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"I remember you, my friend..." - MARY CLIMBS IN co-author Donna Luff reflects on the Albany, NY show

Updated: May 2


Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission

April 21, 2024


EDITOR'S NOTE: We are pleased and honored to feature this moving essay by Donna Luff on last week's Albany, NY show. Donna is the co-author of Mary Climbs In: The Journeys of Bruce Springsteen's Women Fans, an important book on which we've previously reported here. Her essay below is accompanied by Dan Reiner's beautiful concert photography.


“We've known each other ever since we were sixteen.” In Albany, NY last Monday night, those words from “Bobby Jean” felt personal.


It was "third time’s the charm" for the Albany show. The original date was scheduled for March 2023. Then the illness-related postponement came too late for me to change plans, so my oldest friend - who had driven down from her home in Toronto - and I spent two days in a snowy and mostly closed Albany, making the best of it. The rescheduled September 2023 show also ended up getting postponed due to Bruce's peptic ulcer disease, so our nerves ran high as we made our trek back to Albany on April 15th. We walked into the MVP Arena elated, only to discover that our Ticketmaster codes wouldn’t scan. After long, nerve-racking minutes in the box-office, we emerged with old-fashioned paper tickets and slowly reducing heartbeats. (PSA: We were not alone in the box-office; anyone attending other rescheduled shows should check your tickets early!)


Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission

The high emotions presaged the show that followed. Bruce looked visibly better than when I saw him last at Gillette Stadium in August 2023, just before his peptic ulcer disease was revealed, and the crowd was overjoyed to finally see him and the E Street Band. As Bruce put it in his parting words, we were “fucking fantastic.”


The setlist was looser than the 2023 shows. The opening double-header of “Candy’s Room” into “Adam Raised a Cain,” both tour debuts, suggested a treat was on the way. Though there were no rarities, and only one further debut (“Downbound Train,”) the set drew from many of his major albums across the decades, while remaining centered in Letter to You and the thematic, emotional anchor of “Last Man Standing.” Highlights for me included a haunting “Racing in the Street” and joyous, soulful “Spirit In The Night.” And any show that features “Atlantic City,” here a blistering, rocking rendition, is alright with me.


Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission
Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission

Clearly feeding off the energy in the arena, Bruce laughed a lot, both with his bandmates and the crowd, pointing, waving, and mouthing messages to familiar faces (I’m sure I saw him say “text me, text me” to someone he recognized.) Gone was the stylized chest-baring of prior shows on this tour, which I was glad about; back was Bruce roaming the pit perimeter, shaking outstretched hands, and singing “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” from the floor riser, which delighted me even more. The show felt like a reflective and life-affirming reunion among friends.


Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission
Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission
Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission
Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission

At least that’s how it was for me. Before the show, my friend and I had reminisced about our first show together - almost 43 years ago, in June 1981, in Birmingham UK - marveling at the length of our fandom. She asked me again about that first time I heard “Hungry Heart” on the radio, in the backseat of my father’s car when I was sixteen, a story she knows well. But she wanted details we haven’t talked about for a long time, which led to more reminiscing about our childhood on another continent.


In Albany, as Bruce launched into “Hungry Heart,” I teared up. This does not usually happen. It is not that kind of song, and I have seen him perform it countless times since 1981. That night, however, I was awestruck anew about the impact that song had on me, how it had changed my life. I thought of all the roads that followed from my first hearing that three-minute record, the latest of which was writing a book about the journeys of women fans to understand how, why, and how far we have traveled with Springsteen’s music as our companion. As I joined the rest of the audience in singing the opening verse of “Hungry Heart” to Bruce, I was touched by the profound mysteries of life: that, decades from our first show when we were sixteen, my childhood best friend and I were standing together in Albany, both of us now living in the Americas, thousands of miles from where we grew up.


She and I were still there with our “friend” Bruce. The moment felt spiritual. Or like magic in the night.


Albany, NY - April 15, 2024 - photo by and © Dan Reiner - used w/ permission

And coming soon... an essay from Donna's Mary Climbs In... co-author Lorraine Mangione, who also attended last week's Albany and Syracuse, NY shows, accompanied by more of Dan Reiner's photography. UPDATE (May 2, 2024:) Click here to read Lorraine's essay.

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