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 pants, bud."

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 indoctrinate offspring.

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 Baptist church.


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 awesome.

But the performance was not the same as the "experience," which I describe in the next section.

Sponsor Content

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault