Bruce Springsteen saved me.
Hell of an intro, huh? And you thought you were just getting a concert review.
I don’t mean literally a la Ryan Gosling, though I like to think that if Springsteen saw a car hurtling toward me that he’d pull me out of the way or at least write one hell of a song about it if he didn’t.
I’ve liked “The Boss” since I was a little girl. I was around eight years old when Born in the U.S.A. was released and became a phenomenon. I’m not sure what spoke to me about that album; there is no debating that it is a phenomenal collection of songs, but the subject matter of a lot of them doesn’t really make you immediately think that a kid would enjoy them. And honestly, I didn’t really get it like I do now. My favorite single was “Glory Days,” but my young self couldn’t comprehend that this is a story about nostalgia and feeling like the best days of your life already happened. It sounds like an uplifting, catchy song and at the time that is what I liked about it. And even at eight, I could appreciate a man in a nice fitting pair of jeans.
I didn’t consider myself a Springsteen devotee, but I continued to quietly follow him and buy his music. I don’t know that most people even knew that I liked Springsteen other than my parents, as I usually asked for his cds for Christmas. I was excited when Little Steven got a role on The Sopranos as Silvio and it always made me smile when Max Weinberg was drumming away on Late Nate with Conan O’Brien. Springsteen’s album The Rising provided me comfort in the wake of 9/11.
Flash forward to three years ago. I was going through a really tough time. My personal life was in shambles and I was in a pretty sad place. I had just shut down emotionally and was going through the motions, but inside I was shattered. I was, in a word, a mess. I don’t know if even my closest friends knew the true depths of how upset I was, as I didn’t go through my usual process up crying and ranting and raving and talking through my feelings. I was just numb.
In the middle of all this, I had tickets to see Springsteen for the first time in concert. I considered not going, as I wasn’t really sure I was in the mood for it, but I decided that since I had already spent the money and had liked him for so long that I should go ahead and go. I was hoping it might at least take my mind of things for a little while. I found my seat and waited for the show to start so I could finally see Springsteen and the E Street Band in action. The arena darkened, people were screaming “BRUUUUUCCCCCEEEE” and the opening chords of “Badlands” began. And a funny thing happened.
I started to cry.
At first I panicked. Oh no, I thought, this was a mistake. I wasn’t ready for this. I finally break down and I decide to do it in front of 20,000 people.
And then I realized I was crying because I was happy.
These were not tears of sorrow. I was experiencing something that in my miserable haze I foolishly thought I wouldn’t feel again – joy. I was lost in the moment and music and the excitement and for the first time in weeks the smile on my face was genuine and not manufactured.
And when Springsteen sang “you spend your life waiting for a moment that just won’t come/well don’t waste your time waiting” I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Those lyrics just resonated with me and my situation. I knew I would get through this sadness and that I would be just fine. I gave into my bliss for the rest of the concert and when I walked out, I felt better. Not 100%, mind you, but I was on the road to getting my groove back.
And for that I will forever be thankful to Mr. Springsteen.
Ever since that first show, I’ve gone to see The Boss whenever he comes to town. And every time, he has started with “Badlands.” And even three years later, I still tear up when I hear the song live as I remember that first time and how it helped me through that rough patch. It reminds me how strong I am and how far I have come.
The show last night was fantastic as usual. That man knows how to rock. He played for almost 3 hours straight and his energy level was amazing. I hope I have half his vitality when I am 62 years old. The man was crowd surfing – I wouldn’t have done that when I was 20! The relationship he has with the E Street Band is really something special to watch. Unfortunately, his wife Patti Scialfa was not at this show. I’ve never actually seen her perform with the band; Bruce always explains that she is home keeping the kids in line.
Also missing from the band this year was Clarence Clemons, the E Street Band saxophonist, who passed away last June. It was sad to not see the “Big Man” on the stage, but his memory was ably kept alive by his nephew who is now playing with the band. There was a beautiful tribute to Clarence in the encore – during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Bruce paused after singing the line “And the big man joined the band” and a photographic tribute to Clarence played on the screen. Since I had already cried at the beginning of the show, it seemed only fitting to shed a few tears as I was leaving.
Bruce clearly loves his fans as much as they love him and on several occasions he pulled people up on stage to dance with him (I wish!) or to sing part of “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” On more than one occasion he ventured out into the crowd and he made sure to give special attention to the poor souls who had seats behind the stage. Though he didn’t do it as much at this show as he has in the past, he takes requests from the audience. Fans that are in the know will make posters for the songs that they want to hear and he will select some. He only did that for one song last night when he played “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart,” a song that I was not familiar with and that he rarely plays in concert. It was beautiful – just Bruce on stage alone with his guitar. It was one of my favorite moments of the evening.
Springsteen knows how to banter with the crowd and he did a hilarious riff on the now defunct local hockey affiliate, the Albany River Rats, and what a great name it was. His statement “Albany River Rats? That sounds like it could be the title of a Springsteen song” was greeted with much applause.
Bruce also said his goal was to make the audience wake up in the next morning sore and wondering “what the f$#k did I do last night?” Mission accomplished; I apparently cannot rock out like I used to as this morning I was stiff and achy when I woke up. But if that is the price to pay for an amazing concert experience, I’m willing to pay it.
Set list – Albany Times Union Center, April 16 2012
We Take Care of Our Own
Out in the Street
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Jack of All Trades
Shacked and Drawn
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Apollo Medley – The Way You Do the Thing You Do cover
Janey Don’t You Lose Heart
We Are Alive
Land of Hope and Dreams
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out