Fed and watered we made our way to San Siro football stadium, the cathedral of Italian football and home of Inter and AC Milan. The stadium’s real name is Stadio Giuseppe Meazza but I always know it as San Siro. We had looked at our map of Milan and decided to walk to the stadium from the Lotto Metro. We reckoned it would take about 30 minutes. We could see a trail of other people walking, all wearing T shirts with the Boss emblazoned on the front, some wore US bandanas and flags wrapped around their waists bearing the colours of Italy and USA. The atmosphere was alive and there was a real buzz out on the street. Before we reached the stadium I wanted to look out for Leonardo Da Vinci’s bronze horse statue which is at the entrance of the Piazzale dello Sport or otherwise known as the hippodrome.
We knew it was very early to arrive at the stadium at 4pm as the concert didn’t start until 8pm but I wanted to see all the fans arrive one by one and soak up the images and noise from the fans. When we reached the hippodrome I sneaked up to the entrance where there was a locked gate but I could see the massive sculpture. My husband was fascinated at the size and he had no idea that Leonardo had sculptured the horse. It sure was a beauty. Crossing over the road I saw the outline of the most famous football ground in the world. I was excited and kept doing a little jump.
Walking into the grounds of the stadium was easy enough. There were security guards and police walking around but they seemed laid back enough. Stalls were set up selling Springsteen merchandise which was an array of colour; there were food stalls stacked high with Italian breads, cheeses, fresh cooked meats, olives, cakes, it all looked very tempting but we had just eaten so declined. In one corner I could hear Bruce singing, ‘Working on a Dream’ the sound was coming from a juke box in a bar that had been set up for fans to quench their thirst before entering the stadium. I did think about a beer but thought better of it, I was eager to get into the stadium to find our seats plus I didn’t want to be queuing to go to the loo all through the concert.
Arriving at our gate, 1 Anello Verde, we were greeted with a welcome, 'Hello' in Italian and a big smile and shown through the barrier. That’s all there was to it. We were in the stadium and it was a great feeling. I ran up the stairs, I couldn’t wait to get to the top of so I could take in the view of the stage and the whole seating plan. It was amazing, the roof was open and the sunlight streamed through on to the hundreds of people who were sat in the pit relaxing, waiting for the Boss to arrive with his bunch of Merry Men. The rest of the seats were empty but I knew that in 4 hours’ time the arena would be bursting with energy and there would be a sea of waving hands.
It took a short time for us to find our exact seats as the numbering sequence wasn’t so easy to work out because you have to look at the seating plan from the bottom of the section to work out the sequence.
We made ourselves comfortable and watched people arrive. Sometimes there would be a movement on stage, a technician, fiddling with a guitar or covering the piano up with tin foil to stop the sun affecting the tuning. Whenever this happened folks in the pit went crazy, thinking the band were on stage and started running over to where the movement was. It was always a false alarm and the crowd returned quietly to their sunbathing spots. It was a lovely atmosphere, people seemed happy, sellers of popcorn and candyfloss were jumping over seats to sell their wares. It was a bit like a carnival with balloons floating around, music drifting from the PA system and Italian and American flags flying high.
Time didn’t seem to drag at all; every hour that passed the canvas filled up with more bodies, reminding me of L.S. Lowry’s paintings where there are always hundreds of small people involved whether they are stood still, walking, or talking. At the back of the pit there were beer stalls which as you can imagine were well attended, to the side of the pit were portable toilets and the queues for these were never ending. Our bar was situated outside the seating area and no matter how hot I felt I was determined not to have a drink. I had a pint of beer at the last Springsteen concert I went to in the UK, had to go to the loo and by the time I had walked back up the steps I had missed the Boss singing, 'Jack of all Trades', one of my favourite songs off the new album, 'Wrecking Ball.'
The stage looked magnificent as did the rigging in the centre of the pit for the lighting. It takes five articulated lorries to transport the stage equipment around and God knows how long it takes for them to erect it but it looked fantastic and the time was approaching for the lighting technician to climb up to the top of the rigging to take the covers off the lights. I always get nervous and very excited when this happens because it is a signal that the moment when the band comes on stage is not long away.
Fifteen minutes before the concert is due to start there is movement in the pit, the hard core fans are getting restless, they start waving and singing Bruce songs. Shivers trickle down my spine and my heart misses a beat. 8pm arrives, Italian flags form moving waves of red, green and white. The Boss is here – he is under the stage with the band but there seems to be a problem with the sound. Instructions flit from one technician to another, Bruce’s head peeps out to see what the problem is, He is given the nod and then his head disappears.
Fifteen minutes later, emotional strings of the song, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West' can be heard from the PA system. It’s an Enio Morricane spaghetti western theme tune and one that Bruce is fond of. The band is now on stage and Bruce Springsteen, in front of 60,000 fans, looks up at the red and white ocean in front of him that reads, ‘OUR LOVE IS REAL.’ For once in his life, il Boss is lost for words. You can see the emotion in his face, he smiles, composes himself and then rich Italian words flow from his lips, ‘Itaaalia, Milaaano, San Siiiro.’ Italian is one of the world’s most romantic languages and our Bruce speaks it beautifully, rolling his ‘Rs’ like a true native. He may have been born in New Jersey, USA but his family are from Napoli. Suddenly, we hear the chords of ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ and then the next song quickly follows, ‘My Love will Not Let You Down’. My husband has tears in his eyes and as I turn around and turn to my right I see other men sobbing.
One special moment was when he informed us beautifully in Italian that he was going to perform the whole of the Born in the USA album to honour his first time in Italy and his first concert at San Siro in 1985. Other extraordinary highlights were the intense version of ‘The River’ and the solo performance of ‘Thunder Road’, with just his acoustic guitar. It was the last song of the set, the band had left and Bruce wanted an intimate moment with a crowd he has always adored. With his hand on his heart; he told us that San Siro will always be close to his heart. I stood there clapping, shouting for more, feeling exhilarated, exhausted, and not wanting him to leave the stage. My husband put his arm around me and whispered, ‘He’s gone.’ I couldn’t believe it; I didn’t want to believe it. People started to move out but I wanted to stay and look at the film showing on the big screen of all the past five San Siro concerts. The Boss felt our emotions, saw our faces and gave us what we wanted; a concert of a life time featuring 34 songs covering 210 minutes performed with energy, passion and love. We couldn’t ask for more and nor could he.
As the E Street band left the stage, on the big screen my husband lip-read Bruce saying to his side-kick Little Stevie, ‘that was incredible,’ and indeed, it truly was.