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Somerville Nights

Posted on 01 March 2003 by Caryn Rose (1)

This article originally appeared in Backstreets issue #76

Haven’t you always kind of wondered how, exactly, he does it? I don’t know about you, but if I could reincarnate as a fly, I’d make sure I was somewhere near Bruce’s home studio the next time the man sat down to do some writing, and park myself on the nearest wall. The details of any artist’s creative process always fascinates me, but to have insight into the process of someone whose work has been a part of me since age 10, and who continues almost consistently to always amaze me would just be over the top. I have read and re-read those introductory essays in the “Songs” anthology over and over again: out of interest, to find inspiration, and to give me yet another level of understanding into those songs we all know and love so well.


So, imagine opening up “Songs” and have Bruce materialize in front of you (a la High Fidelity) and start talking to you about how he wrote this song, what he was thinking about when he wrote that one, what his approach to this particular album was. And he’d laugh, make some jokes, share some insights, draw you in, demystify it all. Well, that was exactly what happened for two nights at the Somerville Theater (capacity: 900) just outside of Boston on February 19 and 20. It was billed as “An Intimate Evening of Music and Conversation,” and both evenings were absolutely truth in advertising. Over the two nights, in addition to the stunning performances on acoustic guitar and piano, we’d learn:
–Bruce is somewhat befuddled by the lack of technological advances in hair styling
–Why “Thunder Road” will likely never, ever leave the setlist
–He digs hearing cover bands playing his songs
–He’s still kind of pissed at Manfred Mann for changing the “deuce” line in “Blinded by the Light” to “douche”
–He still despises cell phones
–The root of all rock and roll angst boils down to one thing: “Daddy”
–Fans still really, really, REALLY want to hear “Rosalita”
–Any song you don’t understand the meaning to is always about sex.

Gigantic snowdrifts surround the theater as a result of the 27″ of snow Boston had received the two days prior to the show. It’s freezing, but that doesn’t stop the faithful and the optimistic from starting a drop line outside the venue. The Somerville Theater is one of those ancient little jewelboxes that are miraculously still preserved. Even knowing that the capacity doesn’t prepare you for how intimate a setting it is in reality. It’s SMALL, smaller than even the theaters Bruce appeared in on the Solo Acoustic tour. The theater does host concerts on a fairly regular basis, but most of the time, it’s a movie theater, down to the popcorn and candy counter that greets you in the lobby.

Robert Coles, a friend of Bruce’s, and the founder of the troubled DoubleTake magazine (which ceased publication in Fall of 2001 due to lack of funds), comes out at 8:15, and is loudly BROOOCED. He seemed somewhat surprised by that reaction – it wasn’t rudeness so much as pent-up enthusiasm – and bolts almost immediately, after a brief, mumbled introduction. Bruce comes out, laughing, and makes a comment about how he wasn’t going to be rivaling Clarence as a MC any time soon. Then, the usual comments about how he needs as much quiet as we can give him, no cell phones, no tiny cameras, etc., and – the most important thing – that he’s going to be doing something a little different tonight, talking about the songs and how they were written, and then afterwards, he’d be taking some questions from the audience about “how I do my job”. Kevin Buell hands him the 12-string Takamine (at that moment the most beautiful sight ever in my eyes), and it’s “Darkness On The Edge of Town”, followed by “Adam Raised A Cain” Yeah, we heard both of these plenty during the Joad tour, but tonight it sounds and feels different: clearer, better, stronger, louder. My notes said “rolling, expansive, massive, soaring”. The vocal style is less melodic and more of a chant. There’s a music stand to Bruce’s right, and it’s turned to the side, and I can see that unmistakable large loping handwriting. (He was also using a teleprompter, but that wasn’t immediately obvious to me until night two. The raps between songs felt spontaneous, but structured; I’m guessing that it was more of an outline than a strict script. In any event, there was enough rambling that the overall effect felt organic.)

He changes to the six string, and tells us that the Darkness songs are “songs I always return to, they’re some of my favorites to play.” And that someone told him when he was a kid that the safest place in a storm was in a car, and with a mocking grin — “I really took it to heart… Wasn’t so much interested in what made them run, as I was interested in what made me run.” He continues: “I think that for me there was always something about the last verse in that song, the kind of character comes forward and he asserts his will: ‘Tonight I’ll be, tonight I will be’. And for me that was something where I was sort of, that last moment of survival, where his will is the only promise he has, and that’s all he can give out. And at the same time that last verse always reminds me of the artist’s promise to his audience, and the challenge that he throws out to his audience, which is: if I’m going there, you’re coming with me. So I still sing that one with gusto.”

