Now I get it.
Now I understand why so many of my friends who are Bruce Springsteen fans take fanaticism to a whole new level. Now I see why it’s blasphemous to even refer to The Boss as “good.” Now I know why people take every opportunity possible, and then some, to see Bruce and the E Street Band in concert. Now it all makes sense.
Before Friday, I would have considered myself a solidly big Bruce Springsteen fan. I knew most of the hits fairly well. I liked a couple of the albums. I admired the longevity of his shows. But I just didn’t get the people who adored Springsteen in their zealous, over-the-top insanity. Yeah, Bruce is great, I thought, but there are plenty of artists I’d rather listen to.
Boy, was I wrong.
Over the course of approximately three hours and 10 minutes, I changed for the better on Friday night. I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert for the first time, and I left with a deeper understanding of the musical talent and sheer force of The Boss and his outstanding backing band. I have been converted to a Springsteen disciple, and I couldn’t be happier.
There’s been a moment for most of my favorite bands or artists where, out of thin air, I’ve been turned into a giant aficionado. (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory was an album randomly sitting on my iPod, that I had borrowed from a neighbor, until one day, sitting in my room, I decided to take a listen. I don’t remember if that was an accidental moment or a calculated one, but approximately 40 minutes later, my Oasis obsession began.
On a run one day past the hedges in front of a house on the corner of Harvard Avenue and Pine Street, right near my house, with my iPod playing the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, it hit me. It was right around the epic coda of na-na-na-nas when it hit me – this is one of the greatest songs of all time. And now, here I am, a collector of any Beatles item I can get my hands on.
For Bruce, that moment actually didn’t come on Friday night, though it laid all the groundwork. That moment came on Saturday morning, during a five-and-a-half-hour drive up to Hobart College in Geneva for a TV college football game. It came after approximately 80 minutes of sleep, thanks to a 28-song set list from Springsteen the night before. I should have been beyond exhausted, and I was. But as I belted out lyric after lyric to Bruce tunes, both ones from Friday’s set list and otherwise, I realized that there was nothing else I wanted to listen to at the time. It was as if his music had taken on a whole new light. Songs that were sitting on my iPod that I had never actually listened to became instant classics. Tunes that I had previously liked became easy five-star compositions. It was an eye-opening musical experience.
The seeds of this budding Springsteen obsession were placed in the ground earlier in the week. I tend to prepare for concerts as if they’re tests, claiming I’ll do my research well in advance before cramming in all my “studying” at the last possible minute. In this case, studying means memorizing as many lyrics as I can, so I’m not standing idly by during the performance. I’d never undertaken something like this before for Bruce, and let’s be honest – his singing isn’t the easiest to understand. It’s Eddie Vedder-esque at times. (I never could have figured out what the lyrics to “She’s The One” were without looking them up, and it’s become one of my absolute favorite Springsteen songs.) But once I actually studied the lyrics of many great Bruce tunes, and realized the magnificent storytelling of his songs, it opened my eyes to a whole new level of The Boss that I had never seen.
With that knowledge in hand, I headed to the Meadowlands on Friday night for one of the best shows I’ll ever see. Everything you’ve heard about Springsteen live was present here – ripping through one song only to go right to another, running through the crowd, bringing kids on stage, letting the audience take some choruses, smiling just about the whole damn time. There were quiet, powerful moments, such as when Bruce dedicated “My City of Ruins” to our ghosts and when Springsteen and the band went through an epic rendition of “Lost In the Flood”. And there were moments of searing, high-octane rock and roll – all-time classic “Born To Run”, opener “Out In the Street” and my favorite Bruce tune, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” It was as high-energy as could be, and oh, by the way, Bruce turned 63 the night after.
I don’t want to spend too much time on the specific parts of the show, because everyone should experience a Springsteen concert in person. But perhaps the most amazing thing about the show was how much I enjoyed it despite a generally limited knowledge of the music. Bruce played plenty of songs that I had never heard of, including opener “Living On the Edge of the World”, which he played for the first time live…ever. All told, he played 95 songs over the three nights at MetLife Stadium – and the three setlists had a grand total of eight songs in common. That is an extraordinarily deep musical catalogue. (Credit to Dan Lyons, who also attended Friday night’s concert, for this statistic.) And each and every one of the songs sounded fresh.
So I’m excited to say that I’m in. From this day forward, I am a devoted follower of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. I’m never going back. And I have plenty more songs and albums and B-sides and lyrics to discover. The possibilities are endless. And I’m ready to go along for the ride.