Saturday, April 21, 2012

What I’m learning from a 62-year-old rocker

I’ve always been a Bruce Springsteen fan. Born to Run is my favorite song of all time. My husband and I have played and cried over his repertoire on The Rising so much that it’s a household joke: to release tension, pop in the CD. But I’ve been studying Bruce more of late. He played the Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago. Jimmy Fallon dedicated two Late Night shows to him and I watched, riveted. I’ve got to see him in concert, I thought, and promptly purchased tickets for his Wrecking Ball Tour. On April 17th I was one of the throng at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, cheering him and his fabulous, although somewhat changed, E-Street Band.

I was absolutely blown away. To me, he’s the perfect package. Here’s why:

1. He’s the genuine article
Sure he’s played around with his personal appearance over the years, and his marriage to apparently polar opposite Julianne Phillips seemed destined to fail, but who doesn’t struggle with looks and relationships? It just made him more real. Down deep he knows who he is, and has never pretended to be someone he’s not. No pretense. No hoity-toity makeover.

2. He’s never forgotten his roots
He came from the working class and now he champions it. Bruce = resiliency of hard-working America. Sure he’s worth millions and owns homes in New Jersey, Florida, and California. But his money hasn’t changed the essence of who he is. In the old days, this Polish food lover and his band might have stopped by Sokolowski’s University Inn restaurant in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood after the concert for a bite. Nowadays, someone who works for him called the popular eatery a week before April’s show and placed a large takeout order to be delivered to Burke Lakefront Airport. That way he and his crew could eat aboard a private plane en route to their homes and families.

3. His talent is staggering
This singer/songwriter is prolific. His lyrics are snapshots and his music is a living, breathing organism that encourages millions of people to fist pump, sing along, boogie in the aisles, and appreciate the good things in life.

4. He’s a consummate professional
No slouch, he’s got the real working man’s work ethic. He knows how to work the crowd. He knows how to banter. Beautiful music swells the stage when he’s around. He also knows how to mix it up so we get some old with the new. Right this minute he’s converting some young kid who wasn’t around when Born to Run was released.

5. He takes care of himself
He plays his guitar over his head, slides across the stage on his knees, wades through the crowd, carrying a young girl from the audience to slide across the stage on her knees with him. Just by looking at him you can tell he works out. By respecting himself enough to keep in shape, he provides us with top-notch performances. He sang his heart out for three hours with no breaks. I wish I had that kind of stamina.

6. He surrounds himself with talented people he treats like family and they stick around
He married one of them and the rest are his best friends. The most veteran members of the E-Street Band have had successful careers of their own, but they want to stay with The Boss. The way he and Steven Van Zandt (loved him on The Sopranos) sing into the same microphone is adorable. These guys love each other so much they don’t mind getting sprayed with one another’s spit.

7. He’s got a huge heart
His music reflects his sentiments. His off-stage activities support people and organizations he believes in. I may not champion the same ones, but I have to admire someone who lives for something besides himself. His on-stage tribute to deceased saxophonist Clarence Clemons was the most elegant eulogy I've ever seen.

8. He respects his audience and works them into the show
In this tour, he makes his way into the middle of the crowd, guzzles a couple of proffered beers, then falls back into the audience’s waving arms, allowing himself to be carried back onto the stage. A young girl with a sign saying, “Dance with Me,” is pulled onto the stage to dance during Dancing in the Dark. During his audience walk he hands his microphone to a young girl and she takes over singing for him. Is some of this staged? Of course! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great theater. And again, he’s marketing to his younger viewers. They’ll certainly be Bruce fans for life now.

9. He’s so obviously enjoying himself
He looks like he’s having the time of his life, and so I have one too.
The Boss, giving it all he's got, in Cleveland.

10. Like an Energizer bunny he keeps going and going and going
He could be resting on his laurels playing the occasional reunion tour, or retire and do something else entirely. But he keeps plugging away. He’s no fluke. He’s the real deal. (Back to #1.)

Kim Van Sickler


  1. And who knew at the time that girl would eventually be TV star. :)

    OMG could you imagine if Bruce got a hoity toity make over? ROFL!!!

  2. I was so impressed with Philadelphia.

  3. He DOES put on a killer show (Have seen him a few times in Cleveland but not in years) and you're right, he is like the E Bunny!

  4. Fun, article Kim, Patty saw Springsteen a couple of years ago at Staples Center with a bunch of her girlfriends and she had a blast of a night, (not so hot the next morning) Ahhhh the sins of women's nights out, (which really only means they'll be drinking martini's all night as opposed to wine!) SHe loved the concert and loved your piece here, put her right back on the floor of his LA concert.