About 10 days ago, I finally saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time. Given how many times he’s been on tour over the course of my possible concert-going years, I find it a little surprising that I haven’t been inspired to do so earlier in my life. His legendary concerts should probably have drawn me in earlier, but to be honest, he had never been among my absolute-favorite artists. He might make my top 20, but I would say that’s not even quite a given if I were to really work it out on paper. I’ve always respected the hell out of him, though; but there were times, such as the Born in the USA ’80s, where he was just too ubiquitous, and I was sick of him. As those days recede farther into the past, my respect for him and his dedication to his vision has grown, the tiredness of hearing him all over the radio has waned, and I realized this time around that if I didn’t see him soon, I may not have the chance to again. So I was ready when the tickets went on sale, and got them for me and my family.
As it turns out, the show was fantastic and made me wish I’d seen him sooner. Even now, in his sixties, he’s a tireless performer and put on one of the best shows I’ve seen — and (to my brother-in-law Andy’s everlasting chagrin) that’s even taking into account that we left early due to it getting late on a school night for my sons (I know, I know…I should’ve stayed). (Both of my sons loved it, by the way, not even knowing a lot of the songs — he was playing his album The River song for song.) Song after song, he and the E Street Band put their all into it. It is clear beyond a doubt that this is what he was born to do.
Or was he “Born to Run”? Well, yes, the answer to that would have to be a resounding “yes” — that song for me wraps up everything about Springsteen into one concise musical blast. And as I’ve been listening to his music recently, album by album, before and after the show, this realization has occurred to me: “Born to Run,” that classic title track from his 1975 album, may very well be the best-recorded song of all time. Which isn’t the same as saying it’s the best song of all time; as much as I love it, I definitely would have other songs I’d have to put above it. What I mean is that, for what it was intended to be, “Born to Run” may be the very best realization of a song ever put onto tape in a studio. It does everything it seems to have been meant to do, capturing every ounce of drama, racing-down-the-highway excitement, and who-knows-where-we’re-going-but-damn-it-all-let’s-get-out-of-here passion perfectly; the Phil Spector-esque wall of sound, with the ringing guitar part and lead-in drum roll and Clarence Clemons sax solo, do it all. I also feel like it may very well be Bruce’s best singing performance. I am pretty sure my pulse increases a bit every time I hear the song, and given how many times I’ve heard it, that’s saying something. It’s the recording that has it all — and despite classic rock radio’s attempt to kill it by familiarity, it should never be taken for granted.