If it would ever become possible for me to buy a Delorean and Dr Emmett Brown’s tuning kit, I know exactly were I would land. Actually, it would be a hard competition between two moments: Passaic Capitol Theatre 21st September 1978, and Winterland Show in San Francisco, 15th December 1978. And if fate would be cruel enough not to let me live the entire show, I’d choose the end of the first set, when the Professor’s piano begins a solo round, and then Bruce enters to sing
I got a sixty-nine Chevy with a 396 Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor
She’s waiting tonight down in the parking lot Outside the Seven-Eleven store
And they proceed together, just the two of them, until Bruce stops telling how Sonny and him had rebuilt the Chevy, to spend the summer traveling the Jersey shore with no ties and reservations, just racing, and starts with the harmonica.
Here enters the Mighty Max, oddly quite tame, and little by little the music increases, the volume and the rythm grow up, untile the manifesto declaration
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece Some guys come home from work and wash up And go racin’ in the street
The music turns off, and Bruce gets back to the storytelling with just Roy keeping track: how he won a race, and with the race the heart of the girl too, and how their story changed. But he doesn’t give up, he tries a last race:
For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels
Rumbling through this promised land
Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea,
And wash these sins off our hands
The song doesn’t have a finale, just two red tail lamps disappearing in the summer night, an harmonica piercing sound, the E Street slowly regains possession of the stage with one of the most moving closures of all rock’n’roll history. Danny pounds on the organ accordion, the bass pumps, Roy embroids the piano notes, even the Big Man has a say with a little castanets blow.
The music slows, the escape is maybe at an end… but not, this is not how it must be done.
Roy keeps on playing, a slightly different solo, and Bruce starts telling of a bike ride he took with Stevie, traveling the desert towards Reno. And in the desert he saw this big Geronimo portrait sign, and the sign had some written words below, and those words were:
This is a land of peace, love, justice and no mercy
And on the road sign was written Thunder Road.
Because, you know, how in the world can you start speaking of Bruce Springsteen’s songs and not mention Thunder road?