It was May 10, 1988. My across-the-street friend Mary and I were headed to the Met Center, before Ikea and the Mall of America dominated that supersized patch of Bloomington real estate. We were going, thanks to Mary’s older sister and her boyfriend, to see Bruce Springsteen perform.
I was in eighth grade and psyched when Mary asked me. Sure, I liked Springsteen. Who didn’t? He was no Simon Le Bon or Madonna, but he was the Boss. Yeah, of course I’d go! I might not be able to sing along to all the songs, but I knew “Born in the USA” and “Dancing in the Dark,” duh!
We parked in the sprawling lot of the hockey arena and made our way inside to find our seats. I wasn’t picky, being days shy of 14 and new to the whole live-concert scene, but our climb past rows and rows of seats seemed to be nearly endless as we followed the older teenagers. Finally we reached our row, the second to last in the entire arena. Mary and I made a face at each other before begging her sister to let us go buy souvenirs. She reluctantly agreed.
We headed down to the food and merchandise level and were about to leave the seating area when a man stopped us. “Are you two sitting up there?” he asked. Fighting off our stranger-danger alarms, we told him that yes, we had just managed to stop our nosebleeds.
“How would you like to sit in the front row?”
We stared at him, dumbfounded. “Huh?”
“Bruce saves a few tickets at every concert for some of his biggest fans, and I’m wondering if you’d like them?”
“Um, yes!” I stammered. “That would be so awesome!”
“OK, here you go, have fun!” he said. And then he walked away.
We looked at the tickets, and sure enough, they were for Row 1. That’s when the screaming began. And the jumping up and down.
We headed back up to Mary’s sister. We knew it wasn’t fair. We knew they rightly should go to her since she was the one who got the tickets and was older and a bigger Springsteen fan. It’s all a little hazy: Did we try to give them to her? Did we flaunt them in her face? Did we offer to switch seats? I honestly don’t know. But I do know that soon we found ourselves in the front row of the Met Center, and when Bruce began to play, he played to us.
We jumped around, we screamed, we sang along whenever we could and we stopped just short of pinching ourselves or thinking of Mary’s sister in the farthest reaches of the arena.
When Bruce played “Dancing in the Dark,” he pulled a woman on stage and danced with her, just like he did in the video with Courteney Cox. He rocked along with the E Street Band and shimmied with future wife Patti Scialfa.
Finally, with our ears unable to process anything below a very high decibel, we clapped along with the crowd of 15,000 as Bruce came out for his encore. A man on stage walked to the edge and reached out to the crowd. Without thinking — and I can see it all now in slow motion — I catapulted myself forward and grabbed his hand. He pulled, and then I was up there. I, Sarah Wyatt, was on stage with Bruce Springsteen. I was 13. My moves were terrible, but I knew the song: “Twist and Shout.” And I did. I twisted. I shouted. And again, without giving it much thought, I went up and hugged Bruce. He gave me a big, sweaty hug back.
There were about a dozen fans up there that night, including me and Mary. Eventually, we were helped back down to the floor and the lights rose in the arena. I remember Mary’s sister being pretty gracious about the whole thing.
We drove home to Edina and I went up to my parents’ bedroom to wish them good night.
“MOM!” I screamed. She sat up in bed. “What?! Why are you screaming?”
“What? Can you speak up?” I shouted.
“Be quiet, you’ll wake up your brothers!”
“Oh, sorry,” I replied. “We got to sit in the front row! We got pulled up on stage! I got to hug Bruce Springsteen!”
“Are you kidding?” she replied, looking understandably doubtful as I was known for telling the occasional tall tale to show how gullible everyone else was.
“No!” I said. “Look at the ticket stub.”
It was proof enough. My parents laughed, I laughed and then I went to bed with my ears ringing, my heart pounding and my mind racing with the glory that was sure to head my way at Southview Junior High the next day.
Sarah Wyatt Elbert is the executive editor of Delta Sky magazine, published by MSP Communications, and has previously worked for National Geographic, the New York Times and the Associated Press. She asks that anyone who was at that concert and got a picture during the encore to please send her a copy. She would be eternally grateful. Reach her at email@example.com.
ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes is a digital section featuring first-person essays about life in the North Star State. We publish narratives about love, family, work, community and culture in Minnesota.