A rock concert may be just a collection of songs just like an art exhibit may be just a collection of paintings. But in the right hands, the whole can be so much more than the sum of its individual parts. When it resonates, it elevates the form.
In Columbus, OH on Monday night, Bruce Springsteen elevated the form, again. He put on a show that was more, much more, than a few tour premieres and resurrected gems. It was a showcase, to be sure, spanning an amazing body of work over a nearly 40-year career. But to me, it was much more personal.
For the last 30 years or so, I’ve seen close to 80 Springsteen shows in almost any kind of venue imaginable. I’ve enjoyed those shows with total strangers and the closest of friends and a horde of people that fall somewhere between. Monday was the first time I enjoyed one with my daughter who, at almost 20 years of age, is roughly the same age when I saw my first show in 1978. It couldn’t have been a more appropriate moment.
Less by sheer luck than humble design, Springsteen perfectly bookended the experience and his remarkable concert with an opening and a close that not only captured the central themes of his expansive career — personal connections and how they ultimately play themselves out in a larger context — but the central message that a dad has been struggling these many years to impart on his oldest daughter before she’s off to fend for herself.
By the force of his personality and his power as an entertainer, Springsteen led an incredible journey that illustrated for her, for everyone, how the disaffected loner wannabe saved from a life of abject disconnection in "The Ties that Bind," from 1980’s "The River" that opened Monday’s show, may then become part of the solution, some 30 years later, for restoring dignity to the immigrants that built this "American Land," the song that closed the evening. By solving the smaller problems, we can tackle the larger ones more effectively. And by the way, in between you had the chance to hear some of the best music ever made or played.
There was a stretch in Monday’s show, beginning with "Something in the Night" (a tour premiere) and culminating with "She’s the One," where I felt like this was absolutely the best concert I had ever seen. This particular grouping of songs, which also included "Because the Night," "Reason to Believe," and "You’ll Be Coming Down" (also a tour premiere), itself provided an effective mini-retrospective of Springsteen’s career. But the overarching message, delivered in note-perfect passion and urgency, was that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Another great life lesson.