Shadows & Echoes

Posted on February 15, 2015

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

— Thomas Mann

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

When I first began this blog, in 2009, it provided for me as a young teenager a way to connect with a world beyond the confines of my own. I was 15, running scared, yet going nowhere. Words fell naturally from my conscious onto the pages of my blog; I bled without any inhibition and found at least temporary release. Connecting with an audience – of only a few hundred initially – liberated me, and was my first experience of interacting with a reality which challenged my sense of isolation. I was discovering the music of Bruce Springsteen amidst the ongoing tragedy of my childhood, and although at school I was ostracised and at home abused, through a combination of Springsteen’s music, my developing ability to write, and the audience who began responding to my first literary heartbeat, I began to forge an identity beyond that which I had previously known. For the first time, I was defining myself as being worth more than the product of a broken family.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As time progressed, and with my life taking increasingly exciting – and, at times, tragic – turns, my writing became more prolific. My audience grew from hundreds to thousands, and then on to tens of thousands. For a time, nothing beyond writing felt at all natural. Whereas before I was merely the shadow of my potential, after finding my inner voice – so profoundly lead by the music of a man and band I was only beginning to discover – I was realising my potential, proudly, and fostering an ability to stand against the adversity which for years had crippled me.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Previous readers of this blog will have come to know the story of my childhood; it was the number one earthly reason for my writing. One of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve ever had was receiving not the notifications of increased readership, but more importantly the communication I received from those readers. I was a teenager living a life in which I did not recognise myself, and in which I was not recognised by others, and yet my perceptions and observations were resonating with strangers the world over. I began receiving comments and emails from adults, sometimes decades my senior, telling me that my writing had affected them, moved them, inspired them. I didn’t consider myself as anything other than what I was – an insignificant child writing about the world, my perceptions, and discussing my human experience; a human experience which, although unique in context, lead to feelings which were mutual & which connected me to people who were almost entirely anonymous.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With the support for my writing increasing, I kept on producing content which both entertained and compelled an audience, whilst providing me with a release and a means to cope with an intolerable combination of grief, depression, and responsibility. I wrote everything as though only I would ever read it; as I am doing now. My posts were not so much articles as letters to myself, and those who could see in my words a reflection of themselves. These are the people for whom I continued to post on my blog, and to whom I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude. I wish I had kept the momentum of my blog going strong, but as life progressed my situation changed beyond recognition, and since then it has been harder than I ever would have imagined to take the knife to my heart and bleed in the form of word.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Like anyone who attempts to create – writers, painters, sculptors, musicians – I had my detractors; I continued to write in spite of them, and never for them. The same is true to this day. It always dumfounded me that a small minority of adults many years older than me would attempt to disparage my work, and more perversely, attack the young teenager who created it. This deviant behaviour provided a darker introduction to my experience of adulthood, beyond that of my own family, and just like the experience of teachers who bullied, ‘friends’ who ostracised, only strengthened my resolve to proudly and originally walk a path which only I define.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

This path has not been easy. From the day, 7 years ago, when my Dad died violently at the foot of my bedroom door, I was destined not to connect with the world around me. I continue to live with a sense of disconnect to what I witness; consumerism, capitalism, cronyism. I experienced as a 13 year old boy a violent and immediate introduction to the dark side of adulthood, and once that darkness took its grip, it pulled me beyond any hint of innocence or optimism usually synonymous with childhood. From that moment, my capacity to engage with the majority of what was expected of a 13 year old was compromised. I struggled immensely to associate with my classmates at school, and very quickly began to question the legitimacy of the world around me. School work became extraordinarily trivial, and the drama of teenagers who – rightly – had experienced nothing close to real pain drove me to the point of insanity.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

To experience alcoholism in not one, but both parents, to be neglected and abused, shouted at and, on occasion, physically assaulted; to have a violent altercation with my Dad – wherein my only defence was to tell him that I ‘hated’ him – and then the following day discover him to have taken his own life by accidental overdose of prescription medication, feet from where I slept; and then, for years, to be forced to care for my depressed, alcoholic Mum, protect my vulnerable younger sister, while simultaneously trying to hide the despair from the world in fear of judgement, and then live my own life… To live such an experience changes the very fabric of one’s being, and although I am grateful for the strength, resilience & mind which I have as a consequence of my childhood, I continue to recognise and be challenged by the effect which my childhood experience has had on me.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The brutalising effect of trauma in childhood is as complex a human experience as it is possible to have. As psychological studies prove, the occurrence of trauma in youth & adolescence can change the very biological structure of that child’s brain. As such, whereas I can cope easily and intelligently with trauma & emergency, travel abroad freely and without inhibition, engage with serious intellectual thinking, deal with violence and depravity, care for people who are dangerously self-destructive, and cope with situations which are potentially life threatening; conversely, I found it immensely challenging to attend school, it took me years to find the confidence to make table-reservations over the phone, I find it physically uncomfortable to get my hair cut, couldn’t maintain friendships with people of my own age, have been unable to move beyond feeling entirely responsible for my family, and live with an often paralysing level of self-criticism.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

These issues, and more, have been the subject of 5 years of therapy. Whereas amongst many young men, there is a profound embarrassment and even shame associated with seeking help, I proudly advocate for people engaging with mental health services; had it not been for my psychologist & EMDR therapist, the teacher to whom I first opened up, along with the music which, and friends whom I came to love, I have no doubt that I would not be here today. In the latter months of 2009, at the depth of my depression and dealing with suicidal ideations, I had to make a choice; either I would give up then and there, or I would fight. I made a promise to myself that, contrary to how hard things could potentially be, I would never again consider suicide. Although the black dog of depression rears its ugly head on occasion, to this day, and although it can still bring with it the echoes of the darkest, haunting sentiment, I know that my purpose in this life along with the investment I’ve received from others compels me to never again entertain such thoughts.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I have spent hundreds of hours in therapy; most of which occurred while I was still a teenager. To this day I maintain contact with my psychologist, and we continue to meet every three months. The transformation of my character from my first meeting to now is one of extraordinary evolution. I began on the road as a kid barely able to make it from one day to the next, whereas I sit here now as a young adult with profound ambition and desire.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Once one has made such a dedication, as I did to keep my life and cultivate ambition and resilience, the process of reconciliation must begin. I knew that, despite the tormented experience of my childhood, I had to find peace with my Mum and Dad in order to transcend the legacy of my experience. The shadows and the echoes of my past are a permanent fixture of who I am, and although I am proud of my conviction and resolve, I continue to experience the after-shock of situations which defined my teenage years.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

February 14th, 2015, marked 7 years since my Dad died. Growing up without a Dad has created a profound void in my heart and soul, and with each passing anniversary I find a new perspective to that pain. Grief comes in waves, and whereas at times I feel entirely unaffected by his absence, on occasion I feel like I am going to drown in the pain of missing him. Developing maturity with each passing year, I am learning that rather than notice his absence less, I am feeling it more. With hindsight I recognise that on the day my Dad died, my family died too.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The initial event was met with drama; paramedics, doctors, police, coroners, undertakers. For a moment, the world stood still, and the people in my family’s life stood still also. There was a near constant flow of support offered, but within weeks people lost interest. The dust settled and the world had moved forwards. 7 years on, and only a couple of my friends even remembered the significance of the date. Perhaps the most recondite observation I can make is that, in the wake of such an incident, a part of one’s own soul & being stands still as the world does, but unlike the world, it never moves again. A part of who I am continues to stand shuddering over the cold and blue body of my Father; a 13 year old who couldn’t begin to appreciate the enormity of the situation, or see that the world around him had crumbled. There stands a part of oneself, suspended in reality; a permanently open window to a world that no longer exists.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

However, what defines us is not in recognising this fact, but rather in finding a way to transcend it.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Since my Dad’s death, I’ve also experienced the loss of my Mother and Sister. They are alive, but separated from me. Try as I might to understand the reasons for this separation, this estrangement, far better men than me have gone mad trying to understand less. This past year, between February 2014 and February 2015, has been nearly entirely devoted to the experience of trying to reconcile with my past, whilst dealing with the ripples of my history which continue to manifest in the present.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I would be lying if I said that the experience of losing my family, to death and despair, wasn’t the most heartbreaking experience of my life. I would be lying if I said that, for all my espousing about things happening ‘for a reason’, I didn’t wish that I could undo the loss of my Dad. I would also be lying, however, if I said that I would allow this to stop me from living my life.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Few men have influenced me like Bruce Springsteen has. A glance at blogposts past will confirm the connection which I – and so many others – feel with his music. Through his music, Bruce provides an intangible beauty which offers narrative and definition to experiences which would otherwise remain beyond explanation. From the first moment I heard his 1980 album, “The River”, I have been attached to a body of work which connected with me on such an ethereal level that, in less than 3 years, I travelled 3 continents and 10 countries seeing him live in concert. I even had the pleasure of writing for his official website and Backstreets Magazine, and even more importantly than that; I made friends to last a lifetime.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

One of the most poignant statements which Bruce ever made was delivered as part of the behind the scenes video to the filming of “The Wrestler”, in which Springsteen states;

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

“You can find your identity in the damage that’s been done to you. You find your identity in your wounds, in your scars, in the places where you’ve been beat up and you turn them into a medal. And it’s a very dangerous thing to do. We all wear the things we’ve survived with some honour, but the real honour is also in transcending them.” 

