In 2012 I attended Bruce’s show at Citizen Bank Ballpark, Philadelphia. I barely listened to the new albums, because some bands are just meant to be experienced live.
From the moment Bruce and his crew pulled up in their vans in the baseball stadium and he speaked his first words, “My people!” I was in awe.
The baseball stadium was full, but it felt like we were in his backyard. Bruce has the ability to make a large crowd feel like close friends. And we all were. In the many concerts I’ve been to, the thing I hate most is the crowds. The people sucking face in front of you, the stupid girls jumping up in the air, the guys who growl unwittingly into the air after too many beers. Usually, a concert is the kind of thing that makes me go into survival mode. But the Bruce Springsteen crowd was full of nice people in all shapes, ages and sizes who just wanted to admire and have fun. He showed us not only a good time, but that he could outlast us all.
The Boss is at retirement age, but he’s built. And stylish. And maybe even better looking than he was in previous decades. He and the band played the first few songs with the stadium lights at full blast, and then the stadium darkened for some of his newer work. While he had a lot of fun singing his old songs—hits like “Hungry Heart” and “Badlands”—it was the newer songs that seemed to pull at him emotionally and represent where he is right now. Then there was his little speech on ghosts, the ones he sees everywhere that remind him of who he was, where he was, what’s missing and what still remains.
Bruce Springsteen is poet and preacher, performer and brooder, colonel and lover. He leads that band through the trenches of an almost four-hour concert and doesn’t seem to need to come up for air. He doesn’t even seem to need a bathroom break.
I was tired from standing for two hours, but I don’t think Bruce Springsteen ever wants to stop playing music.
I’m getting all sentimental and idealistic and romantic. I’m thinking things like, Bruce Sprinsteen is America. Bruce Springsteen is my childhood, he’s where I come from, he’s my people.
His voice—filled with equal measure of strength and ache—brings me right back to sitting in the backseat of my parents’ car when I was seven and they sang along to the story about Crazy Janey and her birthday song.
That’s the thing about music. It cuts right to your soul so that when you hear the familiar strings, you’re weightless and timeless, the very person you were when you first heard it. And the artist who brings that to you is a magic-maker.
Not only does Bruce Springsteen seem to represent the very definition of the American man, but he’s a magician whose art is on the cusp of hubris, managing to step back just in time before going over the edge. “Are you hot? Are you having fun? Are you tired? Are you feeling a little uncomfortable? Well, that’s rock-n-roll, baby!”
We all know the story of Bruce’s eureka moment seeing Elvis at The Ed Sullivan’s show, and I think we all had this electrocution revelation in our lives: someone had it bad, others had it soft, someone had it with Bruce, some with other rock bands or singers. But we all had it.
I had mine in 2012, when due to an elaborate sequence of serendipity and Cabala theosophy I found myself possessor of a Bruce Springsteen ticket, upper level of a stadium. But I was alone. Oh my God, alone? in a stadium? No way, I’m staying home. I’ll put on a cd and listen to his music this way, it’s more or less the same. I was really making a number of convincing myself, I really wasn’t a “concert girl” type. I just had seen some Music Festivals, some Town Festivals, and anyway in a company with a number of people equal and/or superior to a football team. So no way I’m goin’alone. Except it is Bruce Springsteen. Live. So I have a Springsteen ticket for one of his shows and I’m brushing him off like this? Ok, ok, I’m going. Alone.
On the ticket it said: Doors open at 2 pm, so I’m all “At 2 pm I HAVE to be there, or I can lose my place”. I stored my backpack with sandwiches, chocolate, water, energy boosters (potential heatstroke risk), an umbrella (potential rain risk), some fusees (just in case), and off on my way to the stadium. The Security let me enter with a smile, probably thinking of me as a silly girl, it’s 2 pm, I have a numbered seat in the stadium, the show will begin at 8 pm… But I don’t mind, and I smile back at them. On my section there was just me and a lady on the far corner, who was prepared for the afternoon wait with two books. I had in the backpack everything for a stranded stay on a deserted island, but I hadn’t thought of books, or magazines, or even an Ikea catalogue. Nothing. So I spent the remaining SIX hours on the phone, calling people I haven’t spoken to in ages: Oh you get married? You have children? you are divorced??? way to go!!!
I called relatives and old friends and classmates, just like when you are moving in another Country, or leaving for a long journey around the world, and you don’t know when, or even if you’ll be coming back. And if you’ll ever come back, it’s positive that you’ll never be the same.
And, well, in a way that was what happened to me.
The show starts and ends, but that unique post concert feeling just doesn’t fade. We all have been there.
And in the days, and weeks after the concert, inexplicable things begin to occur. Full immersion (bordering on obsessive-compulsive behaviour) on the show bootleg; neurotic locating of other bootlegs, dvds, documentaries, books, and tickets. I need to have other tickets, I really really NEED to see other shows. And if he isn’t touring, or waaay to far for you to be there, you discover that it’s not just Bruce: he is your choice of dope, but anyway the rock’n’roll has hooked you. You want to see other artists, buy other music, live that rock’n’roll feeling till the end. You don’t know exactly how, but you need that music, and you are now a live concert animal. All your income is spent in that drug, if you can’t afford the overnight stay you’ll sleep in a tent, or at the bus station, but you’ll go to that show, one way or another.
In your personal Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the word Concert has replaced Livelihood, a term that has been unarguably at the very base of it for all your 24 years of existence.
And one day you understand it’s not just rock’n’roll. It’s a philosophy, and you don’t choose to embrace it: that flame makes you a prisoner, and it’s a life imprisonment.
So, back to that analogy I made at the beginning, speaking of Bruce when he saw Elvis at The Ed Sullivan’s Show, it’s just to explain that moment in your life when you have the consciousness raising, and for me that moment was Bruce’s show in 2012.
It was like getting ready in your room, one final check in the mirror, then shutting the door and walking out in the sun.