This lead into a stunning version of “My Father’s House”. And then, transitioning briskly: “Going to back now to some of my earliest things… this is the stuff that I say explains why I never did any drugs…because for some reason, it was already there,” prefaces the story we know from “Songs” about writing Greetings in the old abandoned beauty parlor (which was when Bruce asked us if they still used the old-fashioned hair driers, and was amazed that they did). Great, enthusiastic versions of “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” and “Growin’ Up” follow.

Then, almost off-handedly, Bruce begins: “Okay… taking you to the top of ‘Bus Stop, and take you through this sucker line by line and explain just what the hell’s going on…” He starts strumming the guitar, and singing the song, line by line, stopping after each line and explaining it. Some highlights:

“Hey bus driver, keep the change…”
“I was on a bus, going up to 82nd street, where a friend of mine had a crash pad he used to let me stay at…so I’m sitting on a bus, just watching everybody…”
“Bless your children, give them names…”
“I just liked that.”
“Don’t trust men who walk with canes, drink this, you’ll grow wings on your feet..”
“I just liked that.”
“Broadway Mary, Joan Fontaine…”
“Those New York City girls..”
“Advertisers on the downtown train…”
“Poor working stiff.”
“Christmas crier busting cane, he’s in love again”
“And that’s self-explanatory.”
“Where dock worker’s dreams mix with panther’s schemes to someday own the rodeo”
“That’s equal opportunity for all.”
“Tainted women in vista vision perform for out-of-state kids in the late show.”
“A New Jersey boy in pre-Disney Times Square,” with an affectionate smirk.
“Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps, interstellar mongrel nymphs…”
“42nd street.”
“Rex said that lady left him limp. Love’s like that..”
A beat. “Self-explanatory.”
“Queen of diamonds, ace of spaces, newly discovered lovers of the everglades.”
“Let me, uh, refer to my notes…(pause) nothing special.”
“They take out a full page ad out in the trades to announce their arrival…”
“That’s – ‘New York, here I come.”
“And Mary Lou she found out how to cope, she rides to heaven on a gyroscope”
“Balance, Libra, the whole — thing… it’s a talent.” (So that’s what that line means!)
“The Daily News asks her for the dope, She says “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope”.
“That’s the song.”

He utters those three words, and there’s immediate, massive applause that seems to commemorate this shared understanding – I mean, anyone who’s heard the song before, which was most if not all of the audience, knew that already on some level, right? It just seemed like this great communal “ah-ha!” moment.

Bruce continues: “Without that, the song doesn’t get on the album, I don’t have it. I got close to it but I didn’t have it. But — somebody once said that a good rock song is only one good line, you only need one good line that gets you where you want to go….and the other stuff is kind of like getting there, and I think that’s true, as long as you find that one good one that takes it and puts it on the record.”

He finishes up the last few lines, and then strums, hums a line of the melody, and then says, “That’s it.” Again, massive, enthusiastic applause.

Dumbfounded, I turn to my seatmate and say, “That alone was worth everything it took me to get here, and every penny I spent on this trip.” This wasn’t just a concert, it was sitting in a master class about writing and the creative process of an artist. He wasn’t holding anything back. It was like he invited us into that apartment above the beauty parlor to play us this new song he just wrote and was so excited about and wanted us to really understand it.

He gives a brief overview of “Growin’ Up,” telling it was more about an “imagined youth” than a true story, and how he thinks the songs still feel fresh. And that the “one line” in “Growin’ Up” was (can you guess?) – the “key to the universe” line – “It meant that if you try hard enough, you can find it anywhere, if you’re willful enough, you can find it anywhere.”

“In Freehold” is introduced as an updated version of “Growin’ Up” (with an abridged version of the story of the song’s origin that we’ve all already heard) and it seems different to me tonight, the delivery strikes me as straighter, it’s less of a talking blues and more melodic. Next, he drops back to the grand piano, and tells us that the next song was one of his first “I gotta get the hell out of Freehold” songs (going off into a tangent about the New Jersey State Legislature wanting to make “Born To Run” “the state popular song in some fashion” [the first one of the night – we’d get seven in total]). Then, almost casually, purple light bathing the stage, he glides into a delicate, sparse rendition of “Thunder Road.”

