With Bruce Springsteen playing the Arena tomorrow night, I've been thinking about when I met the Boss a few years ago. My wife Anne and I were going to Ireland to celebrate our anniversary, and Marc Anthony Thompson—a friend of ours, who happened to be a member of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions band—caught wind of it and told us they were playing three nights in Dublin. He suggested we come out to a show, if we happened to be in town at the same time. So we did exactly that.
Not surprisingly, the concert was amazing. You can check out Springsteen's Live in Dublin CD and DVD for proof. After the show, we met Marc backstage for a drink. Marc—a great songwriter himself, who records under the name Chocolate Genius Inc.—grew up in South Central L.A., was not previously much of a Springsteen fan, and tended towards the cynical and acerbic. I, on the other hand, grew up worshiping Springsteen and, even though my fandom had waned, I still had him on a pedestal. I respected the guy.
So with some trepidation, I asked about Marc's Boss, and he immediately began shaking his head. Uh-oh, I thought, Here it comes. "I've never met anyone like him," he said. "He treats everyone the same, whether you're a rock star or a cleaning person. In all the time I've spent with him, I haven't heard him utter a single condescending word."
He then noted that Springsteen seemed to genuinely care about his fans. In fact, when a fan was struck by a car outside the venue in Rome, Springsteen visited her in the hospital and mentioned her by name (sending get well wishes) at every subsequent concert on the tour. At the first show in Dublin, he spotted a small child in the front row and had the band play "Froggie Went a Courtin'" for the tike. When the song started, the parents broke into tears. Marc and the band found out later it was the child's all-time favorite song, and the youngster was battling leukemia.
"These sort of things happen over and over again," Marc said, before asking, "You guys wanna meet Bruce? Do you care?"
He led us through a door, and there was Bruce with his wife, Patti, and their children. Bruce smiled when he heard we were from Baltimore and wished us happy anniversary. We talked a little about the tour, and about Marc, but it was something of a blur. We all shook hands and said our goodbyes.
And as we approached the door to the backstage bar, we heard a voice call out: "Hey, Anne and John..." We turned to see Bruce smiling and waving. "Happy anniversary!"
Yeah, he really is as nice as he seems.
[In the above clip, which was shot backstage in Dublin, you can spot Marc at about the one-minute mark. He's on the left, wearing a grey fedora.]