Bruce Springsteen's evangelical nation baptized me in St. Paul
Day of Show, 11/11/12 in St. Paul:
Two women in a St. Paul bar, pre-gaming before the show: "Oh my
gawd -- this is your first show? Aw. (hug) You're going to shit your
Not one, but three separate men sitting near us in the Xcel
Center expressed an identical sentiment: "Man, I'm really excited to be
sitting with someone who is seeing his first Bruce show. This is
really awesome." There was no irony intoned.
One of these men was Tim. Tim flew in from Cleveland, and
brought his wife and pre-teen son with him. It was important to Tim
that his son get to experience Bruce. Evidently this is a growing trend
over the last few years -- the reduction of average crowd age as fathers
|Here's Tim and his family|
Sitting directly in front of us inside the Xcel was Jonathan, a Jersey native
transplanted to Minnesota. He and Dan compared notes on the summer's
Wrigley Field shows, and then on which songs at which venues had, at
various times, moved them to tears.
Meanwhile, Jonathan's wife, Danielle, air-circled her ear with
her finger, looked at me and mouthed "CRAY-zee." Jonathan would
disappear in the pit for a solid 30 minutes during the show, to her
visible chagrin. (Hope he's not "goin' down" himself.)
Dan trumped all in our seating neighborhood, having seen fifteen
shows on this tour. Jonathan had "never been to more than seven on the
same tour." Obviously, he is not a real fan.
This pre-show bonding ritual ultimately circled back to me, and again, how special it was to share the evening with a first-timer. The lights had not so much as dimmed, and the losing of my Springsteen virginity had already become a more celebrated event than the losing of my actual virginity.
When I worked for Dan in Detroit, I lived in an inner-ring suburb
called Ferndale. A few blocks from my house was an old Baptist
church. I constantly fantasized about going to a service to witness the
gospel jamming and the human uplift. I only went once, and I missed
most of the service, and most of the jamming. I still regret it.
I bring this up because all great rock shows, in some way,
transcend their particulars. They take on the qualities of tribal
dances or cathartic group hysterias or minstrels/poets holding court.
The very best are inhibition-destroying celebrations, where the
band becomes almost secondary to the party it has unleashed. My first
Springsteen show, early on, began to hearken elsewhere itself -- to that
The new 16-piece E-Street Band is excellent, Bruce's energy is
awesome as advertised, and the live performance of the songs suitably
outstrips the recorded versions as universally touted. For a great
blow-by-blow, check out Gimme Noise's review. The performance was
But the performance was not the same as the "experience," which I describe in the next section.