I saw Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band play Nationals Park last night. Besides being at least the 10th time I’ve seen the poet laureate of New Jersey live (details after the jump), the show also got me to thinking about how long Springsteen’s work has been helping me make sense of my own life.
It started when I was maybe 12 or 13 and began developing my own musical tastes beyond disliking the easy-listening stations Mom and Dad felt compelled to listen to in the car. I can’t think of any other artist whose work has held up for me for so many years. (U2 comes close, but I didn’t get into them until later in high school). Back then, I didn’t know how well and how often Springsteen’s words and music would explain things around me. And that there would be times when I’d need the help.
I thought about quoting “Walk Like A Man” in my father’s eulogy, but I didn’t think I could hold it together while reading those words. “Lonesome Day” and “Empty Sky” still encapsulate what Sept. 12, 2001 felt like better than any story or photo. And I knew I had to marry my wife when I started tearing up listening to a version of “If I Should Fall Behind.”
I hear many of these songs differently now than when I was an angsty teenager or an underemployed 20-something. I expect that to continue as they and I age in our own ways.
As a writer, I also find it fascinating how Springsteen’s lyrics have evolved from the baroque exuberance of the early ’70s to the sparser language of today (and, along the way, have lent the occasional turn of phrase to my own prose). I try to use fewer words than I once did too; that, and the both of us being born in the Garden State, are about the only parallels I can get away with here.
I’m almost positive this list should start with one of Springsteen’s 1988 shows at the Spectrum in Philly, but I can’t find the ticket stub. Stupid me. You can also throw in two times I’ve seen him go onstage for a song or two with another artist: U2 in 1987 and Sting in 1988. But anyway…
9/19/1988: JFK Stadium (on Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Now!” tour)
8/25/1992: Capital Centre
10/5/1995: DAR Constitution Hall
9/1/1999: MCI Center
9/3/1999: MCI Center
8/30/2003: Giants Stadium
7/27/2008: Giants Stadium
10/3/2009: Giants Stadium
9/14/2012: Nationals Park