[This past Monday, I finally got to cross off one of the very top items on my bucket list—seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert with my sons! In honor of that truly momentous occasion, I wanted to share a handful of the past posts where I’ve featured Bruce on the blog—leading up to this special weekend reflection on the concert!]
On three moving layers to how Bruce’s 2023 concert both reflects on the past and continues to fight for the future.
1) The opening four songs: Bruce has always worked to start his concerts with a series of sequential songs that set the tone for what’s to come, and on this tour that opening combination was particularly striking. It featured two songs from Letter to You that are overtly concerned with both the past’s legacies and the work Bruce has striven to do throughout his career, “Ghosts” and “Letter to You.” And back and forth with those it included two songs from long ago, “No Surrender” and “Prove It All Night,” that would seem quite distinct from both those themes and from each other, but that when reframed in this context became anthems for not just survival but endurance and collective triumph in the face of time’s inevitable losses. By the end of these four, we were all right there with Bruce and the Band.
2) “Last Man Standing” and “Backstreets”: Because this was a full-E-Street-Band concert, there wasn’t as much time for talking as there is when Bruce is on stage by himself. But right about the midpoint of the show, he does stop to tell an extended, deeply moving story about joining his first band (when he was just 15), and the moment 50 years later when the last surviving member of that band besides Bruce (George Theiss) passed away. He segued directly from there into a solo acoustic rendition of “Last Man Standing,” the Letter to You song about that precise experience, which was logical enough. But then the full band segued directly from that into the opening of “Backstreets,” a profoundly familiar Bruce anthem that suddenly became just as much about these lifelong experiences, losses, and persistences—especially when Bruce ended it with one more monologue, about all from Theiss (and everyone) that he will keep with him in his heart.
3) Two closing tributes: It’s no surprise that a concert so thoughtfully constructed ended just as thoughtfully as it began. That began with the final Band song—after introducing the members of this current iteration of the Legendary E Street Band, Bruce led them in a celebratory performance of “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” culminating in an incredibly moving video montage of clips of the Band’s two deceased founding members, Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. And then, for his one final encore, Bruce returned to the stage solo to perform an acoustic version of “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” Letter to You’s beautiful closing track about how and why “death is not the end.” While all these layers to the concert were particularly meaningful to this BruceStudier as he watched by his sons’ side, I’m quite sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Next series starts Monday,
PS. Concert reflections, on Bruce or any other artist, you’d share?