Springsteen in NYC

A few months back, Bruce Springsteen announced that he was doing a limited run of shows on Broadway in NYC in a small theatre - no band, just the man, a guitar and an very intimate show. As Springsteen is probably the last band/artist I have yet to see live, getting tickets to one of these shows was a high priority. As you can imagine, tickets were tough to get, and they put this elaborate process in place to avoid scalpers from just jacking the prices up. So Justine and I put our names into the draw, and neither of us got tickets. Thankfully, he extended the run and on the second go round, Justine managed to score us two tickets! So we were going to NYC in December, just before Christmas. 

As so here we are. And because we never do anything easy, we booked a red eye flight to NYC on Wednesday night. So when the Killers announced that they were playing Vancouver on the Wednesday night we were scheduled to fly to New York, I of course thought it would be a great idea to try and fit in the show before our 11:30 flight. I can see you shaking your heads at the thought, and as it turned out you were right - it was too much.   

In my defence, the show was originally scheduled to start at 7:00, which if they had stuck to the plan would have given us a fighting chance. But they moved the start time to 8:00, and so by the time the opening band did their set, it meant that we only saw about half an hour of the Killers set before we had to head to the airport. Still, that first part of the set was great, making it worthwhile. And we’re going to Las Vegas in February to see them at the MGM Grand, so it’s not like we’ll miss them completely.  

The flight to New York was rough as expected. We flew through Montreal, arriving into Montreal around 7:00 on Thursday morning. I hate red eyes, but we were in business class, so that made it a bit easier and We both slept for a good part of the flight. We had a fairly tight connection in Montreal, but made it and were at Newark airport by 10:00. From there we took the train into the city, and were at the hotel in TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal) by noon. 

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We were a bit early to check in, so we dropped our bags and went for a walk. We wandered TriBeCa for a while, eventually making our way south to the 9-11 Memorial. It’s a moving, beautiful memorial, and definitely worth seeing.

After spending some time there, we headed back towards the hotel, had some lunch, got checked in, had a bit of a nap and then got ready to head out for the evening.   

Super-cool building that is right near the hotel.

We decided, as usual, to head over to the Meatpacking District. That’s probably our favorite part of town. Normally we take the subway up, but as it was a nice night (if a bit cold) we decided to walk. We walk across Canal street, then all the way up Greenwich. It was feeling very much like Christmas, being cold, lots of lights and decorations up - one of the things we had been looking forward to with this trip.  It probably took about half an hour to get up to where we wanted to be. We stopped at our favourite bar and had a couple of drinks (it had changed names again), then wandered over to Chelsea Market. We wandered there for a while, warming up, checking out various stores and having a drink from a local brewery setup in the market.  

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It was starting to get a bit late for having dinner, so we wandered back to Brass Monkey, another favorite, and sat at the bar and had some dinner. It's a very cool spot, with multiple levels and a roof top bar. Normally we go upstairs, but they had a bunch of parties going on so we were stuck on the main floor. Still, they have a decent selection of beer on tap, so we were content.

Not too long after, the Thursday night football game started, and we watched the first half before walking back to the hotel and calling it a night.

It was a good start to the trip. 

Friday we didn’t have much planned, just a dinner reservation at Vandal, a new favorite we discovered last time we were in NYC. But that wasn’t until 8:00, so we had the whole day ahead of us. Justine had also booked a hair appointment at 11:00, so we started the day a bit slowly. We slept in a bit, headed next door to the bodega for breakfast, then wandered down to the place where she was getting her hair done. Along the way, we had a second look at a place we had noticed for sale when we were wandering the previous day. It was a 5 story townhouse, and we were able to look it up online - listed at $34.5 million. At 11,000 square feet, it looked pretty amazing. New York real estate... 

The "townhouse" is the 5 story grey building, including the roof top deck over the brick building.

After Justine’s hair appointment was done, we got organized and headed out for the day. We hopped on the subway and headed up to Union Square. There was a Christmas Market in the park that we wanted to check out. It’s also one of Justine’s favorite shopping destinations, so we did some shopping, wandered the Christmas Market and generally enjoyed the day.  

Once we had our fill of that. We walked a couple blocks north, stopping for some lunch along the way. Across the road from the Flatiron Building is Madison Square Park, and they had setup a big gingerbread house for the holidays. We figured it was worth checking out since we were close by. In the end, it wasn’t that interesting. So we hopped back on the subway, and took the train over to the north end of the Highline. 

