Thursday, September 27, 2007

Magic In The Air

I am standing on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, the once and future diamond of the New Jersey coastline and I can literally feel the sands shifting beneath my feet. I don't visit here often, but in the past decade I have traveled here with some regularity. Unfortunately, I never visited during the town's glory days - instead I have only seen the ghosts of it's well-sung past. It has always puzzled me that how a stretch of beautiful ocean front property could fall into such disrepair, especially when it seems as if it would be able generate considerable revenue if kept up.

This year however, change is in the air. The crumbling buildings that gave the area a sense of gloom have been knocked to the ground. New construction is taking place, as are renovations of some classic buildings. The Stone Pony and The Wonder Bar still stand, however the Wonder Bar will close this week, not to return. As far as the Pony, I am not sure of its fate.

Last year, when I was here to see Bruce Springsteen rehearse the Seeger Sessions Band, I ducked into the old Hojo's for a beer while my sister waited on the general admission line. I don't even know if the place had a name, but it was a pretty sad affair. Now it is a very upscale restaurant, with outdoor seating on the boardwalk. I'm pretty sure the beer cost me a bit more this year, but the upgrade was worth it. There are other new additions to the boardwalk - a few galleries and t-shirt shops. Madam Marie is still standing if you want to get a peak into the future, but for all intents and purposes, things are looking up for Asbury Park.

All things considered it still must take a leap of faith to be among the first to open while the city slowly rebuilds around you. I wish them well. I hope that someday soon I will get a chance to walk down the boardwalk, grab a beer and hear the sounds of rock and roll bands blasting out of the clubs along the strip and perhaps see, feel and hear a few ghosts of the past.

There was no leap of faith in what brought me to Asbury Park on Tuesday night. Once again, for the third tour in a row, I was lucky to get tickets to see Bruce Springsteen warm up his band for the upcoming tour.

What can I say? The band and the Boss sounded great. The new songs are fantastic. There were no major surprises in regards to older songs - he did do "Thundercrack" in the encore and the night before performed "Something In The Night." I thought the pacing was a little off, but that's what these shows are all about.

It has been 34 years since my first Bruce Springsteen concert. That is a lot of water under the bridge. At 58, the days of jumping off the piano and the classic knee slide across the stage are behind him. No matter. There have been a lot of changes along the way and in the past few years I have seem some incredible shows.

Of course I am a die hard, biased fan. Was a time when if you told me that you didn't care for Springsteen I would take it as a personal challenge to show you the error of your ways. Sometimes I made a conversion, sometimes not. Now I just smile and let it pass. Who needs another fool in front of me on line. Like Bruce, there are some things that I am just getting too old to deal with.

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