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As I look to the future, I realise that the next element to my evolution will be in transcending that which I have written about today; and everything which cannot be defined by words alone. The wounds and scars which cover me, which once offered my sole definition & identity, provide a medal which I can wear with pride. The medal proves that rather than become a victim of my life, I chose to accept the unacceptable, reconcile with the irreconcilable, and forgive the unforgivable. One chapter of my life is now closing, and without much idea where the start of the next chapter will be, what I know for certain is that no longer will my future lie in the shadow of my past.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

In the words of Charles Bukowski;

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

“We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

To be continued.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

_______________________________________________________________

P.S: I have lost access to connorkirkpatrick(.)com for the time being, so if you do share this blog – thank you if you do! – please use this address: connorkirkpatrick.wordpress.com.

Bruce Springsteen’s Anomaly

Posted on December 29, 2013

1454653_10152024463705250_1947705921_n

 

4 weeks from now I will be standing further from Scotland than I have ever stood before. I will have jumped from the middle of a bleak Scottish winter, to the welcome heat of a South African summer. Close to 6,500 miles South of where I write now, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band will make their South African debut, begin their 2014 World Tour, and in doing so will not only mark a momentous event in the evolution of South Africa, but also the progression of one young fan – me – from a child with dreams, to an adult with memories. I will see my 25th concert in South Africa – something which, for so long, seemed like a dream I didn’t even dare to have – in what is also the 10th country and third continent I will have travelled in less than 2 years, pursuing my love of the greatest band on the planet.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Bruce Springsteen is widely considered to be one of the most influential musicians who has ever walked this earth, and it is irrefutable that together with the E Street Band, they form the greatest live act in existence. One of the defining emotions which binds fans to Bruce, is the strength which so many of us draw from his music. He is the light in our darkness, the soundtrack to our lives, the voice which accompanies us during our struggles, and the man whose music typifies the joy which we live for. From the cold isolation of struggle, to the realisation of our dreams, it is the music of Bruce Springsteen which travels with us on our journey. And so, for us fans who recognise the truth in the statement “treat it like it’s all that we have, and then remember: it’s only rock and roll” the release of new work is a hugely significant event.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Tonight, and to the detriment I’m sure of one of Amazon’s (former?) employees, Bruce Springsteen’s newest album, “High Hopes” leaked into the ether of the Internet. Dubbed by the man himself an “anomaly”, the album, due for release January 14th, is an amalgamation of tracks which, like so many of his fans, found themselves lost amongst the archives of a musician whose career will soon reach its 50th year.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Having listened to High Hopes in its entirety 3 times now, I feel a sense of excitement. I am pleased with what I hear, and admittedly relieved. According to some preliminary reviews out there – including one “witty” examination entitled “Low Expectations for Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes” – the newest of Springsteen’s albums doesn’t quite meet the standard that many have come to expect of his work. Though I know better than to listen to the words of people paid to critique work, I hit “play” this evening with an admittedly tarnished sense of otherwise overwhelming excitement.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Upon dropping the needle and letting “High Hopes” play, the 1997 song by Tim Scott McConnell greets one with a burst of energy far warmer than Wrecking Ball’s “We Take Care of Our Own”. Though High Hopes’ predecessor’s opening track is a powerhouse display of classic rock ‘n roll brought into the realm of the second decade of the 21st century, “High Hopes” is a concentration of the musical prowess of the E Street Band, underpinned by the distinctive sound of Tom Morello’s guitar, and lead by a Bruce Springsteen focussed on the authentic sound of big band; drawing on all areas of the E Street Band’s might. The E Street Horns add a richness to the track which is a great contrast to the sharp, cool sound of synthesised “We Take Care of Our Own”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Despite being a fusion of songs spanning over a decade of Springsteen’s work, the theme of, and meaning behind, “High Hopes” feels considered by its creator. From its title track onward, the subject of just that – hope – is present. Hope is most concentrated in times of adversity, and as “High Hopes” progresses, the notion which defines Bruce – the contrast between our dreams and our realties, both as individuals and as a society – is evident.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The second song of Bruce’s 18th studio record returns us to the familiar and much missed sound of the late, great Clarence Clemons’ saxophone. Telling the tale of tough guy Harry, Bruce’s lyrics depict a dark depravity becoming more evident again as times get tougher for society’s inhabitants. The song’s protagonist appears to be the master of everything but his own life, with rules that are as blunt as Bruce’s delivery of them. “You don’t fuck with Harry’s money, you don’t fuck Harry’s girls. These are the rules, this is the world”. The sonic construct of the song is refreshing and echoes the sentiments of the lyrics; the only relief given by Clarence’s saxophone, which offers a stark contradistinction to the almost religious rhythm of the song’s bass. Whereas the characters in the song struggle with an identity beyond violence and absolutism, the track’s composition allows for an ambiguity which offers hope of redemption for the characters at “Harry’s Place” as the song comes to a close.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

“American Skin (41 Shots)” is one of Bruce Springsteen’s most profound feats of storytelling. Depicting the tragic murder of 23 year old Liberian-born New Yorker Amadou Diallo – who was shot at 41 times by New York’s “finest”, with 19 bullets fatally wounding Diallo – the song is a rarity live, and for good reason. To play a song which is both in homage to a murder victim, and in protest to the institutionalised fear & racism which caused his death, is requiring of a contextual suitability and band strength simply too great to ever become a live concert staple. Having never been formally released, “41 Shots” finally makes its album debut, on “High Hopes”. Re-mastered, the song’s appearance demonstrates an unwavering anger held by Bruce at the inequality of society; where people are murdered for the colour of their skin, and saved, despite guilt, by the uniform they wear. The E Street Choir offer an ethereal quality to the track’s sound, and echo the emotion of life’s transcendence into death.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With the album progressing, The Saints’ “Just Like Fire Would” marks the album’s 4th track, and resonates the energy of its live debut in Australia at the beginning of this year, before an entirely original piece beckons. With mechanical repetition of bass, the song is introduced amidst the loose vocal harmonising of Patti Scialfa, who – as the song develops – echoes Bruce’s singing of the song’s title, “Down in the Hole”. Initially, Bruce’s voice sounds distant and restrained; recorded unlike anything I’ve ever heard before, not least on a record of the man who penned “Born to Run”. Approaching the 1 minute 45 mark, Bruce’s voice is released from its restraint with warm invitation as the song breaks free of its previously industrial sound. With a riff reminiscent of “I’m On Fire”, the lyrics depict a conversation between a man constrained and the light promising to set him free. “Down in the Hole” is reinforced by keyboards synonymous with the beloved Danny Federici. Though I have no conformation, with rumours rife that Federici makes an appearance on “High Hopes”, “Down in the Hole” offers a rare and intimate return to an E Street Band still rocking with Clarence and Danny.