When that’s finished, and we’ve barely recovered, he leaves the piano and comes up to the center mic. He begins explaining: “So that was kind of a song that envisioned everything…it always sounded like morning to me, that song, the beginning, the harmonica intro, that’s how come it ended up first on the record…but that song always felt like morning to me…when everything just for a moment feels possible… and you put enough of those moments together, something happens. I had the band, and came up with that fade on the end, which was a big, big part of the song, it’s kind of where – the future the characters are moving into. And so it was just one of those songs where I just felt everything – everything.” You can see that he’s clearly struggling with trying to adequately articulate to us how he feels about the song, and you’re on the edge of your seat, holding your breath, feeling like you’re in the middle of some private conversation.

Sure, “Thunder Road” is legendary, and rightly so. But now I felt like I had some understanding about how important it is to him, which is a much different thing than chart position, critical acclaim, or popularity. Every musician has a song that looms large in their legend, that they seem to do battle with constantly, that means something to them beyond the actual work. Based on what he said about this song over these two nights, I suddenly realized that “Thunder Road” is that song to Bruce. Which explains to me why he keeps playing it, even when many people feel that the performances are lackluster, and there’s a perception that he doesn’t “mean” it. (I don’t necessarily agree with these opinions, but I do see where those who are of this mind are coming from, sometimes.)

He quickly shifts gears: “And I guess this song sits on the other side, this is a song where I couldn’t really feel, it was about feeling nothing, nothing at all…” That confession out of the way, it’s “Nebraska” next, on the 12 string and harmonica, the guitar sounding like a harpsichord, the audience stunned into silence. He finishes, and still strumming to fill the silence with something else besides his voice, continues: “That song, that came in a time in my life when my shit was catching up with me. It was a pretty different type of writing, it was when I actually started to research things I wanted to write about,” and tells about reading a book about the Fugate-Starkweather murders, and called the newspaper that was mentioned in the book. Turns out that the reporter who’d written about the case was still working there, 30 years later, and that his conversation with her gave him the key to the song. “The last verse, that’s internal information, that’s what makes the song work…” He sings it back to us, adding, “That was the thing you couldn’t find that some place, you had to go inside to find it, and that’s what made the song feel real to me, and to you, I think. It’s where the audience finds itself in that particular piece of music, in a piece of music where you would think it would be difficult to find yourself, but – that’s my job,” he adds with a small grin. Holy understatement, Batman.

“The River” is prefaced with the story about the Hank Williams song that inspired it, and how it was the first time he started to write in a narrative style. The guitar is less melodic, more modal (and he’d mention the next night that the choice of chord structure was deliberate and at the heart of the song), and just feels ancient and timeless, underscoring the words, letting them take the center. It’s a song over 20 years old, but it feels older at this moment, not at all like a contemporary rock song. It was breathtaking, even if you’ve heard this song dozens of times.

Lightening up, he continues with talking about some of the other songs on The River, that some were just straight rock writing – “So that when I went out to a bar on a Saturday night, maybe I could hear a cover band playing some of my music – which I always look forward to! Because I always felt that that plays an important part in the life of any decent community, you gotta have a good cover band in your local bar! So this was kind of a song I wrote with that in mind – just livin’.” And laughing, he takes us into a loose, acoustic version of “Sherry Darlin’,” the audience letting their hair down and openly singing along.

A funny story about lifting the title of “Born In The USA” from a script sitting on his writing table prefaces that song. A friend later observed that Bruce just loves to play BITUSA, and I’d have to agree. I wonder if every time he gets to play it the way he wants to, the way it was originally envisioned and written, if Bruce feels some kind of gleeful revenge (or as he said on the Joad tour, “the songwriter always gets the last word”)? It’s as deep and bluesy and soulful as the best renditions of BITUSA can be, and he’s just feeling it, eyes closed, moving the glass slide up and down the neck of the guitar. Then, green lights cause a huge monolithic shadow on the back of the stage, and BITUSA almost seamlessly transitions into a dark, intense (and totally unexpected) “Souls of the Departed”.

A pause, and then a story about going to “an event at the White House honoring Bob Dylan,” and taking Patti to the Vietnam War Memorial (she’d never been), looking for the names of the drummer of his first band, and another friend he knew, and then seeing Robert McNamara at the dinner later. And then, a week or so later, Joe Grushecky sending him an article from the newspaper. “And so we kind of wrote this song together in some fashion, it’s called ‘Wall'”. It’s a gentle, lilting melody, that seems to capture the story he just outlined for us. With the previous two songs, it’s a perfect thematic trilogy.

