The year is 1973 and there’s a line outside the door. I’m in the dressing room. It’s shoddy, but as of now, I really don’t know any better. Clarence is sitting on the couch. His eyes are closed as his fingers on the sax work their way through the set list. I call the band into a huddle. There’s a distinct sound of bending leather as the boys put their arms around each other. We’re home tonight.
We head out on stage. My guitar strap wraps around my shoulder like it’s a part of me, like a weight that keeps me on the ground. I’m walking straight to the mic. It’s dark and the room is sweaty and loud. There’s a vibe of urgency and desire. It’s thick in the air tonight. I put my arm up and the room comes to a hush. I step forward toward the microphone like I’m just about to kiss it, and hold up one finger in the air. “And it’s a one, a two, a one, two, three, four…”
The year is 2011 and there’s a ghost on the stage. I feel him. I huddle up the band backstage. The band’s huddles have certainly changed over the years. Sometimes, the huddles involve long explanations as to why in hell we are still on tour, and other times we all just stand there, look each other right in the eyes, and nod.
We all knew- this one was for him as so many of our shows in the past year have been. And may I never lose the sound of him clearing out his saxophone no matter how many times that grossed me out. May I always feel him floating around this stage. That guy was fifty percent of the thoughts I had. If I decided to switch it up halfway through a song, I always knew I could count on Clarence to be right there in the mic jamming along with me like we had planned it the whole time. The crowd always got real into that.
When the spotlights illuminate the audience, I always feel on top of the world. There’s no other way to describe it and it’s the same feeling every single time. I’m on top of the world. It’s a packed stadium and they are all here for the same reason and it is all understood. I look back over my shoulder and see Patti adjusting her mic. She’s still such a beauty. She senses my eyes on her, looks up, and nods. I put one hand on the mic and introduce myself and the band. The crowd goes wild, like a tidal wave.
The year is 2012 and my back cracks an awful lot when I get out of bed. I got Sam in college now and I didn’t sleep much last night. I’ve been on the phone with Jon quite a bit. We’re doing all we can to help out. I’ve been down to the beach a few times, but it’s just sad. We’re planning a benefit concert. It’s going to be all the classics, all the “bring it back to Jersey” songs.
It’s November first and I’m in a jet with the band. There’s not a single sound in the jet, no guitar strumming, no humming, no random tunes on the keyboard, no saxophone. We all stare out the windows in silence.
Ocean Avenue is ruined. Piles of wood are stacked higher than I’ve ever seen, and there’s people just standing on the streets not sure where to go or what to do. This isn’t the home they used to know, the one they’ve known all their lives. They’re putting their shit out on the streets. It’s all wrecked. I have to wonder though why Asbury fared the least. Why, at the end of this mess of a storm, were my old stomping grounds the one place where the storm just merely slipped on through. It’s like there was an angel up there directing traffic. He said, “no, no, no, this is where Bruce used to play, and if you know one thing about Bruce, then you know not touch Bruce’s things.” I smile to myself. I can hear his voice like a lullaby in my ear. It calms me. It’s going to be a tough show tonight.
We’re there in Bryce Jordan Center. It’s a sold out show, but that was anticipated. I was on the phone with Evan earlier. He made me go through the set list with him. He’s been making me do that since he was six. He’s always needed a job to do. I huddle up the band. I take a deep breath and swipe my mouth with my forearm. It tastes like the ocean. I’m thinking of something to say. I look up and they’re all nodding at me. No words. They know. We’re bringing it back to Jersey.
I step out on stage and the room goes dark. The crowd itself is like a hurricane. The vibe is desperate. They just want to feel connected, be there, alive. I pull the mic off the stand. My leg is a little stiff today. I’m getting old. Whatever. Let’s kick it.
My City Of Ruins: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZb94GUMww8