Explaining the Boss

I’ve written a number of posts on this blog about Bruce Springsteen. One of the very first posts I wrote last summer was about Clarence Clemons after he had his fatal stroke. I also wrote about how much I loved Springsteen’s version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and how I wished I could have heard “Badlands” as I was driving through the actual Badlands in South Dakota.

A recurring theme like this suggests how important his music is to me. So when the possibility of a September Springsteen concert in Wrigley Field was reported today, I was excited at the possibility. Van Halen and all the others will do very well, too, but this concertgoer’s scant budget will belong to whichever venue Bruce is playing at this year.

A friend of mine, stretching all the way back to high school, indicated that he’s never understood the appeal that Springsteen has. And I can understand this. Other than the songs played on the radio–and Springsteen has many fewer these days than he once did–there’s no reason for anyone to have too much exposure to a song like “Johnny 99″ (above), which is buried on the commercially obscure Nebraska album. For me, and probably for some others too, it comes down to whether or not you’ve seen him play live. And if you have, you understand what it’s all about.

A number of years ago, I had some professional contact with a high school teacher in another state. He indicated to me that he had attended Springsteen concerts all over the country, and that he would frequently travel to a city specifically to see Springsteen’s show. I found this to be more than a bit eccentric, considering the costs involved with airfare, hotel rooms, and the tickets themselves (which aren’t outrageous, but aren’t cheap, either). I became intrigued as to why he would go to such great lengths to see the same performer again and again. I made a mental note to myself about this.

A number of years later, I was able to get tickets (after not really expecting to) on the day they went on sale online. I asked my sister to see the show with me, and I’m glad she agreed to do so. My knowledge of Springsteen’s music, beyond a couple dozen songs like “Thunder Road” and “She’s the One,” wasn’t much, and hers was even less than mine. So we each took a crash course in being able to recognize some songs, but in the end, every song was fantastic, whether we knew it or not. And everyone is so caught up in the experience that no one really cares which songs you know and don’t know.

During the show–which exceeded the very high expectations that I had going in–I understood what the commotion was about. I gave myself over to the Boss and his music for three hours, and I was rewarded with an experience that I’ll never be able to replicate, unless perhaps it’s at the next Springsteen show I can get to.

When the show’s date and location  is finally announced, I’ll do everything I can to get tickets, for my sister, for my uninitiated friend, and for anyone else I can convince to go along. Or even for complete strangers, because there won’t be any problem with finding takers for them. Maybe even for my older daughter, who doesn’t know his music, but could still use a dose of what a Springsteen show provides.

These concerts are a special gift, for those who choose to accept them. Bruce Springsteen is the archetype of a rock star, his band is a finely-honed unit, and his music can uplift and inspire all of us. And there really isn’t a better way to spend three hours of your life, is there?