I have a friend who makes fun of me for liking Bruce Springsteen. (You know who you are!) I know what you’re thinking: Why be friends with such an unwashed heathen? Well, because he’s got so many other attributes, I’m willing to let this one defect go. But it’s tough, I won’t deny it.
I think the problem with this particular friend is two-fold: 1. He’s never seen Springsteen live in concert, and 2. His whole experience of Springsteen’s music is the Dancing in the Dark video featuring an adorably young Courtney Cox.
As anyone who’s had the privilege of seeing Bruce and the E Street Band live will tell you, it would be very difficult to not be changed by the experience. You may go in there phlegmatic, but you will come out fanatic – or if not fanatic, at the very least, enthusiastic.
Why? Because not only will you have been treated to three or four hours of loud, raucous rock ‘n roll, enthusiastically sung by however many thousands of people are in attendance, you’ll also have witnessed a group of people who truly love what they are doing, feel privileged to be doing it, and who do it better than pretty much anyone else around.
Don’t believe me? Check out this video of Shackled and Drawn. If you’re pressed for time, skip ahead to 5:25 and witness the pure joy of a group of people loving what they do.
Plus, if you’re the kind of person who appreciates words and the way they can be put together, you’ll quickly realize that I’m absolutely right about Bruce Springsteen being a poet: a poet with a remarkable ability to express himself both succinctly and effectively.
As exhibit 1, I offer this snippet of lyrics from Jesus was an Only Son from the Devils & Dust album:
Now there’s a loss that can never be replaced,
A destination that can never be reached,
A light you’ll never find in another’s face,
A sea whose distance cannot be breached.
Well Jesus kissed his mother’s hands,
Whispered, “Mother, still your tears,
For remember the soul of the universe
Willed a world and it appeared.”
Try and tell me that’s not pure poetry? Or how about this personal favorite, from the Tunnel of Love album and song of the same name:
It ought to be easy, ought to be simple enough:
Man meets woman, and they fall in love.
But the house is haunted and the ride gets rough,
You’ve got to learn to live with what you can’t rise above.
Come on! Poetry, pure and simple. Poetry for the People.
In addition to his incredible facility with the English language, you have to admire the camaraderie of the band. You’ve got Bruce, and then you’ve got Steve van Zandt, who may be one of the coolest people on the planet. You loved him in the Sopranos, right?
Then there’s Roy Bittan on keyboards, Garry Tallent on bass, Nils Lofgren on guitar and Max Weinberg, the drummer.
The E Street Band lost two of its members in recent years – Danny Federici (listen to him on the opening of Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) and fall in love)
and the Big Man, the one and only Clarence Clemons.
After Clarence died, the band did an amazing thing: every time they played Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out in concert, and got to the line “The change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band,” they came to a full stop. No music, no singing, no motion – a full stop onstage…followed by the sound of 50,000 people losing their collective shit. I had goosebumps that wouldn’t go away.
Alright, alright… I hear you protesting. You don’t care about the way they honored Clarence, no matter how cool it was. And you’re not a words person, and you don’t care about the band and how they’ve hung together, and you don’t care about the fans….you don’t care about any of that, ’cause you just wanna rock.
I got you, friend. And I’m gonna need you to tap the volume button on your computer all the way up, click on the following video, and prepare to have your face blown off. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with TOM MORELLO (in ALL CAPS because he’s THAT GOOD) from Rage Against the Machine doing one of the greatest social justice songs ever written, a lyrical homage to John Steinbeck’s American Classic The Grapes of Wrath, at Madison Square Garden: The Ghost of Tom Joad.
If you’re too busy, or too unconvinced, to listen to the entire 9 minute song, move the cursor forward to 6:48, and watch and hear Tom Morello just shred the living hell out of his guitar.
You’re welcome. And I forgive you for doubting.