Last night, Wilson and I and some friends went to see Bruce Springsteen play at The Rock/Prudential Center in Newark. Few things make me as happy as seeing Bruce live. As I went about my day yesterday–writing and shuttling kids around– I had butterflies and a perma-grin every time I thought about going to the concert.
I’ve been a Boss fan since the first time I listened to “Thunder Road. ” It was a cassette of the album in my friend Andy Florsheim’s new blue Sony Walkman (remember that first Walkman with the big fuzzy orange headphone pads?) circa 1980. I was in seventh grade and it was the first music I remember listening to that I had discovered on my own, without parental influence. I’ve been devoted to his music ever since, and have probably seen him more than 15 times in concert.
My first show was in 1985 on the “Born in the USA” tour where I had a general admission standing spot on the floor at Soldier Field in Chicago. I was 17 and some random drunk guy put me up on his shoulders during “Born to Run” and I thought I would burst from the adrenalin rush. All my Bruce concert experiences since have been similar to a rollercoaster: a thrilling, screaming ride.
There’s something about his music that stirs memories and makes me feel young and somehow invincible. The stadium is packed, everyone’s belting out the words and dancing, while remembering different moments in their lives when Bruce’s music provided comfort and joy. When you have that many people in one space putting out positive energy, it’s an electrifying high.
His latest album, “Wrecking Ball” is about the sad state of our country when it comes to taking care of the poor and middle class, many of whom have lost jobs and homes in recent years, while the rich keep getting richer. I love that Bruce makes me think about the bigger picture by singing from his heart about things that matter. The music would be enough, but he takes it to another level with his powerful message of understanding, redemption, hope and peace.
He plays preacher in the church of Rock and Roll and gets his faithful followers up on their feet as he bangs his guitar and shakes that famous denimed ass. The guy is 62 and runs around on stage like a teenager for three hours, night after night. That alone is worth the ticket price.
Highlights for me at last night’s show were opening with “No Surrender,” hearing “Candy’s Room” into “She’s the One” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” He picked a sign out of the audience asking for a song by Levon Helm of The Band, to honor his death last month. Bruce reflected on Helm’s talent before playing a great version of “The Weight.” (For the full set list look here )
The encore didn’t disappoint, starting with “Born to Run” into “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Rosalita.” They closed the show with a long and crazy “10th Avenue Freeze Out,” which paid homage to Big Man Clarence Clemons, who died almost a year ago. Clarence’s nephew, Jake Clemons, has joined the E Street Band and held his own on sax and stage presence.
I wore my “Born in the USA” concert shirt from 1985 proudly last night. Bruce and the band will be back in the swamps of Jersey in September. I don’t have tickets yet but I know if I show a little faith, there’ll be magic in the night.
After last night, I’ve got to be there for the next show, with my 27-year-old t-shirt and my dancing shoes…. feeling like I’m 17 again.