Springsteen @ Verizon Center 11/2 – A Review

Bruce Springsteen has recently done a lot to revivify the tradition of American folk music. Not the sixties love and flower power, Joan Baez kind of folk, but the folk that forms the very roots of rock and roll; simple, unadorned songs that relied upon the power of the voice, of the word and of the spirit―dustbowl ballads, spirituals, church hymns―to tell the sad stories of the disasters, injustices and back- and heart-breaking labor that built this wide land of ours. So when my two sons became big fans and my husband suggested initiating them into the rite of the rock and roll concert with a Bruce Springsteen show, I agreed. Better Springsteen than one of the made-for-TV bands, like Daughtry or Nickelback, that befoul their iPods. Though no Brucehead or Stringbean, or whatever the legions of Bruce believers call themselves, I have always liked his honest, hardworking rock and roll and his evocative lyrics about hard luck heroes, gritty streets, pretty girls, fast machines and the open road.

I hadn't been to a stadium concert since, well, since the last time I saw Bruce Springsteen, some ten years ago, in Portland, Oregon. Then in his early fifties, he wore knee pads and cartwheeled and somersaulted across the stage. Now, months after he appeared on the cover of AARP magazine, he has brought his exuberant gymnastics to a more spiritual level, holding his guitar aloft in the air like a Bible as he delivers the gospel of rock and roll. Springsteen, who like the Pope, is both head of the church and a living manifestation of its god, led his worshipful acolytes through a two-and-a-half hour evening of sweat drenched celebration and glory. The faithful danced with arms pumping the air, testifying at the top of their lungs and chanting the name of their prophet, "Bruuuuce, Bruuuuce." If you were lucky enough to be belly-up to the stage, you could stroke him lovingly on the thigh, touch his hand. The audience was a partner in the performance, and Springsteen crowd surfed, pulled a young boy on stage to sing, and let us belt out the opening verses of "Hungry Heart" and the chorus to "Pink Cadillac." The audience, though trending heavily towards those eligible for AARP membership, spanned the generations and everyone knew the songs.

Backed by the masterful E Street Band, as well as a violinist, some accordion players and various other musicians, all dressed in black and standing with legs wide as they worked to keep up with the Boss, Springsteen delivered hits old and new, as well as playing the entire "Born to Run" album. After "Jungleland" came to a dramatic and emotional end, Springsteen announced it was an event never to be repeated, and the audience felt privileged to have been witness. Then he took requests from the crowd, something that must be a Springsteen tradition, for many people came bearing posters. The closing songs were covers, starting with an 1855 hymn, "Hard Times Come Again No More," performed as a lush anthem, and soaring to an end with "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher."

**Special thanks to Alice Stephens for contributing this review**