If you're impatient, the idea that "good things come to those who wait" seems like the stuff of assholes or dummies. However, after living some life, I've found that though it's uncomfortable to feel left behind, waiting often yields gratifying results. This is true for first kisses, getting your first car, loss of virginity, and seeing the Boss live for the first time.
In 2009, I was unemployed, so I flew up to D.C. for President Obama's first inauguration. The point of the journey was of course to see him get sworn in, but also -- and I'm being honest here -- to catch Bruce Springsteen play at the inaugural concert alongside a bunch of other people I don't even remember now.
But I missed the Boss' show. And was I very pissed. So now, I will publicly apologize to my cousin for all the verbal abuse she suffered for oversleeping on that freezing January morning, because waiting on this was worth it. Watching Bruce Springsteen perform for about three and a half hours last night at the BB&T Center was maybe the most satisfying experience I've had at a concert, ever.
There's something about Springsteen that inspires us to talk about our own experiences of him and less about him as a human. And he's a good guy. Everyone, it seems, cherishes their Springsteen stories over the man himself. He's not an idol in the way most rock stars are. He's like an earthly god that brings nothing but emotion, energy, talent, and goodwill to his worshipers. I actually feel more grounded and like a better person, oddly enough, after watching him, Tom Morello, and the whole E Street Band weave a timeless and playful performance.
The BB&T Center never looked smaller; the arena was brimming with people, mostly white folks from New Jersey and Palm Beach County (the line to get on 75 North after the show was insane). They played air guitar with great enthusiasm and held high their signs with names of songs they wanted to hear.
The night opened with a Clash cover, "Clampdown," and Springsteen asked if we were ready to be transformed. We most certainly were. So, he started in with the first of many "1,2, 3, 4"s counted off throughout the evening. After "Badlands" got the Boss loosened up and the crowd singing along, a bongo became center stage for Morello and Springsteen's jamming drum circle. Bruce was moving those hips and making the room all sweaty with lust. Morello played a little guitar with his chompers. Yes, he ate those strings. And on his instrument were written words that seemed to read "Farm the Homeless," though that is presumably incorrect.
Springsteen then went into the crowd to gather signs and accept the song requests suggested on them. He grabbed one that said "Is Your Son Available" and joked, "That's when you know you're getting old. They stop asking for you and start asking for your kids."
Another sign said, "I just proposed. Play 'I Wanna Marry You' to Amy Sue." And he did, pointing out first that he and the band are in the "love business" and secondly that "if you meet your partner at the E Street Band show, you don't have to love your partner, you just have to love me." He made funny sounds trying to figure out the chords for a bit, adding comedy to music, which ain't easy.
Then BroCo was treated to the E Street premiere of "Linda, Let Me Be the One" that started out pretty smoothly, and then a fumble halted the song. The Boss said laughing, "We fucked the whole thing up right there." But of course, they didn't and kept playing to the end of the charming tune.
Another fan requested John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom," and when the horns came forward and Springsteen sang intensely, "I need you right now!" I wish I'd had a fan to cool down with. Lord have mercy. The man was doing like pilates moves, jumping up and down, he was on his knees, and, though past middle age, his voice sounds as good and gravelly as ever.
He spent some time asking us to scream "super Jersey style," but he spent more time navigating the crowd. There was a bridge midfloor where he sauntered, grabbing hands and a blowup Boss doll. Later, at the foot of the bridge, he sang with a young guy who was dressed like a young him. Most impressively, this 64-year-old man, Bruce "the Boss" Springsteen, crowd-surfed to the stage with posters in his arms and teeth and a smile on his face.
Before getting us overly emotional with "The River" -- for which he blew his harmonica and sang a beautiful falsetto outro -- he told the tale of the first time he heard one of his own songs played on the radio. He called it one of the top ten moments in his life. He was in Connecticut, thinking about all those people listening to that one song at that same moment. "Something happens in the air, all those souls converging around that one idea at that moment," and that, he pointed out, was happening in the arena. Then he grabbed a sign that clearly proposed something erotic to which he said, "That's a lovely offer."
The E Street Band demonstrated its own measured energy that burst forth here and there to balance with the Boss. At one point, the line of performers stood at the front of the stage and did a synchronized dance -- a side shuffle. It was almost as impressive as their instrumental and vocal skills. Bruce shared the mic with Morello during "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and also allowed him to demonstrate his guitar prowess. Of course, it was pretty reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. The two had a nice dynamic that was a definite crowd-pleaser.
Though the band performed plenty of covers, it was AC/DC's "Highway to Hell" that seemed to most surprise the people whose conversations we were eavesdropping in on. But the Boss pointed out a girl sitting on some dude's shoulders in a tiny AC/DC tank as the reason they were playing it, and everything made sense. She was very busty, young, and lovely.
This kicked off a seven-song encore during which the vibe went from insane to placid and back. The most emotional moment was when Clarence Clemons was honored in a video montage and Springsteen dedicated "The Wall" to all the vets out there in the crowd.
But I'll admit that I got choked up when the Boss grabbed a sign that said something like: "It was on my bucket list to dance with you onstage before I end up in a nursing home." He grabbed the old bag (j/k, she wasn't near nursing home age, and she was quite spry) and brought her onstage for a body-to-body dance. He got her a guitar and showed her how to mug at the crowd, and she even sang "hey baby" into the mic. Before she reentered the sea of fans, he bowed before her. Again, there's something about that one on one with Springsteen and his music that keeps us feeling special about ourselves and life generally.
Of course, the Boss is also a true humanitarian who gave a shoutout to LifeNet4Families, which feeds the homeless in Broward County, and he actually said Broward County. Which was impressive. And I didn't mention this yet, but at the end of the show, sleeveless and wet, the Boss hopped onto the white grand piano. Close your eyes and indulge in that hot vision.
"Fort Lauderdale, do you feel all right? Are your feet hurting? Are your hands hurting? Is your ass hurting? Is your voice worn out? Are your sexual organs stimulated?" the Boss screamed, preacher-style. He asked us to spread the word of the band -- to go home and wake up our families and neighbors, tell people on the street tomorrow that we'd just seen, among many other adjectives, the "earthshaking," "Viagra-taking," "testifying" E Street Band. And that, friends, is what I'm trying to do now.
And when he said to give it up for the "eternal ass-kicking power of rock 'n' roll," we all obliged with "Thunder Road." Arms were flying, people were screaming, and everyone went home feeling satiated but certain they'd be back for more later.
"Clampdown" Clash cover
"High Hopes" The Havalinas cover
"I Wanna Marry You"
"Linda, Let Me Be the One"
"Boom Boom" John Lee Hooker cover
"Hearts of Stone"
"Talk to Me" Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes cover
"Save My Love"
"Prove It All Night"
"My Love Will Not Let You Down"
"Shackled and Drawn"
"The Ghost of Tom Joad"
"Land of Hope and Dreams"
"Highway to Hell" AC/DC cover
"Born to Run"
"Dancing in the Dark"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
"Shout" Isley Brothers cover
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