Too much magic to speak to all of it, but a few notable standouts:
While telling a story of his first cross-country trip–all the way from Jersey to Big Sur with his bandmates in 1969–he described the vast expanse of the desert, the chance to view every kind and color of sunrise and sunset, and how, for the first time, he understood the true size and scope of the United States. The story led into a performance of “Promised Land,” the last verse of which was sung several steps in front of the mic, at the edge of the stage, as if to point to the intimacy of the venue and the significance of being able to hear him sing without any amplification at all. From making us feel the boundlessness of the American desert to reminding us of the confines of a 900-seat theatre, he was nodding to how special these small Broadway performances are.
It’s long been known that “Born In The USA” is a protest song, not a patriotic ode to America, but if you weren’t already hip to that, this show would catch you up. Before playing it, Bruce talked about the song’s inspiration, author Ron Kovic and his book “Born On The Fourth Of July.” Bruce told of friends he lost in Vietnam and revealed that he and two bandmates all got called to the draft office the same day but managed to get out of getting drafted. There’s no joy in revealing their escape: “I sometimes wonder who went in my place, because somebody did,” he said. The performance itself was rough and gritty, growled instead of sung. All the emphasis was on the oft-unheard verses, while the well-known chorus was spat out like dirt, nearly devoid of melody altogether, so that not a soul in the house could’ve gotten caught up in its familiar notes and missed the message.
*Bruce, on math*
1+1=2 is life. You wake up (1), you go to work (1), you go to bed (2), and it starts all over. When you can find 1+1=3, that’s the sweet spot. So says Bruce of doing music with the E. Street Band and connecting with his fans. “When the world is at its best, when we are at our best, when life feels fullest, one and one equals three” he wrote in his book. Even minus the world being at its best (it’s clearly not), right now my life equation still reaches 3, so here’s hoping everyone feels the same, or one day will.
Means certain things are set in stone.
Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t.”
Lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of”
You couldn’t stop me from looking but you kept me from crawlin’ through.”
He sang this line straight the first time:
Well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you
It ain’t no phone call on Sunday, flowers or a mother’s day card
It ain’t no house on a hill with a garden and a nice little yard
I got my hot rod down on Bond Street, I’m older but you’ll know me in a glance
We’ll find us a little rock ‘n roll bar and baby we’ll go out and dance”
But the second time through, a long pause, his face crumpled a bit, and he sang a softer, sadder recitation of “I’m older but you’ll know me in a glance” — a reminder that the disease has likely robbed her (and him) of any instant (maybe even eventual) recollection. If you knew it was coming, you might have heard the pause and the slight change in his voice from the upper section of a giant stadium, but only at this show could you see his crumpling face, the slump in his shoulders, the sadness in his eyes. It was one of many special moments that left you feeling more human for having shared the moment with him, for him having welcomed you into it.