Hamburg 2008 - Like Japanese excursion

Kat.: In English Utw.: 04.07.2008 Krzysztof Marecki (transl. Piotr Piękoś) E-mail
Blood Brothers Poland, Hamburg 2008. Fot: Markos ©Blood Brothers Poland, Hamburg 2008. Fot: Markos ©

It all really started a long time ago, that is on Dec 13th 2007, when we were coming back from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s concert in Cologne. Already then we decided to attend together a concert during the summer tour, but no one expected something like this.

Before we gathered at the train station platform, I met Jacek Pelc, our record-beating traveler, in Hard Rock Café, where there are some souvenirs related to the Boss (among others Springsteen’s leather jacket from the "Born in the U.S.A." tour) hanging on the walls. Later, we moved to KFC in the shopping mall "Złote tarasy" and at that moment I was phoned by Darek Juśkiewicz, who told me that he was already at the central station with our packages. After the problems with production of leashes in the autumn, this time we managed to do it. Thanks to the fact that Darek needed my advice concerning the leashes, we hit upon an idea to make a surprise to everybody as we both had birthday at the weekend of our fan club’s trip to Hamburg.

So I ran to the central station. At the platform I met Mirka Suwarska, but Darek disappeared. In the meantime more and more fan club members joined us: Jacek, Darek Burzyński and his wife Dorota, Ania Krętowska, Maciek Księżycki, Piotrek Piękoś and Mariusz Owczarek. After some time Darek and Monika Rudnik joined us as well. We got on the TLK train [Polish cheap train lines – translator’s note] to Poznan. In all that amazement we did not notice that one person was missing. Fortunately, Bartek Myśko found us on time and in full force we headed for Poznan.

When the train pulled out, the conductor, who resembled "handsome Roman" – father of school uniforms [Polish education minister in the former government – translator’s note] – gave us the first warning because we were competition for the dining car, fortunately it all ended with that one single warning. Jacek told us about his impressions from the flight from Rzeszow to Warsaw – as at that weekend the Senate by-election was to take place in his province, it is not hard to guess by whom he was accompanied on the plane. A lot of fun was provided by a lady who passed by our compartment and informed us that beer was available in the dining car (and even alcoholic beer!:)

The train was sometimes unbelievably slow - we decoded the abbreviation TLK as "tylko ledwo kroczący" [in English: hardly moving – translator’s note]. This way we reached the meeting point in Poznan as the last ones with almost one-hour delay. But with what an effect! At first all participants of the trip signed a probably one-meter long greetings card for Kala and Paweł, which was brought by us from Warsaw. After we handed our present to the "young couple" (that is the above-mentioned card and tickets for Springsteen’s concert in Hamburg) I and Darek started our birthday. There was champagne, cakes and the biggest surprise for all – baseball caps with the fan club’s logo in the front and our web site’s address in the back.

And then somebody said that we looked like a Japanese excursion. And so it remained.

The trip passed quickly and safely. Well, but as Pawel (known lately as the Lucky Man) had taken care of the "Bossbus", no one had ever doubted that it could be otherwise. We set off from Poznan at midnight and around 8:30 we were by the stadium HSH Nordbank Arena in Hamburg. Guided by Leszek Kozłowski we went to the south-west gate to join the PIT queue. Because the queue amounted to around 100 people we were sent to the south-east gate. And there…

Well, the situation resembled the times of the communism in Poland. A social list for the queue. We were marked by Anna – she was No. 1. We made use of our fan club name tags as some of the Polish names were too great a challenge for Anna (native German) and the Belgian who helped her. Kala received No. 66 in the queue, Pablo 67 etc. Darek received No. 102 and temporarily Darek became ‘Rudy 102’ [name of a tank from a popular Polish war TV series – translator’s note].

And so started our waiting for many hours. When some of us felt hungry, Ania and Marek Biernaccy advised us to have breakfast in a nice bar called "PICNIC", which was run by, as Marek said, "two German women – one from Szczecin and the other from Koszalin".

Soon after our return the "first reading" of the queue numbers took place, that is checking the attendance list and choosing the gates through which we would go to the concert. Our whole group chose the gate on the right side. Later, we noticed it was the VIP entrance. All in all, we deserved it, didn’t we?

After some time I brought the box with our fan club T-shirts. We quickly put them on and then we really looked like a Japanese excursion: the same T-shirts, the same caps, fan club leashes with name tags. We could be seen from far away.

Time was running, more and more people were coming and the mess started – we thought that "our Slavic mess in German version", which we experienced in 2006 in Frankfurt, will begin. Not only was nothing known about whether there would be any PIT armbands, but also there were more and more people who wanted to get to the PIT without a queue.

