Finishing off my summer of aging-but-still-strong rock ’n’ rollers and jazzmen, I pilgrimaged to New Jersey, the state of my childhood and adolescence, to see Bruce Springsteen play Giants Stadium at the Meadowlands, one last gig before they tear the place down. I’ve seen Springsteen a few times before: my very first concert back in 1980, and a couple of times in the mid-1980s for the “Born in the USA” tour. In fact, the last time I saw him was in Giants Stadium itself, just about (and scarily) 25 years ago. This time, we — thanks especially to my wonderful father who has come relatively late to Springsteen’s rock ’n’ roll — had great seats (but I only had a terrible phone-camera, as you can see from the photos — does anyone have any pointers to better photos from that night, September 30, 2009?).
In memoriam of its coming demolition, Springsteen opened the show with the new “Wrecking Ball” written just for the occasion, and followed with several of his concert standards from throughout his career. He then got to the centerpiece of the show: all of “Born to Run” in order, from “Thunder Road” through “Jungleland”. This was the record that started the hype in the 70s — Jon Landaus’s infamous quote “I have seen the future of rock ’n’ roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen” (although perhaps this version is apropos given my previous concertgoing experience) — and it still holds up as a rock ’n’ roll masterpiece, showcasing Springsteen’s ability to craft epics out of quiet desperation, managing to be anthemic but not pretentious. With rave-ups like “She’s the One” alternating with the slow “Meeting Across the River”, we got a few chances to catch our breath, although Bruce and the E Street band hardly let up.
For most performers, a full album would be the bulk of a concert, but given Springsteen’s reputation for marathon shows, we also heard plenty more, from some of his earliest music — “Growin’ Up”, “The E Street Shuffle” and “Rosalita” — through quite a bit of his amazing post-9/11 record “The Rising” and beyond, including his recent stomper “American Land” and Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times”, which brought out obscure New York rocker Willie Nile and was prefaced with a much-needed and I hope well-received reminder of the perhaps naive but worthwhile sentiment that “nobody wins unless everybody wins” (although I did get the impression that some of the people around me didn’t share these political sentiments). Still, he spent most of the night receiving something between adulation and worship from the tens of thousands in the audience. The rest of us can only wonder what it’s like to feel that on such a scale, night after night, year after year. Does he get used to it? Is it addictive? Or just a job?