On December 12, 1980, I sat in the back right corner of the stage in the Hartford Civic Center for my first live Springsteen event. March 20, 2023 and I’m on the hill in the back left corner. It’s been quite a ride and there are people for whom it has been even longer.
My older brother had found Bruce well before me. I didn’t get it and would laugh at his intentionally poor attempts to evoke The Boss. I know when it clicked for me in early 1979, but I don’t know, I don’t have a moment where I said — I get it! I was in a deep funk after the first serious relationship I had been in and somehow, I got a hold of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. Song verses were being shouted in my ear. “Blow away the dreams that break your heart, blow away the dreams that tear you apart, blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and broken hearted.”
“I believe in the faith that can save me!”
I just devoured all that music, bootlegs, anything I could find. That music gave me something to hold on too something to start pulling my soul from a dark place. And so it went on, until The River was released in 1980, an epic ride of life’s journeys through hard times and good. When you can get away with having a Cadillac Ranch and Sherry Darling on the same album as Point Blank and Stolen Car, that’s incredible. And to have them all ring true.
So it went through years and years. Boston, Worcester, Providence, NYC, Jersey, Saratoga Springs. Born in the USA, Tunnel of Love, solo, no E Street Band, then yes! Reunion tour! The Rising. My god even that is a couple decades old. It’s been an incredible ride with many friends and all the emotions life offers.
There’s this thing about how as these great artists grow older, the same muse that fired up their greatness doesn’t sustain. I won’t argue about this, Springsteen is best known for his earlier work, this latet show in Boston was heavy on that time. But the most recent album with the E Street Band, Letter to You, should not be overlooked. I felt the 4 songs done from the album were core to the set.
I once had about 12 seconds with Bruce at a photo op when his autobiography came out . How do I say my piece that fast? What I thought of most was to tell him not only how much his music meant to me, but especially to my brother Howard, who had passed away less than a yeah earlier. And Bruce replied with a simple, God bless, and I was on my way.
And that has everything to do with Letter to You and those 4 songs. Ghosts, Letter to You, Last Man Standing and I’ll See You in My Dreams are all introspective songs about what you learn and carry from your life and from those that are no longer with you. These were songs and lyrics for now, for the people who have been along for that long ride.
Sure the rest of the show was full of fan favorite tracks and a couple deeper cut nuggets. All in all, it felt like a celebration, look where we were, but also look where we are. And it was good to come together for all of it.
And getting back to my title here, Faith in the Music”. There are a lot of people and to some degree myself also, that were hurt from the ticket sales fiasco. I was reminded of the saying, trust the art, not the artist. Explanations were at best clumsy from the Springsteen side of things. There’s this idea that Bruce won’t be like other people, he never has before. Then he was and it was avoidable and unnecessary.
The band kicked in to No Surrender and I was right back where I needed to be. The power and message of the music will always speak for itself.