A dozen thoughts from Bruce in Boston
My daughter, Jackie, joined me and my wife Theresa Monday night at TD Garden for her first-ever concert by Bruce Springsteen, a man whose music she’s heard in the background of her life for all of her 23 years (whether she wanted it there or not). Several songs in, she leaned over and said something that, in many ways, seemed a perfect observation for first-timer and longtime fan alike: “This is going to seem stupid, but he sounds just like Bruce Springsteen!”
And it was true! He didn’t sound like some older, tired-er version of Bruce Springsteen, or a Bruce Springsteen who’d slowed down and dropped a few octaves, and certainly not one who was running out the clock. He sounded like the Bruce Springsteen we’ve known and loved for decades, and that many of us (Jackie included) grew up with: Full of energy, passion, hope, laughter and grit, and an unapologetic purveyor of the power and the glory of rock ‘n’ roll. (BTW, she loved the show.)
Even a day later my ears are still ringing and my own aging brain feels incapable of cogent thought, so I’ll leave it to my Boston.com colleague Chris Gavin to provide a full and thoughtful review of the show. (I thought he expressed it well when he wrote, “These are the only things Springsteen himself knows he will leave behind to his audience someday: these songs and these stories, each a promise of something grander and more resilient on the horizon — the premise of any good Springsteen song. And if the E Street band is, as Springsteen himself has declared, 'death defying,' it is also — as much as rock ‘n’ roll can be — life-affirming.”)
Please read it all, you won't be disappointed. Meanwhile, for my part, I’ll simply offer a dozen of the random thoughts that made their way into my head as Bruce worked his magic in Boston on Monday:
Random Thought No. 1: 73-year-old Bruce looks great! He has a tanned-and-well-rested salt-and-pepper charm, sort of like George Hamilton in Godfather III.
Random Thought No. 2: The “new stuff” — specifically, “Ghosts” and the title track to “Letter to You” — isn't just fitting in well with classic material — it's fitting in seamlessly, perfectly complementing the rest of the set, with the added benefit of being, well, new. More! (“If I Was The Priest” would have been nice.)
Random Thought No. 3: First genuine set of full-body chills: Five songs in, with “Promised Land.” (“Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted!”) Gets me every time.
Random Thought No. 4: Bruce’s shoes must be very orthopedically sound. (Also, do you think Stevie’s silvery boots can be bought off the rack? Or does he have them custom made?)
Random Thought No. 5: I love how Bruce has replaced some of the young-Bruce moves (sliding across the stage, hanging off the mic stand) with easier-to-perform and yet somehow equally charming old-Bruce moves, like a playful harmonica stomp. It's helped him avoid the classic aging rock star trap of playing young — maybe it’s also owing to his own physical condition and energy level, but this is a septuagenarian who knows the exact location of the line beyond which the loss of his dignity lies, and how to stop just shy of it. (But just shy.)
Random Thought No. 6: Hey, when did the horn guys sneak up there? They're very stealthy.
Random Thought No. 7: Turns out what "Johnny 99" always needed was a New Orleans funeral procession. Come to think of it, maybe he should try that with every song on Nebraska.
Random Thought No. 8: From my vantage point toward the side of the stage, I saw a ton of beatific faces in the pit crowd. What I didn’t see was any of the bored rich folks that some predicted would take the place of “real fans” thanks to high ticket prices. Either Bruce won all the Richie Riches over immediately (possible), or the real fans found their way in, somehow. (There was one woman in black directly up front who I can pretty safely say had the best night of her life — whatever she had to hock to get in there, it was worth it.)
Random Thought No. 9: I wasn’t especially looking forward to hearing “Night Shift”; now I want to see a Broadway show featuring Bruce and Curtis King singing the Motown catalog.
Random Thought No. 10: Bruce seems to realize that for the last six years, we’ve heard him talk A LOT. He talked on Broadway; he talked with Obama; he talked on E Street Radio; he talked for 18 hours on an audiobook. What we need now is to hear him play and sing, and that’s what he and his bandmates did Monday night. Plenty of time for stories in the inevitable solo outings coming down the road — now we needed him to rock, and did he ever.
Random Thought No. 11: How does he do this at 73? Scientists should study him.
Random Thought No. 12: It’s hard to narrow down what moved me most during the night — certainly the spectacular solo renditions of “Last Man Standing” and the show-closing “I’ll See You In My Dreams” left me solidly shaken. But oddly, the lyric that got to me most may have been this one, which felt like it incorporated the show’s theme that even when there are more yesterdays than tomorrows, we should never give up hope: “We know that come tomorrow, none of this will be here. So hold tight to your anger … And don’t fall to your fears.”
Yes, I got choked up at a song about a stadium. Bruce, you've done it again!
What thoughts went through your head watching Bruce this time around? Let us know in the comments.