999446_10152023866635250_1241411642_n

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With Bruce’s mysterious Gospel album not even confirmed, yet alone released, “Heaven’s Wall” – the track immediately proceeding “Down in the Hole”, lead by a passionate Bruce encouraging us to “Raise your hand, raise your hand, raise your hand!” – is as near to such confirmation as we have yet seen. With an immediate burst of energy, the song explodes with a joyous, Biblical sentiment. “Heaven’s Wall” serves as a celebration of the power of faith, with a vivacious Gospel choir backing Bruce’s direct lyrics. With no room for ambiguity, the “Raise your hand” chorus is sure to become a Stadium rocker, much like an accelerated “My City of Ruins”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

“Frankie Fell in Love” is perhaps this anomaly album’s only anomaly; a fun track about love in its most simple form, it is the first time on “High Hopes” that I struggled to find a connection, despite its energised sound. “This is Your Sword”, returns to the theme of “High Hopes”, and is another track with a righteous theme. “In the days of despair, you can grow hard. ‘Til you close your mind, and you empty your heart. You can find yourself, staring into the abyss. Hold tight to your loved ones, and remember this…” The chorus reinforces the notion of the “sword” being your God, promising to shield and protect your “sacred heart”. “The sword will defend from what comes in the dark, should you grow weary on the battlefield, well do not despair, their love is real” follows, before launching back into the folk sounding chorus.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

One of the real highlights of “High Hopes” is “Hunter of Invisible Game”, which from its offset is as stunning as it is intricate. With a delicate but conviction ridden string section leading into Bruce’s acoustic guitar – which in its first chord reminds one of “The Wrestler” – the song offers a wildly intimate side to Bruce’s vocal abilities. Singing with the optimistic vitality of a man 40 years younger, but drawing on the concentrated talent of 50 years experience, Springsteen sings “Hunter of Invisible Game” with the same openness as if he’d invited the listener into his studio to sit in on its recording. With lyrics centred on strength, prayer, and hope, faith, courage, & trust, Bruce attests to the inevitability of the “hour of deliverance” which “comes on us all”. The string based foundation of the song maintains, and elevates its spirit to the ethereal level at which its words hint. With the song reaching its crescendo, Bruce’s voice is supported by a faint hint of backing vocals, matched by a soft injection of guitar which adds further dimensions to an already abundant track. The song tapers off as it ends, eventually dissipating into static – giving the impression of a song which the listener hears as it travels; though its journey is unknown.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

From the outset, it was known that Tom Morello would be involved in various aspects of “High Hopes”. Nowhere is his presence felt more than “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. One of the most profoundly poetic, relevant songs Bruce has ever written, its reprisal on “High Hopes” reinforces the notion that the album is a lot more than simply “Tracks 2”. It offers a stunning attack on the elitist society in which the West resides; where a minority control the lives of the majority, so profoundly that even the dreams we have are dictated by the opportunities afforded to us by those who view common man as commodity. With this new, re-worked and re-mastered rendition of the 1995 classic, The Nightwatchman meets The Boss, and a song of desperation turns into a declaration of war; yielding the force of an executioner’s sword. With each word and guitar stroke, that sword is pushed further into the heart of the people who personify all that is wrong with our world.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

In its original form, I feel the song suits its hauntingly lonely acoustic arrangement; with only Bruce, his guitar & harmonica telling the story of the “Men walkin’ ‘long the railroad tracks, goin’ someplace there’s no goin’ back”, however the combination of Tom Morello’s voice and earth shatteringly good guitar, along with Bruce’s lead turns what was originally a lone man’s song into a conversation; between voice and guitar. With this new sonic dynamic, the song is transformed from one man’s prayer to the fight of men who unite under the character, Tom’s, famous words:

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

“Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The guitar solo which follows is, simply, the epitome of musical ability. Tom Morello takes that executioner’s sword and slaughters the song’s target, in the name of the people “waitin’ for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last”. If John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” had a soundtrack, the duo of Bruce and Tom as two fighting musicians would be it. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is so incredible that it alone makes “High Hopes” worthy of attention.
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
With the last two songs of “High Hopes”, comes perhaps one of the most emotionally delicate examples of Bruce Springsteen’s work. “The Wall” represents not only Bruce’s heartbreak at the loss of his mentor & inspiration Walter Cichon – of the early New Jersey music scene – but it also epitomises the pain of losing someone. Not original to “High Hopes”, the song has made appearances over the years at Bruce’s shows. However, “The Wall” sounds original not only because of its obviously cared for construction, but also because the pain of loss never yields. It remains original. In “The Wall”, Bruce remembers a man who he describes as “the man who by his attitude, his walk said ‘you can defy all this, all of what’s here, all of what you’ve been taught, taught to fear, to love and you’ll still be alright.’” Among the keyboards of who I hope is Federici, and Bruce’s delicate guitar work – exuding fragility of extraordinary proportions – words synonymous with the story of Springsteen & Cichon, and the loss Bruce experienced flow as gently as the trumpet which softly concludes the 4 minute track.
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
Amongst the beauty of its sound and the sad acceptance of its words, comes the question we all ask of the people who have transcended this life: “If your eyes could cut through that black stone, tell me, would they recognise me?”. Amidst the fluidity of Bruce’s voice, as that question is asked I see myself asking that same question; to my Dad, and to my dear friend Pere. It is that power, the power of transference, which defines Bruce Springsteen against all the rest, and indeed, which accentuates “The Wall” as a highlight of “High Hopes”. Not only demonstrating the musical ability of Bruce Springsteen – far and beyond his classic rock signature – “The Wall” is a universally relatable song, which is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
The final track of “High Hopes” is a renewed version of Bruce’s famous cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”. Providing a perfect note on which to end, the re-mastered “Dream Baby Dream” epitomises the message of “High Hopes”. It is a communication of both internal and external proportions, aided in this incarnation by E Street backing. Beginning with Bruce alone on the organ, the first stirs of an E Street guitar can be heard in the shadows. After 1.5 minutes of Bruce encouraging us to “keep the fire burning”, the stirs of guitar evolve and bring with it the pounding beat of the bass; the shadows are slowly illuminated, as the once solo Bruce is accompanied more extensively by musical backing. With “Dream Baby Dream” gathering pace, the angelic sound of the E Street Choir enshrouds Bruce’s increasingly impassioned singing. His breathing becomes noticeable, while the whole song is taken to a level which, in my opinion, epitomises the “High Hopes” perfectly.
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
As with “Dream Baby Dream”, “High Hopes” is a musical representation of the journey we all take as we attempt to bridge that gap between our dreams and our reality, amongst the pain of a world gone wrong. From the preachers of the title track, “High Hopes”, to the gangsters of “Harry’s Place”, to the tragedy of “41 Shots” and the constraints of the man “Down in the Hole”. From the Gospel choir attesting God’s power in “Heaven’s Wall”, to the “Hunter of Invisible Game” just beyond the choir’s reach, and on to the soldiers of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and the man remembered in “The Wall” – “High Hopes” chronicles the variety of ways in which we traverse the often stormy waters of life. Until, of course, the “hour of deliverance” which “comes on us all”.
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
I only hope that the “hour of deliverance” surely befalling an Amazon employee as I write this isn’t too hard. But then if it is, maybe there’s a place for him at “Harry’s Place”?
ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
Just don’t fuck Harry’s girls.

Got High Hopes

Posted on November 24, 2013

The last time I sat beneath my “Born to Run… And Write” logo, to write a post for the readers who I am grateful still frequent my blog after 3 years of irregular updates, I had just returned home from the first leg of the European Tour of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, in Scandinavia. As with life, and particularly as a kid who loves Rock ’n’ Roll, the time which has lapsed since then has offered opportunities and joys which not even Madam Marie could have predicted. As the year has progressed, the disparity between dream and reality has been an unrelenting quandary, on my mind and on the collective mind of fellow man.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

When the European Tour began, I noticed that the official website of Bruce Springsteen (brucespringsteen.net) had a set of writers who travelled with, and reported for, the European Tour. A “Notes From the Road” series intrigued me, as a writer and fan of Bruce, and I couldn’t help but feel a desire to be one of the names below the banner of Bruce’s own website – contributing to the most important task of sharing the joy which defines the power and attraction of Springsteen & E Street.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

One of the greatest lessons which I have learnt as a fan of Bruce, as a friend of fellow fans, as a traveller, and as a writer, is that the greatest gift granted to us during our fleeting time on this Earth, is the power of communication. Communication leads to argument, debate, love, friendship, and everything in between. Though the former virtues are pivotal in making life an intellectually stimulating and healthy existence, the latter – friendship – is the greatest privilege and achievement which one can attain, and indeed what allows me to write what follows.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As I travelled back home from Sweden at the beginning of May, I received an email from the people who make “Notes From the Road” a reality, asking me to contribute to brucespringsteen.net & Backstreets Magazine. My heart started to beat with a joyful abundance which both validated me as a writer, and allowed me to further expand my love of Bruce Springsteen, and my desire to try and share at least a little of what makes he and the E Street Band the greatest live act in the world.  Over the coming months, I produced reports from some of the E Street Band’s greatest concerts, and saw my writing shared via a medium greater than I could have ever allowed myself to dream when I established this site back in 2010. I owe the opportunity to a friend with contacts who recommended me for the position; to whom I am utterly grateful.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Copenhagen, Denmark, was the first concert for which I was tasked with the responsibility of reporting. For both brucespringsteen.net and Backstreets Magazine, I wrote my debut articles. As I sat on a bus trundling through the beautiful streets of the Danish capital, the day following the concert, I saw on twitter & facebook the distribution of the article which I wrote. A sensation which is so alien to me enshrouded my mind and heart – I felt proud.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Strangely, seeing my name on the website of Bruce – as a writer – wasn’t the most surreal part of my week.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Cycling through Copenhagen some days before, amidst heavy rain and foreign voices, I made my way through the slippery streets of a city which I now love. As my brow became wet with rain, and my eyes stung, a set of events were set in motion which lead me to a moment which I never thought would happen.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I met Bruce Springsteen.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Connor_Bruce copy

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Though our encounter was brief – and, inevitably, I forgot every sentiment I ever wanted to tell the man who was the soundtrack to my childhood, and now adulthood – I found enough courage to extend my arm, as his eyes met mine, and say to Bruce “I have waited years for this moment”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Though my life is still short, through the experiences which have come to define my relationship with Bruce, 19 years really has felt like a lifetime. 

