long walk home

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Arts, New Jersey
Tags: , , , , , ,

welcome home

Home is where you feel at home and are treated well. – Dalai Lama

Bruce Springsteen came home to New Jersey last night. Again. And 55,000 people who he has never met welcomed him. Again.

These days whenever Springsteen and his mighty E Street Band bring their ageless touring carnival to the great Garden State we embrace them with a fervor that is part love, part pride, part ritual, and all possessiveness. Across all the decades, albums, tours and concerts, and after all the triumphs, tragedies and changes, we still flock to the altar because Bruce is one of us. He is our guy. For several raucous hours we come to watch the local hero made good. We come to dance, to sing, to rejuvenate. We come to forget our personal troubles. We hope for an epiphany while we relish the power and joy. But mostly we come to remind ourselves how fortunate we all are to still be here, a dedicated shepherd and his devoted flock together celebrating this very moment.

Tuesday’s show at MetLife Stadium was the 66th of his 2016 world tour. The weather was summer night perfect. Perhaps that was an additional catalyst for the wonderful parade that followed. Thirty-five songs, almost four hours. He gave us the expected crowd pleasers and surprised us with a few well-chosen chestnuts. Like 1973’s New York City Serenade, a ten minute lyrically full, jazzy/bluesy mood piece which (atypically) opened the show. Like Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, when he shared vocals with a guy from the crowd who made a sign requesting the classic Christmas song – at an August show. Like the simmering Something in the Night, after he riffed about his youthful need to escape the small town he grew up in. Like the powerful American Skin (41 Shots), still spot-on as communities continue to struggle with the relationship between their police and residents. Like Jersey Girl, the pitch perfect Springsteen song written by Tom Waits (for Tom Waits) which closed the show just as Tuesday turned to Wednesday.

Bruce’s concerts have become, sometimes to a large extent, choreographed moments finely tuned over many years of performing. We know when he will encourage us to sing along with him and when he will thrust the mic at us so we alone can sing his lyrics. We know when he will sling that old Fender Esquire over his shoulder and across his back so he can prance about the stage unencumbered. We know when to expect the tiniest nuances in a guitar or sax solo, or a glorious flourish from Roy Bittan’s piano. We know all these things and gleefully anticipate every one of them. But we never feel like bit actors directed by a tired man going through repetitive motions. Somehow Bruce is always able to harness all the hard fought truth, passion, and commitment which hooked us in the first place. Somehow he can make familiarity not breed contempt. This is utterly remarkable, more remarkable than his ability to still surprise us with his set list and almost as remarkable as the astounding stamina he continues to display.

Bruce Springsteen will be 67 next month. It is natural to wonder how many more road trips he has left in the tank. But as long as he keeps heading out there one thing will remain true: Every time he returns to New Jersey he will be welcomed home as if it were his first time back.

  1. Nice essay, John! I have to admit, I’ve never seen Bruce in concert. In fact, I’m a bit of a late-comer to his music, but I LIKE the older Springsteen – I appreciate the lines on his face, the LIFE in his face. He is who he is, which is refreshing in this world.


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