Bruce Springsteen is America

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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!”

All the night, all night

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When I got out from beginner-zone listening, then it was the moment of Spirit in the night. At first I thought it a strange song, not so epic nor praising love and redemption, not sad, not bitter… it was different. And at my second show there was Bruce talking about the miles the mighty E Street band had traveled, just to have an answer…and the question was…the question was…CAN YOU FEEL THE SPIRIT? CAN YOU FEEL THE SPIRIT NOW?

And in that moment with the E Street in town to bring both the good and the sad news, for the first time I felt the spirit.

That song for me is magic, with its surreal atmosphere: the lake, the spirits, the night, the gypsy angels. It brings you into a world slightly hippie, half Midsummer night’s dream half summer night somewhere in New Jersey. I find that magic in every concert, and I think that after the show you bring with you a little piece of the Spirit, and if you’re lucky enough it stays with you in your daily life. And sometimes when you sing it (because it’s impossible NOT to sing it!) you think again to the shows, to Bruce’s voice whispering how he danced all night with Crazy Janey, and all the impossible things in life that sometimes come true. That’s the magic of Spirit in the night.