It’s always a challenge to hear new songs live. You’re trying to make out the lyrics, listen to the music, but at the same time, you want to get the overall picture of – how does it make you feel? (Well, at least I do.) The lyrics are straightforward, pretty much a retelling of the story he’d just laid out for us. It’s a protest song, obviously. There’s nothing necessarily distinguishing about the melody, again, it’s pretty straightforward, quiet, supporting the narrative.

“You and your boots and black tshirt
Ah, Billy, you looked so bad
Yeah, you and your rock and roll band
Is the best thing this shit town ever had
Now the men who put you here
Eat with their families in rich dining halls
And apology and forgiveness got no place here at all
At the wall…”

“A song about friendship” prefaces a fairly standard, but joyful, “Bobby Jean” (which he said he wrote “all in one pop”). Moving to the piano, he tells how he wanted to write about things that were central in people’s lives: “I want to write about work, I want to write about place, I want to write about friendship, I want to write about the idea of manhood, what that means, find some definition for it, I want to write about love, and sex…” and how this song was written when he was 3,000 miles away: “My Hometown”.

“This next bunch of material was my first shot at writing about men and women, which I waited for a long time to do, mostly out of – cluelessness.” A wry, self-effacing laugh. “So this was sort of — songs asking – who’s on the other side of the bed? Or really, who’s on this side of the bed? Still trying to figure that one out. This was sort of the beginning of how you, when you come face to face with one other person, and you gotta stop dropping your masks…” Of course, it’s “Brilliant Disguise”. It’s the first song where Bruce starts showing some movement behind the guitar, feeling the rhythm, just subtly, but noticeably.

“The first song I really wrote about that character came up off the River record, a song called ‘Stolen Car’…I made a switch from the guy in the road to the guy in the house, and I’d run just about way out of road…I said, I’ve got to take the people I’m writing about and I’ve got to learn to live here. So, this was my first shot at it.” And it’s just heartbreaking, pared down (if that’s even possible, but it was), sparse, bleak, echoing the emotion you get from the lyrics. But he’s feeling this one too, moving gently with the rhythm, hitting it with strength and precision, his playing and his voice opening up and getting bigger as the song moves along.

Whether that was conscious to him or not, he decided to talk about it: “The sex in those songs is in the rhythm… it was a great rhythm, because it was in ‘Save The Last Dance For Me’, it was in ‘Spanish Harlem’, all those beautiful, romantic 60’s records used that rhythm…” And to show us, he slides into two lines of “Save The Last Dance For Me” which got practically a Backstreets Boys reaction. “Same subject, a little different twist on things…I won’t go into the whole story about how I came to write the thing – that’s better that way, you’ll see.” Then it’s that quaint little song from the Joad tour, “It’s The Little Things That Count”. It seemed a strange choice, but the audience liked it, and he was clearly enjoying playing it, whistling with this faux-innocent look on the bridges.

“That happened a very long time ago, VERY long, very very long time ago…” he’s careful to qualify, with a smile. Some soft notes on the piano, and an utterly tear-jerking rendition of “If I Should Fall Behind” comes next. Transitioning back to the guitar, it’s followed by fairly straight (but great) versions of “Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Sinaloa Cowboys,” accompanied by interesting stories about going back to narrative writing, and the inspiration for the songs (including a relatively successful joke about LA vs. New York).

Then, it’s “The Rising” on acoustic, his playing and his voice growing in power and strength as the song goes along, filling the theater, and the audience singing along on the choruses. It’s just – huge, and wonderful. “A few more, and then we’re gonna open the thing up for some questions: ‘Who put the bomp?’ ‘Do you love me now that I can dance?’ ‘How do I get my hair to look like this?'” Then, with no introduction, it’s “Waiting For A Sunny Day,” similar to the acoustic version from last summer, just quieter, a harp break replacing Soozie’s fiddle. People are softly singing along, until the last chorus, when Bruce says: “Now, this song was written with just one purpose in mind… I don’t have to tell you what it is. 1, 2!” The houselights come up, and it’s one of those great, communal live Bruce moments. He drops back from the mic to encourage us, but he doesn’t have to. Earlier, he told us to come with him, and we did, the whole way.