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With my hand now being held by the man who penned rock’s greatest albums, “Born to Run”, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, “Wrecking Ball”, along with the song which typifies my existence, “Racing In The Street”, Bruce let out a smile and said “So good to see you. So good to see you again”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Incredibly, he remembered me from the concert in Oslo – when, before the show, he came to greet us fans “who have no lives!” who had waited for 4, 5 days to be on the front row. With a hoard of people around us, pointing cameras at Bruce, he put his arm around me and we looked into my camera which captured a moment I never thought would become reality. We then shared a sentiment which I’ll selfishly keep to myself forever, before I said my millionth “thank you, Bruce. Thank you”. With him leaving my company, he winked at me – I hoped this meant that he “got it”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The next night, while I was front and centre at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium, I learnt that he did. When Bruce emerged beneath a light sacred to Bruce fans, and as the crowd erupted with a holy roar, our eyes met again and he smiled. This affinity maintained, and through a song which had me in tears, he smiled at me, waved, pointed and sang about redemption.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Though I could not confirm, I felt an acknowledgement from Bruce which means more to me than he could ever know. Or perhaps, as per his wink, he does.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Later that night, as I tapped away at my Mac’s keyboard until the lonely cool before dawn, I couldn’t have predicted the scale of the journey which began in Copenhagen. Physical, emotional, spiritual, and most importantly – musical. But as it occurred to me, I couldn’t have predicted the events of Denmark either, and with that – I smiled.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Writing this evening, I am aware that tomorrow Bruce releases a new single, “High Hopes”. As with a few other people, I’ve had the joy of hearing this earlier in the week, pre-release. Though not Bruce’s original work, it has been stripped down and rebuilt with the injection of the E Street Band’s power. I’ve had it spinning (or whatever the digital equivalent is) ever since, and a peak online reveals that – potentially – “High Hopes” won’t be the only release tomorrow.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

HIGH_HOPES_Nov25

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Months ago, Bruce stated that he’d like a “new style project, like the Seeger Sessions”. Hearing “High Hopes” invites an experience not easily described. Think Pete Seeger meets Bruce Springsteen meets Tom Morello meets 1930s’ New Orleans meets Titanic’s 3rd deck, meets 2013 meets the E Street Band, and perhaps you get a sense of the Big Band, swinging noise of tomorrow’s release. Look out for the righteous power of the E Street Horns, who have made a great track sensational.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ
As with most of Springsteen’s music, “High Hopes” concentrates on the distance between where we are, and where we want to be, amidst the conflicts of a world gone wrong. That disparity, that battle which is inside every one of us, is brought to musical life by a man who also adds that with hope, with love, and with hard work we could surely stand a chance.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Appropriately, I have thought back to my childhood days, as a boy without a Dad. I’ve written extensively in the past, as that kid, who had no hope or support except for the voice of a ‘kid from New Jersey; a voice which as it sustained me, became louder and louder, until, in the rain of Copenhagen, I heard it address me.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

In January, I follow that voice further than ever before: to South Africa. All going well, I’ll be reporting the events of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s only ever South African Tour. For that, I have High Hopes. For the future, I have High Hopes…

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

… and if there’s one thing I could tell my kid self, it’d be that he should have High Hopes, too.

I Am

Posted on October 26, 2013

I am a writer.

As a writer, it is my job to tell the truth.

It is not my job to attract mass readership.

It is not my job to turn readership into profit.

It is not my job to tell you what to do.

It is not my job to lie.

It is not my job to become the absence of my soul.

It is not my job to impress.

It is not my job to seek approval.

I need no approval.

I need no other validation than this;
I am a writer.

I tell the truth.

And I am alive.

Writing is not about establishing oneself as the King of words.

Writing is not about style.

It is not about wit.

It is not about appeal.

Writing is about life.

It is about truth.

It is about no other truth than this;
to write, is to bleed the contents of one’s soul.

To be bare. To be naked.

Style, wit, appeal: subjective notions holding different values to different people.

To one mind, this is art.

To another, it’s not.

As a writer, I should not sit and put pen to paper in the hope of appealing to either.

I should not make the manifestation of my being as words into a way of attracting popularity.

As soul meets conscious and words meet page, a voice of eternal sighs, a dim fire ignites.

As a writer, this is what reminds me that I am alive.

To cry, to scream, to despair.

To fear, to quake, to write.

To exist.

To be alive.

To write is to live with a dark passenger.

It could rear its head and be ugly,
vile.

It can create art of inexplicable beauty.

It can make people question.

It can make people cry.

It can make people smile,
and laugh,
and be glad to be alive.

It can present the power of death over life.

But it can also create immortality.

For the writer, for the reader.

For the person who reads this after I am dead.

Tonight, I sat at my kitchen table.

I looked into the faces of familiarity and was not seen.

Under the cloak of absolute exposure my eyes filled with tears, my throat expanded,
my heart began to beat hard.

Inside a fire began to burn again.

I felt the pain.

I saw the truth.

I am a writer,
and it is my job to tell its story.

“Evolution”

Posted on May 12, 2013

A frontman in his own right, Nils has been happy to play sideman — and secret weapon — for several rock ‘n roll greats.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Most interactions that occur between fan and Rock star last maybe 1, or 2 minutes. Occasionally, some fans get lucky enough to have a longer period talking with an artist whom they love, with maybe even enough time for a photo or two, too. In those moments, the fortunate fan is elated to a level similar to, or even greater than, the actual experience which makes them a fan to begin with… In either case, meeting an idol, an inspiration, or personal rock ‘n roll role-model is an unusual and rare joy. I got lucky once, when I was invited to meet Stevie Van Zandt in New Jersey. However, despite my big dream that one day I might meet Bruce, I figured that my luck where meeting the musicians who give my life the greatest soundtrack was concerned, was spent.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With that in mind, as I stumbled through the revolving glass doors of Oslo Gardermoen, into the clean, crisp air of Scandinavia, I had no idea of what was to come.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Standing beneath the formidable, yet soothingly Scandinavian styled overpass outside the entrance to Arrivals, and waiting for my Norwegian Springsteen fan, turned friend, Mari, to collect me, I felt like I was just waking up after a deep – and rather dark – winter hibernation. The last time I had seen my favourite man with my favourite band, had been some 7 months before, on a string of cool summer’s nights in New Jersey. When I left my last show – the famous Birthday show which posed the potential for Bruce to receive ‘a lightning bolt up [his] ass’ – I couldn’t have anticipated that it would be so long until my next concert. As a ‘hardcore’ Springsteen fan, I live in a constant state of denial… a both chronic and acute refusal to accept that the last show of a Tour leg has passed. Maybe it would be Minnesota, or California… Kentucky or even Nebraska, I was surely going to see them again…

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

No. Such. Luck. One very long, and very torturous, 7 month wait later, and here I was – in Oslo.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

While the Americans are stereotypically loud, gun-carrying, pick up driving, red necks, and Brits are all friends of the Queen who drink tea and have very bad teeth, the Scandinavian stereotype – characterised by wealthy, tall, blonde haired and blue eyed people, styled with a sophistication synonymous with Borgen’s Birgitte Nyborg – is scarily accurate. Back in the UK, and U.S, I am used to being at least half a head higher than most other concert goers, owed to me by my 6ft 3 frame. In Oslo, I was merely slightly above average. Driving through the mean streets of Oslo towards the Telenor Arena, and via a gorgeous area known as Bygdøy – where I hope to one day live as a rich & successful Scottish writer in exile (a guy can dream) – where I took a moment to absorb the sheer beauty of the Norwegian capital’s landscape, the Scandinavian stereotype continued to ring true. In times of austerity and job cuts across Europe, Oslo is enjoying the continued effects of an oil- rich economy refusing any invites to cease booming. The once tranquil harbour is now crane-city, erecting towers reaching high into the blue skies over Oslo. Despite this, however, Oslo (or Ooohsshhl-o as it’s pronounced) still has the feel of a vibrant, cosmopolitan, metro-utopia.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Arriving at the Telenor Arena, music was playing and the usual sight of small pop-up tents, home to – already – straggly concert goers, surrounded the all-important list. After meeting another Norwegian Bruce fan & friend, Nilei, Pit Queuer Number 1, Hans, assigned us our numbers. 37.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

3 nights later, and one of the most magical experiences of my life. The weather was cold. So cold that between roll-calls we embraced one last snow flurry – a reminder that, indeed, we were far up North. As we were frisk searched at the barriers, the first view of Oslo’s Telenor Arena – and the much important E Street stage – came into sight. Whereas in Barcelona last year, I found myself encouraged to run the length of the Olympic Stadium, reaching our spots in front of Bruce’s stage in Oslo was a thoroughly different affair. A brisk walk, at most, security encouraged us to be calm, and slow. Nearly 4 days of queueing, and we had our spots. Front and centre, baby!

