Fandom is a full-time job, but leave it to The Boss to make sure that everyone shows up to work on Monday.
Crowds gathered outside of Gate A at the Bryce Jordan Center more than hour before Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were scheduled to make their latest stop on “The River Tour.”
Originally released in 1980, “The River” was Springsteen’s fifth album, a compendium of soon-to-be hits like “Hungry Heart” that eventually reached the No. 1 spot on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart.
Judging by lines outside of the BJC, the album — or at least the artist — seems to have stood the test of time.
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“I think (he’s) the greatest live performer I’ve ever seen,” Mark Bernhard said.
From almost anyone else that could be hyperbole, a clear-cut case of pre-show euphoria, one of the side effects of which has been known to be grand declarative statements.
This is Mark Bernhard though — and he knows that of which he speaks.
Since 1985, Bernhard says, he has attended a total of 76 Springsteen concerts. Suffice it to say that his hypothesis has been sufficiently tested.
A former Centre County resident, Bernhard flew to Monday evening’s show by way of Evansville, Ind. He arrived at the BJC with one friend and no tickets.
That last part was unplanned.
His compatriot, Sue Pratt, of Boalsburg, had accidentally left the tickets at home. They were saved from almost certain disaster by Pratt’s son, who chauffeured the missing stubs over to the arena post-haste.
“So, I owe him a beer,” Pratt said.
The evening had gotten off to a rocky start but rebounded quickly. Bernhard and Pratt found themselves on the winning end of a ticket lottery that would take them down into the pit of the arena.
“Every show is awesome, but if you can be in the front. ...,” Pratt said.
Bernhard said that no one Springsteen show is the same as any other. He’s enjoyed all of the performances he’s witnessed by The Boss, but a few have stood out as being a cut above the rest.
There’s no scientific method behind that one — just the backing of a good friend.
“You never know when you’re going to get that over-the-top special. It could be tonight,” Pratt said.
Hopefully said specialness was not seating-dependent.
The ticket lottery was not kind to brothers Steve and Scott Kodish, who were regrouping under the shade of a towering BJC sign.
Originally hoping to be seated in the pit, they had resigned themselves to general admission.
Steve lives in Boston, and Scott in Washington, D.C. They arrived in town Monday morning and spent the day playing golf on the Blue Course.
Both have been Springsteen fans for as long as they can remember.
“We’re just here for a good show and we know that he will deliver,” Steve Kodish said.
A pair of seats under the shade wasn’t a bad way for the brothers to pass the time — but it wasn’t a great one. No, for great, they would have had to head to the parking lot.
Tom Levy, on the other hand, knew exactly what he was doing.
He had backed the family car, trunk first, into a parking space just underneath a blossoming tree.
That made it far easier to unload a folding table, a hefty-looking cooler full of beverages and three subs from Primo’s Hoagies in Philadelphia onto the grass.
If you’re kicking yourself right now don’t. Levy is a Philadelphia Eagles fan and he has had a lot of practice at this game.
“I’m a season ticket holder. I’m used to tailgating,” Tom said.
The benefactors of his experience were his wife, Sue Levy, and his son, Tommy Levy, a junior at Penn State.
It should be stated upfront that Tommy wasn’t too familiar with The Boss — but he had heard good things.
“I heard he’s really good in concert. A lot of my friends told me that,” Tommy said.
Resourceful — or perhaps just ingeniously cruel — Tommy even asked his mother to sing a few bars from one of Springsteen’s more memorable hits. You know… just in case it sparked something. …
Sue is the true Springsteen fan in the family. She is also the reason that the Levys purchased their tickets less than a week ago.
The family had received some good news — that the breast cancer Sue had undergone a lumpectomy for had not spread any further.
She wouldn’t need to undergo chemo.
Sue and her family wouldn’t go so far as to call the evening a celebration, but it’s hard to think of a table full of sandwiches and macaroni salad as anything less.
Still, the night’s main event remained Springsteen.
“I’ve seen him lots and lots of times,” Sue said.
She was hoping that The Boss played some of his older songs — her son has heard good things about them.