The Highline might just be my favorite thing about NYC, and I’ve written about it on every blog about our trips to New York. Still, just to refresh, the Highline is a perk that they created on an old elevated rail line that had been abandoned for decades. It weaves for a few miles along the west side of Manhattan and provides this unique oasis in the city. We started walking up at the north end, near the new Hudson Yards residential development. This is a new series of just massive buildings that they are putting up in the area. The buildings look really cool, but are just huge beyond belief. They’ve made a lot of progress in the year since I was there last.  

We strolled the Highline for about an hour, working our way south towards the Meatpacking District again. We always seem to end up there. We headed back to Chelsea Market, as it was happy hour, and the oyster bar in the market has $1 oysters on. We had a few trays of oysters, a couple of drinks and people watched for a couple of hours.  So yummy!  

One of the many plates of oysters that found their way to our table.

The mascot at Vandal

It was starting to get close to time for dinner, so we walked back to the hotel and got changed.

It was about a 15 minute walk over to the restaurant, making our way through SoHo. Vandal, the restaurant we were headed to is a very cool spot. The food was good (although we ordered too much), the atmosphere was fun and we had a nice night.

After dinner, Justine took me to a bar that she and her friend Katie had found when they were here in June. It turned out to be a bit of a bust, so we left after one drink, and headed to another bar we had seen that was south of the hotel. It was better, but it was also getting late, so we had one drink and called it a night.  

Saturday was the day of the show! After our late night, we slept in quite late, and had a leisurely start to the day. We awoke to a bit of a winter wonderland - well it was snowing anyway, not that it was sticking to the ground at that point, but it was coming down pretty good. 

 The view from our hotel room on Saturday morning. We ended up getting a good 3-4” of snow during the day.  

The view from our hotel room on Saturday morning. We ended up getting a good 3-4” of snow during the day.  

It was a snowy day for sure!

After finding some breakfast, we wandered up and into SoHo, and did some shopping. We basically did the loop from Canal to Houston and back, popping into whichever shops seemed interesting. We each ended up buying some things and then headed back to the hotel to drop off our packages. From there, we hopped back on the subway and headed up to Times Square.

 One of the Christmas tree lots had a really nice display, that was very pretty in the snow.

One of the Christmas tree lots had a really nice display, that was very pretty in the snow.

With the winter weather in full effect, we wanted to check out the classic New York Christmas sights.  As expected, Times Square was a compete gong show, and we didn’t last long in walking through. We headed north up to 50th Street, and then headed over past Radio City Music Hall, to Rockefeller Center to see the skating rink and the Christmas tree. It too was stupidly busy, but you had to expect that on a snowy Saturday in December. It was very festive, and the tree is beautiful. 

From there we walked up a little bit to look at the Cathedral (first time in years it hasn’t been under a tarp being renovated), the windows at Saks 5th Avenue, then down towards the Library and Bryant Park. There is a skating rink and Christmas market setup in Bryant Park this this of year, so we wandered in the snow, checking out the booths, and watching people skate. It was really nice.  

 St. Patrick's Cathedral, the towering Neo-Gothic church from 1879 with twin spires and storied history opposite Rockefeller Center.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, the towering Neo-Gothic church from 1879 with twin spires and storied history opposite Rockefeller Center.

 The window displays at Saks Fith Avenue were drawing big crowds.

The window displays at Saks Fith Avenue were drawing big crowds.

The skating rink at the Christmas Market at Bryant Square Park.

Stalls at the Christmas Market.

It was starting to get a bit late, so we stopped at Shake Shack to grab some lunch. We had started to notice that there were a ton of people dressed up in Santa outfits, so we asked one of the guys in line about it. Seems it was something called “SantaCon” today, an annual pub crawl that’s been going on since 1998, and has had as many as 30,000 participants. It looked like everyone was having a good time. This was close to 4:00, and they started at 10:00, so you can imagine the shape they were in...

After lunch we stopped by Macy’s for a short visit - again it was just too busy and we really didn’t have the energy or interest to deal with the crowds. The windows were nice, and the inside of “The World’s Largest Store” was very festive. But it was getting time for the big show, so we hopped on the subway and headed back to the hotel to get ready.  

We grabbed a glass of wine from the bar, and got set for the night out. We took the subway back up to Times Square and walked the last few blocks over to the theatre.

The tree at the Christmas tree lot near the subway was amazing at night.

We were pretty early, but I was leaving nothing to chance, and wanted to get inside. The theatre is tiny, just over 900 seats, and you go from outside straight into the main theatre, without any real lobby. We were seated in the 5th row of the balcony, and given the size of the theatre, had great seats. 

The outside of the theatre, just before show time!

 The stage set for Springsteen on Broadway.  

The stage set for Springsteen on Broadway.  