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As we sat and waited for the legendary E Street Band to remind us that “it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”, screaming erupted throughout the 200 or so people in the pit. As everyone ran, I jumped up – and, as I was at the front, on the barrier – simply turned around to see a grey t-shirt clad Bruce Springsteen, standing on the stage in front of me. He took a stroll around the pit, pointing at people, smiling at his fans, and commenting on those he recognised. As he made his way past me, Bruce’s warm brown eyes stared into mine, and gently under his voice he said “I remember you”. My eyes closed as my heart was lifted on up high. When I opened them, Bruce was standing with a black acoustic guitar… Ready to take requests.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Heaven.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00393

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With gentle force and to the faces of 200 welled up fans, Bruce tore into ‘This Hard Land’, ‘All That Heaven Will Allow’, and despite a ‘broken piano’, ‘The Fever’ (solo acoustic guitar), before finishing with ‘Growin’ Up’… As he stood in front of me on the mini-stage and sang to the hardcore fans who Springsteen dubbed as having “no life”, we all stood together and sang… From chanting

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

He’s got the fever, oh he’s got the fever
Nothing a po’ boy can do
When he’s got the fever for a girl
He’s got the fever, oh he’s got the fever
Left this little boy blue

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

… to the chorus of ‘Growin’ Up’

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd, when they said “pull down” I pulled up
Ooh, ooh, growin’ up
Ooh, ooh, growin’ up
Hoohoo

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As Bruce encouraged the crowd to sing higher and higher, louder and louder, the whole Arena echoed with the elated crowds of fans who were as close to heaven as is possible. If the E Street Band wasn’t as important as they are to us, then we wouldn’t have waited out in the cold for 4 (and in some cases 6) days to see them. Bruce recognised that, and paid thanks in the most special way. It’s one thing to turn up and rock a stadium, and quite another to make a few hundred people feel as though we were in the front room of the Springsteens, being treated to a private concert. As Bruce left the stage and smiled, telling us he’d be back in an “hour or two”, we all smiled and asked the same question – “did that really just happen?!”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

It did.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

When Springsteen returned later in the evening, followed by his Band, the crowd roared with musical ecstasy. The spot next to Bruce was empty, and as he beamed down the microphone to the faces of over 25,000 people, he asked “where is Steven?!”, smiling and nodding his head as though teasing a puppy, he continued “Steven has been missing, for many shows now!”, and to laughing cheers added “he was kidnapped by Norway! This is a special night, he is back with us tonight!”, before beckoning Stevie onto the stage… Introducing him by his character name from ‘Lilyhammer’, Bruce had one thing right – the night was going to be very special indeed.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Professore…”

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Night 1 began.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Handing the centre mic back over to Bruce, the Band came alive all over again. ‘Two Hearts’ opened, to the jubilant crowd. My 11th concert of the Wrecking Ball Tour, and this show emphasised Bruce and Stevie’s chemistry best. We were bearing witness to the reunion of two best friends. Their song told us that, their smiles told us that, and the crowd’s reaction told us that too. As the Band powered into No Surrender, Nils pointed at my friend Nilei and I, and gave us the first of many winks.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The night before, while huddled against the cold wet wind and taking – yet another – roll call, we became alerted via twitter that the great Nils Lofgren, and his wife Amy, were checking out a bar in downtown Oslo. With a couple of hours to kill, and a cheeky desire to maybe catch a glimpse of one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Nilei and I headed out on the Number 31 bus. Like my stage dance last year, there was a noticeable contrast between the thought of executing such a plan, and realising it. When I appeared on stage for Nils’ 61st birthday last year, there was a ‘holy shit!’ moment when it occurred to me that I was on stage in front of 55,000 people under the premise that I could dance. That feeling returned when, standing at the same bar as Bruce Springsteen’s second guitarist, it occurred to me just what we were doing. Trying to be as polite as possible, Nilei and I crept up on Nils and his wife and introduced ourselves – expecting maybe 2 minutes and a quick photo.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

At first, Nils let his wife Amy do most of the talking. We listened to her enthusiastic welcome, aware of how surreal it was to be standing next to “the great Nils Lofgren”. With butterflies in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I introduced myself to Nils as Nilei and Amy got on like a house on fire. To this day I don’t know how it happened, but after only a couple of minutes we were in the thick of conversation. I mentioned how I was a fan of Neil Young, and how on a 4,600 road-trip ‘between Bruce shows’ last September, I heard ‘Albuquerque’ for the first time, in Albuquerque. Nils smiled when I mentioned how I drew the connection, when on ‘Tonight’s the Night’, Neil Young calls his name. Nils and Amy were quick to show Nilei and I photos from a few months ago when Young and a mutual friend visited their home, driving an eco-car which runs on waste. Nils recommended Clive Cussler as a man to check out, in a continuing effort to understand climate change. We discussed everything from love and life, to music, the E Street Band, loss, Clarence & Danny, concert preparation, and even how at 61 Nils manages to perform for over 3 hours without needing  the loo, which Amy dubbed ‘toilet talk’. As we laughed, we also discussed the similarities in our lives. Nils was genuinely interested, and also sad, to hear about my Father, though intrigued by his own story as a musician. He told me about his moments “in the dark”, with Clarence and Danny, and how they honour their memory by playing the music which brought them together. Lofgren’s stance on his place alongside Bruce was also massively interesting. I had thought that it would be a hard task to stand on stage without two of his friends and fellow band-mates, but stoically Nils talked about his job as simply to do what The Boss, Bruce, needs him to do. We talked about the intangible nature of music, and how Nils started off playing classical accordion, for 2 years, and how it was through music that he found a voice – similar to how his music, along with E Street, gave me and fellow fans a voice, too. I couldn’t help but ask Nils about my favourite of all his songs, ‘Man In The Moon’, and I asked if perhaps he’d return to my hometown as he did in 2009, to which Amy enthusiastically encouraged me to contact the Concert Hall here and get the ball rolling. Throughout the whole hour we spent chatting, not once did it feel like I was standing face to face with one of the world’s most talented musicians, rather another normal guy sharing a drink in a bar. After all, the Lofgrens did fly commercial over to Europe.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00364

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As the time ticked away, occasionally it dawned on me that surely at some point the conversation would quieten and that would be our cue to leave, but it didn’t. I carried on listening to Nils and Amy intently, as they revealed wonderful truths that I might never have otherwise learned, and responded to comments which Nilei and I made. I was staggered at how generous they were, both with their time and their honesty.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Throughout my conversation with Nils, from the tender subject of death, to the question of age and continued learning, the one word which kept being repeated was evolution. 

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

That was the biggest lesson I learned during that hour – the lesson of evolution; that every experience we have, and every moment we spend here – whether it be smiling or hurting – is just another small part of our evolution. Our physical evolution, our emotional evolution, and our spiritual evolution. As Nils said to me – he was once at 0 himself, and when commenting on my writing he agreed that I should never aim for literary perfection, but continue my conquest to tell the truth. And that, he said, is what makes us equal…

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

After taking a few photos with us, and commenting on how if the fact that we had been in line for 3 days wasn’t crazy enough, the Swede’s had already started lining for a concert 5 days away, Nils gave Nilei a copy of his newest album, ‘Old School’. Delving his hands deep into his pockets, he then selected the holy grail of music-related gifts – a guitar pic which he has used on stage with the E Street Band. Signing it ‘Nils’, he gave me his pic and that concluded our evening. Nilei and I walked alongside Nils and Amy, to the front door. Bidding him ‘happy rocking’, they went right, and we went left – our hearts filled, and our minds endowed with memories to last a lifetime. Again the question was asked – “did that really just happen?!”.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00372 copy