But we decided that we will not surrender just as other fans from the international group that were by the stadium from the very morning. In the meantime we started our promotional action, that is we gave away our fan club leashes with the address of our web site. All the people were really surprised that they received such nice leashes for free. There was a lot of fun as the leashes designed by Markos were great.

Around 16:00, only an hour before the gate opening, we stood in more tight queues and waited for HSH Nordbank Arena gates to open. Because it was clear that we would not get any armbands entitling us to access to the PIT, the people without the queue numbers who had come to the stadium gates in the early afternoon tried to get close to the gates, but we did not let them. It was also clear to us that whether we would get to the PIT or not would depend on our elbows and legs – between the stadium gates and the stage there was a distance of nearly 400 meters that we would have to cover.

At last, a guard came (quite a nice fellow, but unfortunately he spoke no foreign language, only German), opened the gate and told us to wait… So we waited politely. Three more gates were opened, next guards appeared in the gates for body search and ticket control and we still waited for the signal to start. Our guard, with whom we made friends after we had given him our fan club leash, said that we should turn right behind the gates and then go down to the stage.

Time was passing and suddenly… Go!!!

We ran to the first gate [some clever ones ran to the second one and it soon turned out that it was a good decision – Markos’s note]. I stood before the gate and saw it was … jammed! A big bouncer searched Darek Juskiewicz (a big guy as well) and his massive rucksack. A few cartons of "Tymbark" juice went into the garbage can. After a while, when people from other gates began to have the advantage over us – just as Robert Kubica over Nick Heidfeld – we still stood tight before our gate. Then, at last Darek was let in and after him we as well and then… sprint to the PIT.

Luckily, everyone who wanted to be in front of the stage, got there. Even those who had tickets to the grand stand! We stood mainly in the middle, but for instance Monika and Darek were at the side of the stage under an outdoor screen. Sylwia the Accountant and Mariusz Owczarek were slightly closer to the middle, but rather far from our major group in the middle. Pawel the Lucky together with Kala stood next to Anna (No.1 from the queue) and had the stage within their reach. Behind them Ola Nowak, Ela Giedyk, Kasia and Zbyszek Zygmuntowscy and behind them there was me. [Quite close to the group described by Krzysiek there was an even larger group of fan club members, but naming all of them would require too much space – Markos’s note].

As we waited for the concert a bodyguard from Springsteen’s staff came to us and asked to hold Bruce when he sat on the edge of the stage and leant against our hands. [He also asked to push him if he wanted to stand up. Everybody said there would be no problems. Of course, during the concert as the Boss sat there, nobody wanted to let him go when he wanted to stand up. And although Bruce had to use some force in order to let himself out of our hands, he was smiling all the time – Markos’s note].

And again waiting. We spent nearly 3 hours waiting for the concert in front of the stage. Unfortunately, we were disturbed by some smokers, although they were not as bothersome as in the closed hall in Cologne. Another thing is the fact that the stadium in Hamburg with its large roof did not provide us with too much fresh air.

Around 19:20 there were some first whistles and applause – the technical workers climbed like monkeys to their lights, which was a sign that the concert would start in a moment. At last at 19:45 we heard "Man on the Flying Trapeze" out of a barrel organ. The concert began! Before the E Street Band appeared on the stage, all fans that had seen our "birthday" cards for Nils sang:

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Nils,
Happy birthday to you!

By the way, special thanks to Mariusz Owczarek’s wife, who at our request checked Nils’s birthday date on the internet. Although we had known it for ages, we wanted to be more than 100% sure.

It seemed The E Street Band did not hear the choir in front of the stage and they started the show with "Out In The Street", so our wishes disappeared in the rock tumult. But later every time we raised our cards with birthday wishes for Nils, with great pleasure we watched him smile, clap hands and greet us.

Next songs were also rockin’, that is "Radio Nowhere", "Prove It All Night" and "The Promised Land". Later there was a short break to take a breath, during which Bruce collected cards with proposals of songs from fans for the listeners’ choice part of the concert.

And then it started…

The first song chosen by fans – "Spirit In The Night". Later another card and "Something In The Night". After that song – a surprise – fans were singing "Happy Birthday" for Nils again and we raised our cards with wishes prepared by our fan club Leader (Thanks a lot Markos!), which was shown on the telebims. Nils was delighted! Then the Boss showed a card with words: "Sing … Stevie Sing" and at the back a song title – but what a title! "Held Up Without A Gun"! For the first time since 1980 and for the second time alive… So we had our premiere on this tour! Man, how they rocked! Those who were there know what I’m talking about :)

Before "Gypsy Biker" Nils, pretending to be a motorcycle rider, showed Max and Charlie Giordano what would be the next song. Later, in fantastic "Because The Night", Nils played an unearthly guitar solo. [Concert by concert Nils extends and beautifies it, although already in Cologne we thought that we were hearing ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. There are no words that could describe that solo! – Markos’s note].

