Monday, March 17, 2008
Tramps Like Us....
My head is a little numb today, the result of spending hours at a rock concert last night. Unexpectedly, a work colleague had four tickets to Bruce Springsteen, which I gobbled up in a flash.
It was the sixth time I've seen Springsteen in concert, though there was a lapse of more than 20 years since the last concert I attended. Raising kids and building a career sort of got in the way for a long while.
My brother, my 21-year old son, his friend and I went to the St. Paul event, and none of them has seen Springsteen before, and had no idea what to expect. I myself was 21 the first time I saw Springsteen, and the crowd last night was largely made up of my peers. I heard many of them talking about seeing Springsteen in the 70s.
The band was a full hour late taking the stage, and I worried a bit if this indicated the Springsteen might have lost his respect for audiences. Like other long-time rock acts sometimes are now guilty of, would Springsteen go through the motions in a prefunctory 45-minute set, in order to catch an early plane to Milwaukee, where he plays tonight?
I need not have worried. The concert lasted a solid 2-1/2 hours, and there were times when the band, loud as it was, was drowned out by the 45- and 50-year old audience singing along with the lyrics.
From time to time I glanced over at my son and his friend, to see them looking about awed at this songwriter/musician's hold over the audience. At any given moment, when Springsteen holds a microphone into the air, 19,000 people will bellow out the lyrics. While this goes on, Springsteen looks around at his band members and shakes his head in emotion and amazement. At one point last night during Born to Run, the crowd held all the lyrics for a full two minutes. Behind me was another father with a fifteen year old daughter, who kept looking around at the crowd, giggling with delight.
At 58, Springsteen no longer leaps off the pianos, but his energy still would put most 20-year olds to shame. His fondness for audiences is legendary, and there isn't a moment when you don't see his delight. He's become steadily more political in his old age, and last night there were moments of celebration that we're coming to an end of "8 years in the dark ages," and an admonishment to protect our civil liberties against illegal wire taps. We were asked to donate to a midwest food shelves charity set up in the lobbies.
Mostly, though, we were just flat-out entertained by an event where the audience is every bit as important as the performers. It is hard to know exactly how Springsteen manages to put so much of his soul into every performance. Six times now, and they mark the six best concerts out of dozens of different rock concerts I've seen.
On the way home, my son's friend said, hoarsely. "So, I suppose that must be pretty much what it was like back in the days of the Beatles."
Not quite, I thought to myself. But it will do. It will do.