22 July 2009

waiting in the rain

We got to Glasgow early. Not as early as some but definitely early. It was sunny when we left Fife, then it poured with rain, then it settled into an ominous grey pall so low you could touch it. We ate before we left and milled in the sunshine on South Street. There may have been a hangover or two.

There was a hangover or two.

I don't know why we waited to set off. It wasn't a lack of anticipation. It wasn't laziness. It wasn't second thoughts. We waited around the car, outside the bakers on South Street. Some of us smoked a few last cigarettes. Some of us drank coffee. Some of us ate a lunch that doubled as breakfast. I ate and tried to rehydrate.

I was one of the hangovers.

There was banter. Morning after chat and insults; the almost-party the night before had a few classic lines and a few memorable moments. We ragged on Chris a bit and got into the car. The volume went up and the windows and the sunroof went down. The chat circled around the playlist for the gig and other things. Glasgow appeared and we felt lost even when we weren't. I was driving and desperate for directions. Jamie took over navigation and we found our way eventually.

We found our fortuitous parking space and disembarked, wandering toward Hampden Park, not for football but for Springsteen. We were giddy. We smiled a lot and every once in awhile we'd shake our heads in disbelief. We met with the others and eyed the merchandise at the t-shirt stand. The hoodies were too expensive.

It was an hour before the doors opened. Time for a pint. The rain had stopped, though we kept a constant watch on the skies. Some of us felt convinced the floods would come. I kept uttering optimistic appraisals whilst Sean prophesied the end of days and the cancelation of the gig. He drifts towards hyperbole on occasion.

So we drank Guinness and lager at the local's local, and saw the assorted crowd already decked out in their t-shirts. The average age had about 20 years on me. The bouncers seemed mild but not without menace. We debated the playlist again and finished our beers. The sky spat a bit and we wandered back towards the ground.

The queues were already pretty long. Some guys had brought a couch. Some other guys were selling cheap ponchos. There were fans wearing cowboy hats, mostly stupid chintzy ones. Mounted police seemed to be unnecessary, but they were there. It rained harder but we refused to buy ponchos. We would be wet. It wasn't cold. No one goes to gigs for the comfort value. We would be wet and happy.

The doors didn't open on time. Sean got antsy. Apparently the doors on the other side of the Park opened before ours. We bounced on our heals and kept peeking towards the front of the line. The doors wouldn't open. The queue grew behind us. Somebody sold American flags and more poncho salesmen appeared, along with touts and more rain.

Then, when we'd forgotten the doors, they opened, and we filed through the turnstiles and into the vastness of the stadium. Emerging to find the fenced inner circle in front of the stage still free. We raced down the steps, between the rows of plastic red seats. The rain was coming down hard, but we would be close the stage. As close as we could.

We got our spot, and our wristbands, and our hotdogs, and we waited in the rain, looking with scorn on those with the cheap ponchos, looking at our watches, looking at the stage only 60 feet in front of us. We twitpic'd it. We escaped for our last pee before the show started and on that stroll saw, guarded by 3 heavies, the tenor sax of the legendary Big Man, Clarence Clemons. One held an umbrella over it while the other two just guarded it. We stared in awe.

Our watches ticked slowly. We got wetter. Someone muttered that we should have bought ponchos. 730 came and went and we watched as the roadies climbed their rope ladders while the lighting rigs rose high above. The occasional guitar riff rang through the air and we held our breath, but it was just another sound check. A throne sat on the left for the ageing saxophonist. The odd sound check became torture. The promise of a gig that seemed never to come.

Then the rain stopped. I looked at the sky and saw a growing patch of blue. Then, bizarrely, an accordion sounded, playing 'O Flower of Scotland'. The E Street Band arrived. The Boss arrived.

And for more than three hours he owned the stage, the stadium and everyone in it.

And the rain never returned.

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