After a few pieces in line with the original setlist there was listeners’ choice again: "Sherry Darling", "I’ll Work for Your Love" (at request of some newlyweds). Another song was also at request and what’s more, it was a premiere on this tour! The Boss presented a card with a large red heart preceded by one word: HUNGRY. Bruce took it from a girl whom, as he himself said, he had already seen in front of the stage during previous concerts. And as the girl was very nice, the Boss came to her and asked about her name. That girl was Anna (No.1 from the morning queue by the gates). When the Boss was showing Anna’s card to the audience, one of the fans standing in the PIT (a boy from Germany) raised a card with the following text: ‘Wolfgang, Nein Danke!’ We had seen that card a few hours before while we had been waiting in a queue by the gates.

Bruce took his guitar and began to play the song alone explaining that the band had not played it for so long that they had probably forgotten it. Nobody in the audience had doubts what they should do. Just as on the album "Live 1975-85" the whole first verse and refrain was sung by the audience. What was different was the fact that we sang louder than the fans in that famous concert a long time ago! The band joined us in the second verse, even Charlie, who had never played live this song before.

After "Hungry Heart" another request was carried out – "Incident on 57th Street". Well, I was delighted. I have been loving this piece since the concert in Vienna in 2003, when I heard it live for the first time. After that concert we decided to create our fan club. Garry played his bass phenomenally in this song. It is impossible to describe! Those who didn’t hear that should regret it. [You should see Garry stand modestly in the back of the stage and move his fingers between the strings, while pure bass poetry flowed from loudspeakers… In turn, Bruce played a beautiful guitar solo in this piece that was filled with great emotions. It was a guitar solo that makes listeners shiver, makes their hair stand on end, their eyes get wet and one forgets about breathing. At one moment when I was watching the Boss as if I had been hypnotized, I noticed amazing suffering and pain on his face and the piercing guitar sound made me think about Danny Federici and I can’t help thinking that Bruce had Danny on his mind as well… - Markos’s note].

Then it was time for the pre-encore standards, that is "The Rising", "Last To Die", "Long Walk Home" and the classic end of the main part of the concert – "Badlands". All those pieces were sung by the entire stadium. Man, it was amazing...

After a short break the encore started. And… a quiet wish of the fan club Leader Markos was fulfilled. The whole stadium went crazy by "Seven Nights To Rock". Then without any break "Rosalita" and after it "Born To Run", "Dancing In The Dark" and at the end "American Land". During that final song Nils played Charlie’s accordion with one hand and Charlie hit the strings of Nils’ guitar.

And it was over – of course each of us thought that it was too soon. For a long while we waited for an additional encore, but unfortunately lights were turned on and the staff started to disassemble the equipment on the stage – the obvious and final sign that it was really over. What could we do? We left the stadium. Before we went to our "Bossbus", we bought some beer, juice and mineral water. It cost 3-4 euro a glass, but tasted really good.

On our way to the "Bossbus" every now and then huge airplanes, which were to land at a nearby airport, flew above our heads. We were walking very slowly in a big crowd. We were frantic and with flush on our faces we exchanged our observations thinking of the best moments of the concert. Before the departure we made a group photo with birthday cards for Nils. At last around midnight we set off to Poland…

On Sunday morning we were back in Poznan. We stopped close to the place where on Friday at midnight we had started our magical trip. After we had distributed fan club T-shirts and leashes, the time to say goodbye came. Some of us went to the train station, from where they travelled home.

But of course, there had to be some problems. The hotel train from Amsterdam to Warsaw was at first 120 minutes late, so it was to arrive shortly after we came to the station. Unfortunately, it turned out that it had increased its delay to 180 minutes and later even to 220 minutes. Damn it!  Are we doomed or what? We went to the ticket office to buy tickets for the EuroCity train Berlin - Warsaw. Mariusz bought a ticket for the TLK train, but we wanted to be home sooner.

As we were buying tickets and the ticket clerk had printed all of them, Bartek noticed that our EC train was already 50 minutes late, so we would be in Warsaw at the same time as the TLK. Tough luck. In that case we chose the cheaper alternative. But… It would have been too nice an end, so 6 of us had to travel in the car No.11, Mariusz in the car No.8 and the other 6 people in the car No.6. On a crowded train, but this time at least on time we returned home.

I already wait for another concert. And a trip with this great bunch of people. 

Wszystkie zdjęcia/All photos: Blood Brothers © www.springsteen.pl


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