Jeff Deminski: The deeply human side of Bruce Springsteen
Everyone's asking me, "How was the show?"
Monday night's blizzard make-up concert by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band was nothing short of amazing. I could pretend to be a knowledgeable music critic and dissect the set list, talk about the slightly bluesier version they did of "Ramrod," the unbelievable power of "Jungleland" that almost felt like it could summon Clarence any second, etc ...
The music is always great. Bruce Springsteen live is a life force. Some say it's like their version of going to church for spiritual renewal. In fact, in introducing "The River" Monday night, Bruce gave a history of it in which he said he wanted to create a studio album that would somehow give the listener some of that magic of a live show.
He also said it was his coming-of-age album, and that's what I want to talk about: Bruce Springsteen as not only a living legend, but as a human being. He spoke wistfully of how everything that came before "The River" was for a young man. This was his project to start capturing deeper meaning, deeper themes. Boy did he!
He introduced "Independence Day" saying it was one of his first songs about a father and son, and about growing up and realizing your parents aren't perfect and that they're just human beings.
Human beings. 20,000 of them. We soaked up every beautiful word. As well as all of Bruce's very human moments. Here are some of my favorites:
When Bruce goes into the crowd and trusts his fans enough to crowd surf back to the stage. This always impresses me. A guy so famous, it would be easy to imagine his security people begging him every tour not to do this. "All it takes is one lone nut," etc ...
When Bruce goes into the crowd another time and is seen on the big screen singing to a fan who brought two little boys — possibly to their first concert, ever. Bruce reaches into a pocket and pulls out two pieces of either candy or gum and hands them to the kids, prepared for a moment like this.
When Bruce's 90-year-old mother shows up on the big screen, dancing in an aisle. The crowd goes nuts as she's shaking it best she can with all those years under her belt. Then Bruce announces it's his mother and leaves the stage to go join her. He shouts something in her ear, which we soon realize were instructions to bend over with him. The crowd is treated to a shot on the big screen of The Boss and his mom doing some close-up booty shaking.
When Bruce speaks of making choices in life, and picking the people you want to stick with, the responsibilities and consequences of your relationships. Then, in a moment I'd never seen Bruce Springsteen talk about before, he speaks of how there's that point in life you realize time will run out on you, and that all you hope for is to do something good before it does. Bruce speaking of mortality was one of the most intimate things I've seen a performer do. Perhaps it wasn't only the words, but the feeling behind them. The sincerity. Which is exactly how he performs his music.
So how was the show?
Yeah, it was great.