All who know me, particularly my wife and kids, are painfully aware of my addiction to all things Springsteen. I listen to Bruce in the car, at the gym, when I walk my dogs. I listen when I want to celebrate and when I want to wallow. So, when Bruce canceled his scheduled concert in Greensboro a day and a half before he was due on stage, I paused, thought and, as older generations might put it, “let it set a bit”.
For those unaware, the State of North Carolina recently passed its “Public Facilities and Security Act”, known to the rest of us as its “bathroom law”. Essentially, the law requires individuals to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate, and has drawn enormous criticism from many corners of the public for discriminating against homosexual and transgender people. Forget politics for just a moment. Also, lets set aside the particulars as to how the law is to be enforced. I mean, really? Does everyone who uses a public bathroom in North Carolina now have to carry a birth certificate in their wallet? Are there bathroom monitors at every event, restaurant and roadside bathroom? What about at port-o-potties? And what about the penalties for violating the law? Fines, jail time, what? No more peeing standing up? Give me a break. There is enough material here for SNL to run through an entire season.
All of that said, however, Springsteen’s eleventh hour decision to pull the plug on a sold out arena is, in my humble opinion, misguided, to the say the least. I understand that he has a pulpit, a place from which to speak, and I am sure, in some ways, possibly affect people’s beliefs and make a difference in this world that goes beyond his music itself. I do get it – I got it during his tours for John Kerry, for President Obama; I got it when he used time at his concerts to rail against military conflicts, Reagan and the Bush administrations.
But really, who exactly does he help by canceling the show? The restaurants, bars, the hot dog stands – all of whom lost revenue when he pulled out? The 15,000 fans who planned their weekend around the show? Many, I am sure who had travel plans, paid for plane tickets or hotel rooms for which there were no refunds? How about the real unfortunates who bought their tickets from resellers? No refunds there. All of those folks who might be out hundreds, even thousands due to the cancellation. Don’t forget the hundreds of Coliseum employees who were counting on earning their fifteen or twenty bucks an hour for the show? Folks who needed that money to help feed and clothe their families, those very same families that Bruce has often lamented about in his music for more than 40 years.
So, if Bruce had decided to swing by one evening, grab a stool at my bar, and ask my opinion, I would like to think I would have told him just that – if you really want to make a difference, Bruce – a real difference – go to Greensboro, face that prejudice head on. Do your show, sing and preach and sweat your ass off for three or more hours, like you always do, Boss. Then, really do something that will have an impact – do the the whole goddam thing for free. Give all the money, all the proceeds to the right special interest group – a group you like and feel strongly about – and let that organization use the millions of dollars generated from the concert revenues to canvass, lobby, do what needs to be done to overturn the law.
Current events out of the way, I would have poured us a drink, spun New York City Serenade or Jungleland or Spare Change – or whatever – and asked him to sing along with me.