On October 14th, 2007 I saw my second-ever Bruce Springsteen concert. The first time I saw him – more than two decades previously – had been an eye-opener to say the least. As any live music fan will tell you, Bruce Springsteen is the realest of deals; the man is the epitome of hard-working rock and roll and he consistently delivers a this-could-be-the-last-show-of-my-life kind of performance. A true magician in the world of open-chord rock, his punchy, sweat-driven concerts are the stuff of legend despite being almost completely devoid of such regular concert trappings as blinding light shows and flashy guitar solos.
When he was headlining the Amnesty International concert in Montreal all those years before I had actually gone to the concert specifically to see two of the evenings earlier acts; Sting and Peter Gabriel. But when Bruce almighty hit the stage I had no idea what hit me; he had the packed-tight crowd in the Olympic Stadium up and dancing from note one, myself included. I recall spinning a slow circle from my spot on the floor to gape at the massive crowd and being absolutely amazed by Springsteen’s sheer sonic power.
So I was pretty surprised at myself for thinking this second Springsteen show was heartily underwhelming.
Which isn’t at all fair, and I’ll tell you why.
Despite my vast respect for Springsteen – both as a live performer and as a brilliant songwriter – I don’t really listen to him a lot. And when I look back at the setlist from this show I don’t see a single title I recognize until the end of the encore, so it’s not like I was doing any singing along. And speaking of the encore, people did a fair amount of freaking out when Arcade Fire joined The Boss onstage* for a handful of numbers late in the show: a song of his that hadn’t been played since 1984 and one of theirs that I was wholly unfamiliar with, plus Born To Run. I, however, was not freaking out. Despite a couple of fairly earnest attempts I just don’t ‘get’ Arcade Fire, so their inclusion in the show didn’t really add much to my experience.
But you know what? I’d pay a significant wad of cash on any given day just to watch Bruce Springsteen stand in front of me and play Born To Run – a song he himself compared to his ‘shot at the title’ – and he played it so no complaints here – I got my money’s worth.
As a matter of fact, despite the fact that this show didn’t even come close to living up to the experience I had over twenty years before I knew as I walked out that I would still be going to see Bruce Springsteen every chance I had going forward (and I have, always with amazing results).
As I hit the crisp, outside air I realized that I had just cheated myself for expecting to relive the shocking rock and roll awakening I had experienced at that Amnesty International concert all those years before. By the time I got to my car it occurred to me that not only was I twenty years older than I had been back then, but so was Bruce Springsteen and Superman that he is, a couple of decades has to take a guy’s energy down at least a little bit, right?
By the time I got out of the parking lot I was about an hour older and wiser (blast the infernal parking nightmare at that arena) and I knew that I had just traded in a fantastic concert for a mediocre one and it was nobody’s fault but mine, and maybe time’s.
*Arcade Fire weren’t on the bill or anything. It was just a one-time sit-in for those three songs, which I suppose was pretty cool to witness.