Fans outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum leaped to their feet and cheered Friday as Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band took the stage shortly after 3 p.m.--for a sound check.
Although the fans could not see the musicians, they could hear Springsteen’s voice on the old Edwin Starr hit, “War,” and that was enough, for the moment.
“I’ve been waiting years to see him,” said Rik Middleton, 27, of Palmdale. “I’ve either been away in the service when Bruce came through town or couldn’t get tickets. I don’t believe in paying $300 to scalpers. But I’ve got good seats tonight . . . on the 10-yard line. Can you believe it?”
Middleton was one of about 5,000 early birds waiting for the gates to open for the first show in a four-performance Coliseum engagement ending a record-shattering 15-month Springsteen tour. The New Jersey-born rock performer will have been seen by an estimated 5 million people on this tour by Wednesday night. (Other shows are Sunday and Monday). The tour box office gross will be almost $90 million.
In Los Angeles alone, Springsteen is expected to be seen by 332,000 people this trip. When added to the 110,000 seats sold for his seven Los Angeles Sports Arena shows last winter, Springsteen will have played before 442,000 here in the last 10 months.
The previous Coliseum high for a single tour was 186,624, attracted by the Rolling Stones for two shows in October, 1981, Coliseum General Manager Jim Hardy said. The Jacksons’ six concerts, drawing 295,000 last December at Dodger Stadium, set the previous Southern California record for most tickets sold on a single tour.
Springsteen’s appeal is based on a combination of his music--a mix of the festive energy of Elvis Presley’s early works and the social commentary of prime Bob Dylan--as well as an image that has never lost track of his blue-collar roots. In an age when so many affluent rock stars seem out of touch with their audiences, Springsteen--for all his success--still comes across as one of the guys.
“He’s the kind of guy who makes you feel that if you were stranded after the concert, he’d take you home in his pickup truck,” said Stuart Levine, 21, Canoga Park.
Among the early arrivals Friday was Doris Bloch, executive director of Community Food Resources, an organization that distributes more than 1.5 million pounds of food a month to approximately 275 charitable agencies and other food banks in Southern California. The organization was to be saluted by Springsteen at the concert.
In the past year, Springsteen has urged his audiences to live up to the responsibilities of citizenship and has pointed specifically to supporting food banks. He has personally given more than $1 million to such groups during that time.
“The response around the country to Bruce’s endorsements has been phenomenal,” Bloch said. “We’ve had fans call up after the concerts in each city offering to volunteer. We’ve all been so busy . . . that we haven’t had the time to conduct a public relations campaign. But Bruce has drawn attention to what is needed to help solve the problem of hunger in America.”
Bloch also represented four other local agencies: the Long Beach Food Bank, the Food Distribution Center of Orange County, the Community Food Bank of San Diego and the Survive Food Bank of Riverside.