My life and times with The Boss

Originally published on Athousandguitars.com on February 6, 2014:

I’ve been meaning to write to you about the day I saw Bruce Springsteen live for a week now. But I guess a brush with The Boss needs a bit of reflection too, and a bit of time to withdraw from the several days long ‘I’M GOING TO SEE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN THIS WEEKEND’ rush.

So I saw Bruce Springsteen last weekend.

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And except for some unusually Capetonian weather over Jozi skies that soaked me to the bone and made me miss “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” because I had to go and stop shivering in the bathrooms for a minute, it was everything I wanted it to be.

I really like monumental concerts like this one because you get to see such a weird and amazing part of society come together to honour this amazing music that talks to all of us in so many different and so many similar ways. We spend our days on errands, on phones, and on thoughts of being somewhere else, and yet when we come together for someone like Springsteen, we’re the same. We dance like no one’s watching. Some of us get a little bit teary. We high five. We bond with our family. We bond with strangers. We share this music like nothing else matters and I think that’s so amazing.

There were two moments during the show that sort of defined this sentiment for me. (The whole show was crazemazing, obviously, but we’ll just use these two to illustrate my point.) The first was during “The River”. With a harmonica, a hand-held mic and a solo spotlight at the very front of the stage, Bruce made it feel like it was just him and me in that stadium. His harmonica runs have always got right to the very centre of my brain immediately, but the beauty in his music is how it’s about you. It’s not about you, but it still feels like it should be. It’s a master class in emotion.

And then towards the end of the show, during some amazing song off Born In The U.S.A, likely “Dancing In The Dark”, it felt like I’d zoomed out. I have this image in my mind of Springsteen bending down to high five some audience members, and that snapshot of him surrounded by tens of thousands of adoring fans in a world-sized stadium that was not even big enough to house their love for him is such a perfect summary for his work, and it’s a sentiment so much bigger than any of us who were there.

So why was I there and what did it mean to me?

It might just have meant 22-odd years (I’m presuming I didn’t really care about rock music before I was 5) of musical adoration and world-shaping. His songs have been the goggles I’ve lived life through and they’ve held the magic I’ve searched for in a lot of other music. They likely led me to my new favourite band (hiya, Gaslight Anthem). And they certainly led to the past five years of this blog – ‘A Thousand Guitars’ is part of a line out of “Radio Nowhere”. They’ve shaped my life in that unintrusive but magical way good art does.

So thanks, Bruce, for being there during late nights, lonely travels, drunk parties, and a lot of incredibly happy moments. I look forward to 22 more years together, and then some.

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