He’s softly hitting atonal chords, gently tapping on the guitar: “I wrote about work, play, family, place, love, sex, the political and social forces that play in our lives, those are things I was interested in getting into in my music, and I wanted people to come to my shows and see themselves, and feel themselves, and also see part of the world around them that they might not see all the time. And that was part of the artist’s job, I always felt that my job was to answer the questions that my work threw up. And I kept chasing and chasing those questions, and I guess that was how I knew that I was alive, that I always wanted to continue to know.”

He dedicates the song to Bob Cole, and talks about a book Cole wrote called “A Secular Mind.” How the book relates that there’s one moment where things stop, and you leave the secular mind, “and for a moment, you’re connected to other things, larger things. There are certain things that automatically do it – the birth of a child, death of somebody that you love, listening to ‘Louie, Louie’, these are the things that automatically transport you to someplace larger. And I guess that that idea is sort of what songs and music and art are for. It facilitates that purpose, taking you outside of your secular self, and moving you into the place where your spirit, hopefully, along with your ass, can be nurtured. (Laughs.) So that’s kind of how I’ve taken my job over the years, and I’m going to take us back now to the record I started with, Darkness On The Edge of Town, because to me, that was my borderland, that was where – all things are in flux, and up for grabs, where time is running late, and there’s always work to be done. That was the turf I staked out on that record and I still go back to it, many, many, many, time and time again.” With that dark, ethereal preface, he moves into “Promised Land,” that majestic version he closed some Joad tour shows with, the song just filling the theater which was utterly still and silent. It’s transfixing, hypnotic, solemn, Bruce chanting the words almost ritualistically. Unbelievable. Even if you’d heard this version, it was like you’d never heard it before, and he’s as caught up in the song as we are.

Moving from this into the question and answer session was almost anticlimactic. There were a few questions I knew I could count on – where is Rosie, are you playing [insert venue here], a political question. Personally, my favorite was the guy who asked Bruce how fresh the hurt was when he wrote “Back In Your Arms Again”; one, it was a cool question, two, it got Bruce to sing the first few lines acapella, another heart-stopping moment. I also liked the question that got him to run down the setlist song by song and explain his logic for what went where, and why. (True confessions time: I asked the question about how he handles writer’s block. Can’t believe he doesn’t get it. Amazing.) For the most part, the questions night one were either interesting, or funny, or triggered a voluble reaction from Bruce. “Just keep him talking!” said one of my seatmates.

Then it’s a rousing “This Hard Land” to close, and three hours later, night one comes to a close. Unbelievable. And we get to do this again tomorrow?

I fully expected night two to be an almost carbon copy of night one, and wouldn’t have been disappointed if it had been. I knew there was no way we were getting a completely different setlist, and that was okay – at best, maybe he’d have a chance to expand on some of the themes he raised night one, after having had a chance to think about things. The audience for night two was slightly different – better dressed, less Bruce shirts. I spotted Jon Landau walking up and down the aisles before the show, and Debra Winger came out after Bob Cole to introduce Bruce, begging us to please not “BROOCE” her.

When “Darkness” and “Adam” opened the show, I was sure the only thing I’d have to do tonight is sit back and relax, noting the few exceptions I was sure would occur. He did set down the ground rules, mentioned the Q&A session (adding that he would also be “dispensing and receiving kisses” afterward – the one thing that was not truth in advertising…) However, when he went into an extended discussion about his father prior to “My Father’s House,” talking about masks of presentation (a similar theme to what he touched on when discussing “Brilliant Disguise” the night before), how he dealt with his father’s mask: “How do I love this? Because as a son, that’s my job.” It was almost overwhelmingly vulnerable, and gave the song a new depth. I was sure he was going to really go out on a limb tonight. And then, after relating the beauty parlor/Greetings story, he broke into “Blinded By The Light” and I almost fell out of my chair. Okay, I guess tonight is going to be different.

Sure enough, he went through “Growin’ Up” in the same fashion (sorry) that “Bus Stop” got the night before, My favorite moments in the “Growin’ Up” explanation were:
I had a jukebox graduate for first mate, she couldn’t sail but she sure could sing
“Dreaming of her, and – found her later.”
Took month long vacations in the stratosphere
“I still have trouble with that one. That’s one of those – ‘you can ask the wife’ sort of things.”

“I’d do ‘Blinded By The Light’ but it could get really scary…” Shouts of encouragement from the crowd. “It’s basically about sex…” So he starts it, running through it quickly. It was most memorable for Bruce stopping in the chorus, and saying: “This is the only thing that disturbed me in that Manfred Mann version…the only thing that disturbed me is that they changed it to ‘douche’, you know, which was okay, you know, but – ‘cut loose like a DEUCE’, as in a little deuce coupe. The only number one record I ever had…” That, and “Burning up pages in the rhyming dictionary!” as the explanation to one particularly befuddling line.

