More Than A Concert: Bruce Springsteen @ MetLife Stadium

What did I do to deserve this?

Said with wonder, it’s inspiring. Said with defeat, it’s wallowing. I took the former for two sultry nights in August, two states away with an open heart. In a summer of despair, I needed to prove I deserved the space I’d chiseled for myself in this world. Solitude and reflection are no match for the comfort of a hand to hold, but there are still moments of fireworks among the ashes. 

The River Tour, the swamps of Jersey, a 66 year old man and his band. It was the first time I can remember that I openly wept at a concert, without shame and without doubt. “Something In The Night” – the story of a man who would rather drive all night than face the emptiness of his life. “The River” – so much youthful promise and the weight of responsibility that drowns without sympathy. “Living Proof” – birth and rebirth, the fragility of life, and miracles in the dust. “Independence Day” – the startling realization of the dreams of parents before their children, wistful and resigned, bridges that can neither be mended nor burned. 

You're born with nothing
And better off that way
Soon as you've got something they send
Someone to try and take it away
You can ride this road 'til dawn
Without another human being in sight
Yeah, just kids wasted on
Oh, something in the night

Much has been written of the spiritual atmosphere at Bruce’s shows, and with good reason. There is baptism in the dirt, there is reconciliation for the outlaws, there is the hope etched in stone in this hard land. Transcendence, love is a state of grace, and the realization that there are no saints, no sinners, but people clawing to stay alive in a world of decay. The mundane is miraculous and the epic is arcane. Neither church nor school gave me the community I discovered at a concert venue. 

Four precious hours that unite generations. Children sleep on their parents’ hearts, gentlemen with white hair take photos on their flip phones, twenty-somethings with American flag bandanas crush Bud Light cans under sneakers, the 50 year old faithfuls with a hundred shows under their leather belts. No gimmicks, no costumes, no artifice. 

I found ferocity in those electric guitars, certainty in a steady drum beat, joyous abandon in a saxophone, artistic beauty in piano keys. The gravel in Bruce’s voice is grounding; it is wisdom and experience that never forgot the struggles of youth. 

Or as one lady says, calm certainty in her voice, at the end of “Lost In The Flood” live from MetLife on August 25th, “everybody just witnessed the face of Jesus. That is fucking it. That is Bruce at his best.”

With wonder: what did I do to deserve this?

Just one kiss from you my brother
And we'll ride until we fall
We'll sleep in the fields
We'll sleep by the rivers and in the morning
We'll make a plan
Well if you can't make it
Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive
If you can
And meet me in a dream of this hard land

All photos by Meghan Muldowney - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band @ MetLife Stadium August 23rd & 25th, 2016


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