1984-07-01, Civic Centre, St. Paul, MN

Born in the USA Tour
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Eyewitness accounts

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Mitch Berg wrote: This was the first time I ever saw Bruce live. It was one of the pivotal evenings of my life.

I was 21, just out of my junior year of college in rural North Dakota. I took the bus (my car was broken), and got out of the bus station in Saint Paul on one of the most gorgeous nights; warm, just a slight breeze. I was just off the turnip truck back then - my first time alone in a big city, really .

I walked the three blocks to the Civic, up to the long row of glass doors that opened onto Seventh Street. I saw dozens of people trying the locked doors - and just for the hell of it, pulled on the westernmost of them. It OPENED! I slipped in, and found a seat in the lower west concourse just as the band started sound-checking "Glory Days".

I watched the whole song, after which a roadie walked up to me. "Crap - I'm going to get my ass kicked", I thought - I'd worked with Molly Hatchet's road crew once, and I knew how they liked people who snuck into the shows. But he was very polite, just wanted to know how I got in (and naturally, for me to get out).

I went out for dinner, and came back for the show. I'd been to one other show, the Who, two years earlier, also at the Civic; back then, the crowd was drunk and the whole place felt on the brink of violence. For Bruce, it was different - it was a party, and everyone was invited!

It took, of course, forever to start the show. I knew there'd been a show - the first of the tour- the previous night, but I'd heard no news or reviews. I remember the beginning of the show very distinctly; the room went dark, a spotlight illuminated the American flat, and Roy kicked off the synth riff for "Born In The USA", Bruce behind the mic, fist in the air in the gesture that became the icon of the tour. And by the tenth beat, I was standing on the back of my seat (59th row, on the floor), dancing and balancing and basically flying.

"Out In The Street" followed. Nobody in my section had ever heard of Patty Scialfa, and we were sort of dumbfounded when she bounded out from backstage left and took her mic. Hearing her do the harmonies put the song - one of my favorites - in a whole new light.

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur to me now, 21 years later. Highlights: Bruce and Nils' harmonies on "Mansion"; Bruce forgetting the words to "Jungleland", of all things, and having the crowd finish the verse for him; last, and best, the final encore; "Born to Run" - one of my favorite songs - segueing into "Street Fighting Man", another of my all-time favorites. When BTR kicked off, they fired up the house lights. I looked around, and saw 20,000 people dancing in the aisles and on the backs of their chairs and, for all I knew, the trusses holding the roof up. I was drained at the end of the night.

As I walked out, there was none of the belligerence and testosterone I'd found at the Who gig. I said to nobody in particular "that was fecking amazing"; a complete stranger answered "you got that right, bro". Goodwill floated through the air.

As I wandered back to the bus station, I looked up Cathedral Hill, and my decision was final; I HAD to get out of North Dakota. "The River" had been calling me to do it for years; I couldn't turn back.

One of the signal nights of my life.


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