Evolution

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As the mighty E Street Band began their mission to bring the power, hour after hour to Oslo, I found myself looking back into Nils’ eyes, and returned the gesture which he made Nilei and I. As the concert progressed, so too do its special nature. With 14 Wrecking Ball shows under my belt, I have been pretty spoiled by setlists. I’ve heard Jungleland 3 times, and my favourite song, Racing In The Street, 3 times too. I’ve now heard Prove It All Night (with the ’78 intro) 5 times, and The River more times than I can remember. Even by that standard, the set of Oslo’s first show blew me away. Standing hand in hand with one of my closest friends, we sang of Better Days ‘shining through’, as Stevie gave us a smile and a wink to tell us that every little thing is going to be all right. No Surrender reminded me why it was that I wasn’t standing in University, rather hundreds of miles away… After all, we learned more from a three minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school. When the Band thundered into the groovy E Street Shuffle, they descended down onto the mini-stage right next to us. We boogied the time away, with the E Street Horns within grasping distance. Returning to the stage, the Arena went dark before a Tour premiere…

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

If your heart is restless from waiting too long

When you’re tired and weary, and you can’t go on

Well if a distant dream is a callin’ you

Then there’s just one thing that you can do…

Follow that dream.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As the song ended, I felt a transient moment of being back in Barcelona, when Bruce stepped up to the microphone and played the intro to ‘The River’. My eyes filled with tears, as I become all too aware of the friend I miss so much. Front row, and centre, I had a close and unobstructed view of Bruce as he played with all his heart. A sang and looked upward, and thought of Pere, my friend, my brother, without whom I’d never had made my first two Bruce shows. As the Band carried on playing, and Bruce broke into the ethereal falsetto which defines his 1980 classic, I was reminded of what made me feel so strongly as to write nearly a year ago “God was in that Stadium“, as the light descended down upon Springsteen, and his words filled the air.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

When the Band played ‘Pay Me My Money Down’, Bruce appointed me ‘time keeper’. 90 seconds, and he guaranteed he would have the whole Arena off their asses, as their brains received a message from their butt telling them to do so. As it happened, Bruce was right… 10 seconds in and even the people at the back were having a dance party, and one of them as it transpires, was Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg! When the E Street Horns came down onto the mini-stage again, I enjoyed fervently singing with Jake Clemons, while he teased me by semi-acknowledging my Drive All Night sign.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The connection with the Band kept coming. When Cindy came to preach during Shackled & Drawn, we sang to one another, for a few moments… I was reminded of what President Obama once said. It wasn’t so much a Rock concert, as communion. When Bruce played his signature intro to Thunder Road, all truths were validated, and all fears cast away. Standing arm in arm with my dear friends, Soozie smiled at me, and I smiled right back at her. To be that close to the Band, was to justify 4 days of queueing. To be a fan of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, is to be a part of one of the world’s most special relationships.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

When the encores began, little to no-one could have predicted what was to come. The Band had left the stage, and Bruce walked over to the piano. He thanked Oslo for another great show, and for being so welcoming of E Street to their culture. As he sat down, he mentioned that he had played The Promise a year before, and that tonight he had something special “For You”. A song full of heartbreak, the Norwegians around me in the crowd embraced one another tight, and proved that for such a cold country, the Norwegians I met have incredibly warm hearts.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Wounded deep in battle, I stand stuffed like some soldier undaunted
To her Cheshire smile I’ll stand on file, she’s all I ever wanted

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

At this point it was once again confirmed that Bruce and his Band of 40 years had fulfilled their promise to make something out of “nothing”. 25,000 people who a few hours before had been jumping to Badlands, and dancing to a Seeger/Springsteen classic, were now all stood paralysed by their emotion. Bruce did it so well. He did it like a Boss. My electric surges free…

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As the first night in Oslo came to a close, we thundered through the defining song of the mid 80’s – Born In The U.S.A. Even though I’ve now heard it a few times, I won’t ever tire of that notion that I am singing that song with Bruce Springsteen… Even before I was a fan of Bruce, I knew that song, and I knew how cool it would have been to be at an ’84 Stadium show. For the few minutes the Band played the anthem that the song became, I was transported back to a time 10 years before I had even been born. At song 27, a few minutes short of the 3 hour mark, the Band played their ultimate tribute to Clarence and Danny, 10th-Avenue Freeze Out. As it transpired, this would be the second to last time it would ever be played with the 2 – 3 minute interlude of remembrance for Clarence and Danny. While Bruce stood alone in the crowd paying homage to his best friend, and I stood alone doing the same thing, I took this picture of Nils, and captured what it means to miss someone.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00667

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Leaving the show after night 1 it was an inescapable fact that I had just been a part of something greater than human. It was both an exorcism of bad, and a reminder of good. The message that FAITH will be REWARDED was proven, and the Norwegians – who are famously reserved with showing emotion – left with tears in their eyes. I know I did, and even nearly 2 weeks on, they’re still stinging. The next night came and shook things up. If night 1 was a communion, night 2 was a dance party.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

The show opener was arguably the greatest I have ever heard. A re-jigged version of 92’s ‘Leap of Faith’, fitted Bruce’s voice perfectly, and was like the mechanical build up to the start of something big. The lyrics were screamed by all to high heavens, and the crowd were noticeably more animated than the night before. The tone was set, an 80’s rock-fest as opposed to a 70’s soul excursion. With that said, the set openers included two hits from the Born In The U.S.A. album, including “Downbound Train” which allowed Bruce’s voice to soar. Out In The Street concluded the Wrecking Ball trio, and took me back to the day all those years ago that I heard Bruce for the first time, and fell in love. After – yet another! – rendition of Spirit In The Night, Bruce stepped up to the microphone and gave us a lecture on love, and on Savin’ Up. A song he originally penned for Clarence, as soon as it occurred to me what Bruce was about to play, my eyes got stingy, and my heart jumped. The Boss explained that he was going to become our ‘financial adviser’ for the evening, and talked about Saving Up… Saving Up… Saving Up, but not money! Rather, for something that money can’t buy – love. Springsteen’s voice echoed the rich sentiments of Clarences, and I smiled thinking of my favourite rendition of the song from C’s ‘Live in Asbury Park’. Roy’s piano was painstakingly beautiful, and whilst we missed Clarence with all our hearts – and no-one more than Bruce – as soon as the Band launched into the soul rocking classic, I remembered Clarence’s words “I wanna welcome you all to the Church of what’s happening now, right now… I wanna dedicate this song to all of my rich friends, with everything in their hearts and nothing in their pockets.” You may have diamonds, you may have pearls… The Band played the song perfectly, so perfectly in fact that I could almost feel the salty fresh breeze of Asbury Park, as if I was at that famous gig that I’d missed from way back in 2002.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Another tear jerker was to come, with Atlantic City. When Bruce sang with a contrasting seriousness to the song before, “maybe everything that dies, some day comes back”, I thought of how true it was that whilst it is ‘only rock ‘n roll’, it’ still ‘all we have’. Open All Night rocked the Telenor Arena nearly to the brink of collapse, and before the encores began we got one of my favourites – Land of Hope and Dreams. To feel the motion of the crowd as they rocked, swayed, and jumped together was extraordinary… the perfect crowd.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00732

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Back in November 2010, I remember distinctly hearing for the first time the – unreleased – 1978 live recording of “The Promise”. I said to myself, “the moment that music became the most important thing in my life just happened”. I was 16. It was the first time I heard the non-acoustic version of “The Promise”, and being in a place of tremendous emotional turmoil, the sentiments of “All my life I fought this fight, the fight that no man can ever win. Every day it just gets harder to live this dream I’m believing in…” rung true. It was a painfully truthful reflection of the way my life was, and became a song I’d listen to almost as intensely as Racing. When, last year in Manchester, I heard it solo piano, my tears weren’t due to the song, but the rudeness of the drunk people around me, who talked all the way through it. This time, however, being supported by someone who means the world to me, I had the perfect view of Bruce performing the perfect song. I simply cannot describe how good, and moving, it was… You simply had to have been there. Staring at Bruce and feeling elevated out of myself, the spiritual cleansing which that moment brought to me and the audience was immense. Not so much rock ‘n roll, as rock ‘n soul.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

After another Born In The U.S.A. came signature Born to Run, and when Bruce came down onto the mini-stage, and thousands of excited Norwegians surged forwards, my friends and I found ourselves strumming Bruce’s guitar once more. Getting a hold of his arm, we retreated slightly when Bruce returned to the centre mic, our hands as wet as he. Jubilant, we felt soul defined as we took part in E Street’s Rock ‘n Roll baptism.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I don't wanna go home!

I don’t wanna go home!

