Thursday, October 1, 2009

Springsteen at Giants Stadium

I caught Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium last night. At 60 he is still fiery and exuberant and the E Street Band rocks along just fine. Together, they do something extraordinary: make beautiful music out of the bitterness and the sweetness of living in New Jersey.

A writer once knocked Springsteen for appealing mostly to white fans, but I think that misses the importance of African American culture to his music. Springsteen is deeply influenced by the Black idioms of rhythm and blues and gospel.

Most important, he embodies what Al Murray once called the greatest gift of the blues: affirming life in the face of adversity,

Last night, I was up on my feet dancing and pumping my fist to lines like:
Badlands, you gotta live it everyday
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you've gotta pay
We'll keep pushin' till it's understood
and these badlands start treating us good.

I grew up in the working-class world of North Jersey. I've always cherished Springsteen's ability to turn its blend of big dreams, shitty jobs, and bruised spirits into moments of pure exultation.

In Springsteen's world, where I was raised, people are bred to what Yeats called "a harder thing than triumph." The greatest gift of Bruce Springsteen is that he finds beauty, resilience, and ecstasy there all the same.

1 comment:

Iver said...


I am an "expatriate" New Yorker living in Portland, Oregon who knows metropolitan New Jersey well. Your take on Bruce Springsteen really resonates with me. There is something about the exultant, blue-collar vigor and pragmatism of metropolitan New Jersey that Springsteen's work exemplifies. Also, I have just finished reading "Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History" by Helene Stapinski about her Jersey City upbringing in a family rife with criminal pursuits. In the end, Stapinski rejects and surmounts her family's criminality, but inherits street wisdom, moxie and passion that could easily fit one of Springsteen's lyrical personae.