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As we were early, I had a chance to check out the theatre (which is beautiful), get us a very expensive drink and check out the merchandise. I don’t normally buy concert shirts, but this was an exception, and I picked up a shirt. Soon the theatre filled up, and it was showtime! And then the man himself walked out, and the magic began. 

The show itself was not a concert per say, as much as a true one man Broadway show. It was a mixture of Bruce talking about his life, interspersed with songs that illuminated the history of his life. It was many things throughout the two-hour performance - funny, poignant, introspective, political, hopeful - but it was a tale of his life, and he is one hell of a story teller. But of course, the way he tells stories is with his music, and we got some amazing versions of his music. The spoken word part of the show illuminated the songs, explaining where they came from at the various stages of his life, and what was going on with him personally. It makes the songs mean so much more. The sound in the theatre was great - and given that this was the man with his guitar, harmonica and a piano, the sound was critical. And then there’s his voice - still strong, still amazing after all this time. There were so many times when I just closed my eyes and took in the sound of it. 

The song list, as expected, spanned his career, with an emphasis on the older music. I got Thunder Road, and he closed with Born to Run, but we also got some great versions of songs like 10th Avenue Freeze Out, Dancing in the Dark, My Hometown, and what might have been my favorite, a unique version of The Promised Land. The most moving of the night was to hear Born in the USA delivered as the protest song it was always intended to be, rather than the over-the-top anthem it got co-opted into being. It was one of the highlights of a night filled with them.

Here’s the full set list:

  1. Growin’ Up
  2. My Hometown
  3. My Father’s House
  4. The Wish
  5. Thunder Road
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Born in the U.S.A.
  8. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  9. Tougher Than the Rest
  10. Brilliant Disguise
  11. Long Walk Home
  12. The Ring
  13. Dancing In the Dark
  14. Land of Hope and Dreams
  15. Born to Run

It was an amazing show, and despite the ridiculous amount of money we paid to come see it, I think it was worth it. Springsteen was such a big part of the music that mattered to me growing up, that hearing those songs in that type of venue, was something I’m not going to forget.  

At the end of an amazing show.

Despite running a bit long, the show eventually had to end. It was an making night, and to wrap it up we headed over to another of our favourite spots, The Three Monkeys. They have a great selection of local craft beer,  and the food is always good. It was a great way to wrap up our night, and it was close to 2:00 by the time we got back to the hotel.  

Sunday morning, as you might expect was a bit of a slow start. We woke up to bright sunshine, which was nice, and I watched the Merseyside derby between Liverpool and Everton, letting Justine sleep in. We had booked brunch at the SoHo Grand Hotel across the street, and headed over there at 11:30 to have brunch. 

 Sunday morning - what a difference a day makes!

Sunday morning - what a difference a day makes!

After brunch (the food was good, the service not-so-much), we  hopped on the subway and took the train north to Central Park. With all the snow, we thought the park would look nice. It was a spectacular day, and the park did look amazing in the sunshine. We didn’t really have any objective in mind, but just wandered the park, going wherever fancy took us.

Interestingly enough, we ended up having a pretty good birding day, seeing lots of interesting birds - red tailed hawks, northern flicker, shovelers, cardinals, downy woodpecker, house finches, buffleheads - not bad for the middle of the big city.

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We ended up wandering for over 3 1/2 hours, only leaving the park as it started to get dark.

 A map of our walk around the park.

A map of our walk around the park.

After leaving the park, we walked down 5th Avenue a ways, past more department stores with their windows done up for Christmas. We stopped into a sports bar to watch some football, have a drink and figure out the rest of our evening. We decided on heading back to Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, first making a stop at a store Justine had looked up that might have some interesting Christmas gifts to take back.  

After doing that bit of shopping, we headed to the Corner Bistro, a small local restaurant we had been told about. Cash only, with a limited menu, they made pretty great burgers and had cheap beer. It was pretty good, and the wait wasn’t too long. 

 Our last dinner on this trip was at a true local dive. 

Our last dinner on this trip was at a true local dive. 

After a leisurely dinner, we walked over to underneath the Highline and had beer and a pretzel and enjoyed the atmosphere at Biergarten. Given that the beer is served in 1L steins, it takes a while to get through just one. After that, we walked back to the hotel following the same path we’d taken the past few days. This time, we actually stopped at a few of the interesting places that we had noted along the way on our previous walks. It gave us some new things to make path of our list of things to do next time we come back.

 One of our stops along the way.

One of our stops along the way.

 Wandering SoHo on our last morning in New York

Wandering SoHo on our last morning in New York

And we certainly will be coming back again soon!