The set continued along the lines of the night before, but at one point, and I still can’t quite identify when it was, Bruce’s narrative halted, or at least slowed down, got more condensed (at least compared with the previous night). I’d hazard a guess that the main reason was that the audience was way more active, and not in a good way – lots of getting up and down all night, especially in the first few rows (where were these folks going during “The River”? There was no bar. And did the person in the second row need to come back with the mega bucket of popcorn in the middle of “My Father’s House”?) It was a shame, because I think we lost out on a lot, but on the other hand, Bruce channeled his concentration and his intensity into the songs instead of into the discussions. For example, “Brilliant Disguise” was even deeper than the night before, becoming almost a pure soul number. It stunned the audience into silence, which was needed (there was also way more chit-chat during songs than the night before). Or moving to the piano and launching into a completely unexpected “For You” (dedicated to Patti) during which I am quite sure the planet stopped turning. I know that I’m not objective, that that song is one of my personal Top Five, and I’m not quite sure that I’d ever heard it live before, but even with that, it was undeniably heartfelt and heartbreaking. “Sunny Day” is far less boisterous – either they didn’t really know the words, or they weren’t the kind of folks who sing along in public, I’m not sure which – but that didn’t matter. Bruce was still in soul singer mode, so it was quieter, more acoustic, him hanging back from the mic and letting his voice echo around the theater minus amplification, turning it into a ballad. And “Promised Land” shut everyone up for the final few minutes of the show, the song even darker and deeper than the night before, if that was even possible.

Night two Q&A was, well, a little different. As Bruce himself would put it later, “No one wants to ask any questions, they just want to testify!” Many folks took this as the only opportunity they would ever have to talk to Bruce, and tell him what his music meant to them, which is totally understandable. However, it was clearly frustrating to Bruce, who was already pretty uncomfortable with the entire process (Question: “What’s the worst mistake you ever made in your career?” Immediate answer: “This! This right now.”) But even with the frustration some of us felt during the questions (did we really need to ask him “Boxers or briefs?” or “Will you write a song with the name ‘Alison’ in it?” (answer: “Well, I think Elvis Costello already covered that…first, I gotta write a song with the name ‘Patti’ in it…”) there were, at least, some great answers despite the material he was given to work with, and the “Who are your favorite Yankees?” question took some balls, given where we were.

It would have also been far less annoying overall if people would have let him finish the answers – it was so frustrating to get Bruce going on an answer, only to have the next question stepping on him (especially when it was something like “I really like that song, ‘No Retreat, No Surrender’…how about an encore?” “No! Next?”). The uncomfortable feeling just grew, and was obvious, but instead of people picking up on it and not asking the dumb questions, the level of triviality just intensified. Bruce finally just cut it short out of exasperation, which wa a shame. But, despite all of this, in the end, when it came time for “This Hard Land,” and we got to the last lines, there was an enthusiastic shout-along to the “Stay hard! Stay hungry! Stay alive!” lines, bringing a feeling of shared camaraderie and conclusion to the evening.

These shows were both remarkable, and unremarkable at the same time. Remarkable for the insights shared and true intimacy displayed, and unremarkable because all Bruce was doing is what he’s always done in his music: take complex thoughts, feelings, emotions, and concepts, and distill them down into their simplest forms, into language everyone can understand. Sure, perhaps the Q&A session format wasn’t the greatest idea ever – it might have been better to have people to submit questions in writing before the show, and let someone vet them and do the asking, especially since he couldn’t see his questioners (he kept joking that he kept thinking it was his conscience talking). All we can wish is that that part of it won’t dissuade Bruce from presenting something similar in the future. It was just too valuable an experience overall (despite careless questions) to think that it would never happen again, and all I can hope is that Bruce got half as much out of the shows as most of the audience seemed to.

If you were looking for a chance to shout and dance and sing, if you wanted loud music and camaraderie and “Ramrod” – no, these weren’t the shows for you. But if you ever wanted a chance to have even a glimpse into what makes Bruce Springsteen who and what he is, and why, and to understand the music you know so well already even better – these were definitely the shows for you, and we were rewarded a million times over in that regard. Personally, I wouldn’t have traded these two nights for a week of shows in Atlantic City.

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