife security was told to check wristbands. There were hundreds who got by security guards who had no idea what numbers were to go first. they let ANYONE w/a number to the front and we watched them “checking” wristbands as people RAN by them. One person was checked for every 5. Needless to say the lottery was a joke at that point.

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