I first saw Bruce Springsteen perform in Hanover, N.H., in 1975. I knew virtually nothing about him, but halfway into "Rosalita," I knew I was hooked for life. Over the years, I've seen him probably 50 times up and down the Eastern Seaboard, in places ranging from Durham, N.H., to Asbury Park to all the various arenas, those still standing and those long departed, in Philadelphia.
As a frequent traveler to Italy, however, I've thought it would be incredible to see him there, given our shared Italian heritage. (The Boss' mother is Italian American.) That said, even I am not crazy enough to buy a plane ticket just for that purpose.
This summer, however, after making plans to visit the north of Italy, I saw that he would be playing two nights at San Siro Stadium in Milan during the time my husband and I would be in the general area. It was destiny; we had to go. After a slightly hairy time navigating the website to buy tickets, in Italian, and almost inadvertently buying $1,000 worth, we were in.
It was a fantastic experience, watching the show with 70,000 enthusiastic Italian fans. Some "only-in-Italy" moments:
A feature of Bruce's shows is that fans hold up signs with song requests. One requested "Mary's Place," "for our angel brother, Salvatore."
Available free at the stadium was a 30-page Springsteen newspaper that included an article about Bruce and his mama, Adele.
The entire stadium was ringed by food trucks grilling sausages and selling panini stuffed with first-rate prosciutto, porchetta, and bufala mozzarella. In Italy, no matter the setting, they won't tolerate anything less than the best in food.
Ushers made sure everyone stayed seated during the show, and most people cooperated - although the ushers had to give up by the end.
Different songs resonated with the crowd. Audience members didn't know all the words to "Hungry Heart," a perennial American sing-along, but they shouted out every word to others.
The entire stadium held up lighted phones during "The River," creating a beautiful array of twinkling stars. Everyone must have gotten the memo on this but us.
My husband was on crutches due to a recent injury and had difficulty walking. Everyone, even the young people, eagerly tried to assist him, escorting him to the front of lines, offering their arms for him to hold on stairs.
Only one person behaved badly: a drunken middle-age American man who talked loudly through the whole show, explaining to the perplexed Italians around him who Jimmy Buffett was.
When it was over, nearly four hours after it began, all 70,000 of us spilled out into the streets of Milan. Accompanied by flashing blue lights, a small parade of big black SUV limos drove past. "Bruuuce!" we all yelled and waved.
I like to think he waved back.