10/8: Born to Run Live and In Person
As originally posted on brucespringsteen.net
It was always about the pictures in my head.
It’s been the same picture since the first time I heard it, at some point during a mixed up summer between grammar and middle school, when I heard a song on the radio, waited patiently to hear it again so I could write down the artist, and on a treasured trip to the record store, bought the album with the stark black and white cover. Which struck me as odd, because the pictures I had conjured up in my imagination to go with the song were in vivid technicolor.
Listening to the entire album was like the moment when Dorothy wakes up in Oz, ruby slippers and all.
Thirty-something years later, and I am here, in Giants Stadium, to listen to this album be performed in its entirety. As the saying goes, I wasn’t supposed to be here today. Just like I wasn’t supposed to be here the previous Friday to hear Darkness on the Edge of Town. Darkness and then Born in the U.S.A. the next night were so compelling I decided I needed to see Born to Run, too, the album about “one long summer day, and night,” as Bruce introduced it tonight.
How many times have we all heard “Thunder Road”? There have even been moments when it might have felt anything but inspiring in the set. But tonight, it is the door, it is the key, it is a bright summer morning. The house and the porch and the yard are still the same in my head as they were thirty-plus years ago, but I am usually not thinking of that.
Tonight, however, I am.
It’s not like I planned it — it’s not like I thought about this in advance. The pictures snapped into focus after the first few harmonica notes. Maybe it’s about the intent from the band, the act of “We are now going to play the album in order.” Maybe it’s the attention from the audience. Maybe it’s just my vivid imagination. Whatever it is, it is extraordinary.
I am less forgiving with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” maintaining its big stadium anthem form. However, all sins against “Tenth Avenue” are forgiven tonight by the presence of a real, live horn section: Clarence and his nephew, Curt Ramm, and Eddie Manion himself. “Tenth Avenue” with E Street and a real horn section is something I had given up hoping I would ever see. If you think the difference is not night and day, you are underestimating the horns greatly. Their soul and power is so much the heart of the song — and remember, they were how Stevie got his job.
“Tenth” thundering into “Night.” “Backstreets” opening with the guitar aloft in salute. “Born to Run” and I cannot begrudge this song its big stadium mode, it is one of my favorite parts of the show, but to be honest, I think keeping it small and keeping the momentum going would have been fine for the crowd, even here in the blimp nest. However, the lights get shut down almost immediately so the stage can go dark for “She’s the One.” To be fair, it got a little lost in the express train that is “Born to Run,” but survived.
A couple thousand people hold their breath as Roy begins the piano notes for “Meeting Across the River,” and we are graced with the trumpet intro, played by Curt with emotion and color and obvious care. The trumpet was a nice touch, and it instantly brought an intimacy to the performance of a song that almost demands it.
Then, once again, the guitar held aloft in tribute, and “Jungleland” is like a rocket taking off. It is a thousand colors, it is musical fireworks, a million different emotions. I mean, it always is in some form. But in place, in context, in the middle of the set, it feels a million times more so.
Before we know it, it is over. 40 minutes of one of the most perfect record albums ever made, played live in front of us, 24 hours brought to life. Bruce calling the musicians to the front of the stage — “These are the guys who made that record, and Phantom Danny Federici” — and we cheer and we ache just a little bit at the same time. I wonder if this is the only time I will ever see this. I wonder if this is the last time I will hear some of this. I try to stop wondering, and clap harder instead.
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