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

With another extraordinary night coming to an end, the vibe at the Telenor Arena was much more physically intense than the night before. That morning, while driving to the Arena, Norwegian Radio was commenting that the crowd hadn’t been as animated as they’d hoped, night 1. Maybe Bruce was aware of this, or maybe the show was going to be different anyway, but the second night had every single Norwegian dancing, and moving, in a way which I am told is incredibly unusual. With some Stevie and Bruce ass shaking came Ramrod, which shows off the most fun side of an incredible Band. Tenth-Avenue Freeze Out threatened to end the show, but as the – final – paused tribute to Clarence and Danny came to an end, Bruce shouted “one more for Oslo!”. We had a fair idea which song this could be, and sure enough – the greatest closer to a show I have ever seen. It was so good, in fact, that it made me want to Shout! As giddy as a man 50 years his junior, Bruce smiled and danced and ran all over the Arena, exclaiming the lyrics to a song originally by The Isley Brothers. It was staggeringly good, and reminded everyone (not that you could possibly forget?), that the E Street Band can move people as much physically, as they can emotionally. As the octaves went higher, and the Band got louder… As Bruce got sweatier, and our feet got sorer… The song reached its climax as the Telenor Arena was awash with happy faces, raised hands, sweat-ridden bodies, and rejuvenated souls. The E Street Band had travelled thousands of miles, and fulfilled their ‘solemn vow’ to rock the hoooouuusssee!

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As Bruce looked back one last time before descending down the stairs into the backstage area, he gave Oslo a look as though to say – we’ll be back. Looking behind me, I saw people hugging, laughing, smiling, and thirsting for water. It was evident that the experience had been, for everyone, something more than a ‘simple’ rock concert. It was life-affirming. As my plane taxied down the tarmac a couple of days later, my heart was filled with a sadness. To experience something so special, with people so dear, only to fly away is a hard reality behind touring with a band… However, as the plane pointed its nose towards Sweden, more concerts, and more adventures, I remembered what Nils and I had been talking about all those days before. Evolution… Evolution… 

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

DSC00860

Evolution. 

We Are Alive

Posted on April 9, 2013

He asked, “What makes a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.

– Charles Bukowski

A few weeks ago, I stood beneath a dark blue and black sky. The wind was strong, and cold, and the river which lay before me was raging. I stood alone on the grassy embankment, with the bright lights of the city across the water, twinkling, and a tear in my eye. I was shaking. It was cold, much too cold, but that was only half the reason my knees trembled. The moon above me was bright, and the clouds illuminated below its pale white face looked like ghosts, out to remind the world that, hey – we are alive. They were dancing. This was the 5th time I had stood in that spot, beneath an ancient tree, and in the ‘garden of a thousand sighs’. The grass beneath my feet was soft, but unbroken. I knelt down, placed my hand onto the cold withered grass of late winter, and spoke. There were no people around me, but as I closed my eyes I was joined by my Father, and my best friend. Looking at the darkness of the ground beneath me, I witnessed the passing of another year without the man I call my Dad. I stared. I spoke. My voice cracked and my eyes stung. This was the last place my Dad’s physical being had ventured. It was the spot where his ashes were scattered. Now a seemingly unassuming patch of well kept grass beneath a tree a thousand years old, and teeming with the final songs of people who themselves had once mourned, the grey dust which I, as a young boy had knelt and cried over, half a decade before, had long since been absorbed back into the earth that gives us life. But as I stared into the void of my memories, for the first time, my Dad looked back.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I remembered a moment in September, when, over 5,000 miles away from Scotland, I stood looking out over the desert of New Mexico, on a cliff overlooking the Acoma Reservation. It was my furthest horizon – the land over which the distant sun was setting, was a whole world away from the place I had been running from all my life. Beneath a deep blue sky fading to a dark purple, with orange streaks of the sun’s sacred light casting out in all directions, as if painted by the hand of an Artist who had seen the sun from every angle, I stood – as I was doing now – looking into the sky and seeing the faces of the ghosts who, as Bruce had taught me about over the Tour, would continue to inform me, and walk alongside me, for as long as I should live.

IMG_8876

Completely alone, I prayed. But as I prayed, I was haunted. Not by ghosts, but by reality. As it transpires, one really cannot outrun one’s problems. I was thousands of miles away from home, and yet I was acutely aware of all that I was missing. As I thought about my Dad, and about my dear brother Pere, two birds flew past my vantage point, serenaded me, danced, and flew away. Later in the evening, an elk walked in front of our car, glanced at my friend and I, and then disappeared into the night, giving a meaning which only a person of the 10,000 year old Acoma could define, but also a memory which will be with me for life. As our car lumbered peacefully down the deserted highway back to Albuquerque, the sky was full of a number of stars incomprehensible to a mere mortal like me. Listening to The Ghost of Tom Joad, I closed my eyes… Then I opened them, again, and I was back in the Garden of Remembrance.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

As I have written about over the years, and as anyone who has ever known me is aware of, I would not be here if it wasn’t for Bruce Springsteen. His music has been the soundtrack to my life, from the moment I was thrust into adulthood when I should have been basking in the warmth of childhood innocence. My Dad’s death robbed me of my Father, but it also stole away my family, and cast me into a world where I was alone. When I discovered Bruce, I – as I have written about – felt for the first time in my life, that I was not alone. I discovered a voice which told my story, and which gave me the strength to make it from chapter to chapter. In moments of joy, Bruce’s music helped me celebrate. In moments of sorrow, Bruce’s voice told me that I would be OK, and in moments when I contemplated suicide, Racing In The Street convinced me to stay. I knew, with a faith stronger than anything I am yet to experience elsewhere, that I was listening to a man who had felt what I was feeling, but who had survived. I knew that I could, too. And so far, I have.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

I could write a million words, in a million languages, and still would not find a more perfect way to describe to the world how I feel about Bruce, than to say, simply – he saved my life.

Photograph by Julian Broad. (The New Yorker)

Photograph by Julian Broad. (The New Yorker)

Standing that lonely night by the River Tay, I listened to the music which had protected me throughout the years. So many of Bruce’s songs defined my relationship with my Dad; none more so than “Independence Day”. A few epitomised what it felt like to be a child without a Dad, and one even manages to describe how it feels being a 13 year old standing over the dead body of his Father, in the form of “You’re Missing”. That song continues to resonate in my heart, and mind, and I know absolutely that, if my Mum were to listen to it, it would tell her the story of losing her husband, too. The Rising had always been the album I would listen to, for strength, particularly when I was missing my Dad. This remains true in 2013, but what made this Valentine’s Day different, is that, in this past year, I have seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live, 10 times, myself. It was my ultimate dream, and it was realised.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Also different, was the fact that I stood with a ring on my finger. It was my Dad’s wedding ring, given to me by my Mum before I travelled America. I had placed it on my finger, during Bruce’s speech while playing ‘My City of Ruins’, as immortalised in my last blogpost. At that moment, I found peace with my Dad. And so, as the tears welled up in my eyes, and my body ached with the cold of a Scottish winter’s night, my heart was warmed once again while I listened to the ‘bootleg’ of that show. I relived the moment when I found the Ultimate peace, to the words of a 63 year old man from New Jersey. Whereas year before year I had stood there and cried, this year, I smiled. Because I knew that, for the first time since I lost him, I was smiling up at my Dad, and he was smiling down on me. Actually, he and Pere were alongside me, in the same way I imagine that Bruce felt Clarence, Danny, and the Ghosts of his life alongside him, as he gave to us, his fans, the strength which he has built up throughout the course of his life. I felt healed.

IMG_9308

Raise your hands!

If I were given the opportunity to experience again either my 5 week mammoth tour of the United States, or my 5 day trip to Barcelona, I would choose the latter. Whenever I am feeling beat up, as though lying with my face in the dirt while people passed me by, I think about the experience I felt in Catalonia last May. The second show at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, I heard Racing In The Street. It was the most perfect, and most beautiful moment of my life. It was also the most healing, and liberating. And so, as I stood beneath the moon in February remembering my Dad, I also listened to the moment that from the dark stage of Barcelona’s Olympic Stadium, came the piano of Roy Bittan, and voice of Bruce Springsteen, who, together along with the E Street Band, changed my life forever, by playing the song which kept me alive.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Since I lost Pere last year, my heart, my mind, and my soul, have been lacking their once permanent connection to my words. I have struggled immensely to write, but, as a Writer, my job is more than to simply put words to paper. It is a Writer’s job to observe, to feel, to see, and to listen. It is my job to tell the truth. And so, whilst I have been quiet for a lot longer than I would ever have wanted or anticipated, when – in an extraordinary and somewhat unusual moment of emotional intimacy – I write a post like this, I do so hoping that my words can have even a fraction of the effect on you, as Bruce’s words have had on me. Indeed, I know that many of you have read this post and smiled, nodded, in acknowledgement that you get what it is that I am saying. After all, 90% of the readers of this blog, come here to learn more about their favourite 63 year old.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Finally, as the night drew in, and the sky got even darker. As the wind intensified – as though mimicking the gust of rejuvenating breeze which fell upon all 50,000 people at the end of Barcelona’s Racing – and, as the moon brightened, I listened to the final song of the evening; We Are Alive. I remembered with painful vividness discussing hearing that song in Barcelona, with Pere, and how he looked at me in the eyes, patted me on the knee, and smiled, when I told him how that moment had been the closest I had felt to my Dad since he had died. Pere was the first person I met and was friends with who understood the weight of that sentence, and in one flash of his warm smile, he acknowledged me. He acknowledged everything, like no friend had done before.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

Now he is gone, too.

ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ

But I can hear him. And I can hear my Dad. They’re singing… They’re singing a song…

Well, we’d put our ears to the cold grave stones
This is the song they’d sing
We are alive
And though our bodies lie alone here in the dark
Our spirits rise to carry the fire and light the spark
To stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart

We are alive.

After all, no good thing is ever wasted.

Tomorrow There’ll Be Sunshine, and All This Darkness Past

Posted on December 31, 2012

On the 21st of September this year, an old friend of mine said to me –You’re the luckiest guy I know, Connor!

As I sit here now – on a train to Edinburgh to experience the world famous Hogmanay celebrations which, every year, put Scotland at the top of the list of places to travel – I think about 2012; my travels & adventures, my loves & losses, the sights and sounds I have experienced across the world, the 20,000 miles I have travelled, and the words of my old friend, and how – undeniably – 2012 has been the most exciting of my life so far.

More recently, another old school friend said to me that I had an awesome life. Just like my other friend’s words, this sentiment has also been playing on my mind.

When I consider 2012, the 19th year of my life, I recognise the truth in that statement that I now have an “awesome” life. Unlike my friends who took the bold road of academia & University, I forwent the opportunity to study, in exchange for making the conscientious decision to follow my heart, and not my mind. I knew cognitively that my exams and University mattered, but my heart knew what my soul was yearning for – to follow my passion and love of music & combine it with the other yearn of my life… to travel.

Image

One of the most beautiful moments of my life. At the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico, over 5 thousand miles from here. (Thanks Steph for the photo)

When last year Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band announced their Wrecking Ball tour, my greatest dream was set to be realised. And so, on May the 17th this year, I saw Bruce and the Band in Barcelona. The first of what transpired to be 10 concerts, in 6 cities,  3 countries, and 2 continents, that moment the Band walked on stage changed my life forever. I felt healed, and I felt liberated. I was freed of years of pain and unhappiness, and my focus and attention altered to see the light in my darkness, embodied by Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band, their music, and my dear friends I have met through them.

As the year progressed, so too did my adventures, and, also, my struggles. 2012 has not been an ‘easy’ year for me, in many respects, it has actually been the most challenging of my life so far. I continued to listen to my music like my life depended on it, because often, it did. For every victory I accomplished and every friend I made, more trials and adversity hit me, and my family. At times my life was as dark as the solitude and struggle which defined my childhood, yet 2012 brought a light, a happiness, which I never experienced before. For the first time I was enlightened to the tremendous beauty of our world, and the love which can be found between Man. For every concert I attended, and mile that I travelled, I ventured further into the blissful abyss that life can offer. Suddenly the contrast between good, and bad, was exemplified to proportions I have never felt before. So when I consider the words of my friends, I realise that whilst my year has been special at many moments, it has also offered that reminder which all people live with that, at any moment, that light in your darkness can be extinguished.

And so it was that in July, my best friend died.

Image

Pere realising his dream… Backstage with Bruce Springsteen

That was the hardest day of my life, and in a cruel irony it occurred amidst the best year of my life. As we go into 2013, I head towards the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s death. In the near half decade I have had to come to terms with losing my Father, the constant awareness of his absence has transcended pure pain, into an understanding. In New Jersey in September, I stood in the crowd as Bruce spoke about allowing the ghosts of our past to walk alongside us, with us. In that moment, as though with the cool evening wind of late fall, came something which has changed my life forever.

I found peace with my Dad.

Bathing in the emotional protection and liberation which comes with a Springsteen concert, I reached into my right pocket, and pulled out my Dad’s wedding ring, which my Mum had given me rather symbolically before I left for America, to mark the beginning of my independent adult life. I held Dad’s ring tight in my hand, and raised it into the air as Bruce told me and thousands others to raise your hands, and rise up. I closed my eyes, and as Bruce stood with Clarence, I stood with my Dad. I also stood with Pere.

The key thing which has come to define my end of year thoughts is Pere. When I think about him, my best friend, I can acknowledge the fact that the pain of losing him is with me at every moment. It is inescapable, it is at times crippling, and I can’t stop missing him with all my soul, and loving him – my brother – with all my heart. I also feel a strength, a strength in the faith which he helped me discover, and understand. Accessed through our music, it’s the faith in something greater than we can merely see – it’s a faith in love, and something more. 

I met Pere in Barcelona, around the time of my first ever shows. Our weekend together concluded what was the greatest few days of my life, and I left Barcelona reborn.

Following those momentous days in Catalonia, I continued my adventure… Despite the raw adversity which July brought with it, I have had some experiences which so many people older than me say they wish they had done too.

I threw caution to the wind, and abandoned for the time being University. I went to Barcelona, and held Bruce’s hand, strummed his guitar, and had the song of my life played right before me.

Image

This gun’s for hire… even if we’re just dancing in the dark

I then danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen and Nils Lofgren, to mark his 61st birthday. I attended soundcheck at Wrigley Field in Chicago, where my dear friend and I heard This Depression at least 8 times, in an otherwise empty baseball park, before embarking upon a 4,600 mile road-trip, through 15 of America’s States. I saw Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico – where I fell in love – Texas & the Cadillac Ranch, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nashville Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and even walked the streets of midnight Manhattan in New York…

Image

Driving from Colorado into the desert of New Mexico… (Photo courtesy of Steph)

Concluding in New Jersey, I walked the boardwalk of Asbury Park like the man whose music I have loved for what seems like a lifetime, and met Stevie Van Zandt backstage in the ‘Underground Garage’ of the Metlife Stadium, before seeing he and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band rock the 60,000 people in the meadowlands. Standing under the twinkling stars of New Jersey, and the bright lights of a world famous Stadium, Springsteen took to the stage and shouted “Good evening, New Jersey!”, and as, on the third night, he played Jungleland, I realised that more dreams of mine than I ever even felt worthy of, were all being realised.

Image

With Little Steven, baby!

When I think about those moments, just the few of many, many more, I understand why from anybody’s perspective, I have had an awesome year. I have learned a lot, I have gained a lot, and, indeed, lost a great amount too.

But, as I sit here with the cold light of Scotland’s winter evening fading, I realise that the person I am now is armed with strength, faith, and understanding which took exactly every second of this year for me to acquire. This year I learned lessons which I may never have learned otherwise, and have formed life-connections with friends which normally I might have had to wait a lifetime to achieve. Whilst I have lost a lot, I sit here with a profound and humbling number of reasons to be grateful.

I thank all my friends and relationships, from South Africa, to Sweden & Norway, Denmark,  the Netherlands, America, and Canada, not to mention the UK & Ireland, for accompanying me throughout a year which I hope will set the tone for the rest of my life. And that is one of adventure, where I have the courage, and the ability, to follow my heart. To conquer adversity, and similarly allow that adversity and pain to be built into the strength of my character. To remind the special people in my life how much they mean to me, and to never let go of the love I have lost along the way. To walk on up the road that is life, alongside those I have lost due to the mortality which will one day take us all, and to remember the love I have felt for people which is no longer, for different reasons.

I also hope to invest in, and develop, my writing. I owe it to those who read this blog, and myself, to write like my life depends on it, in the hope I can help others and free myself of that which haunts me. I owe it too to Pere, to live a good life and treat people with the unreserved love which defined his.

2012 has been a year of struggle for many. From the devastation on the Jersey Shore which friends experienced, to the atrocity in Connecticut only weeks ago. Life has continued to be unspeakably hard for the people who deserve it less, but I have faith and confidence that together, united, and maintaining our faith in the dreams that unite us, we shall overcome – some day.

As light fades on the last day of December, and 2012, I wish you all peace, love, and happiness for 2013. I hope we can all finish next year with our lives even better than today, and I continue to hope that, together, we can be the answers to the problems of one another’s lives. I hope that with the New Year you find peace in your lives, and an ability to forgive those who have let you down, in the same way you hope to make things right with people who perhaps you struggled to remind of your love.

I hope to work on becoming the best version of myself, and I hope that life is so in 2013 that you can do the same.

To my friends, my readers, and to the people who have made 2012 so special for me – thank you. From Chicago, to New Orleans, from the muscle to the bone… Love, and best wishes to you all.

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side

You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride

Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last,

Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams

Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

%d bloggers like this: