Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What I Would Say to Bruce Springsteen, Musician, Performer, Athlete and Inspiration

On the first day of class, I model an icebreaker activity with  my seniors entitled "Three things you might not know about me." I share with them this fun fact:
  • I have seen Bruce Springsteen live, in concert 22 times and yet I don't want to meet him.
They don't get it. What? Why would you not want to meet the Boss? they ask, incredulously. I do what I can to explain my sentiment. There is no way I could express all that needs to be said. A conversation would never capture my feelings, and my experience, I add. I know I should just say "thank you," but I'd rather avoid the whole thing.

But today, I have something to share. I can no longer reveal that truth. Why? Because show #23, The River Sessions in Oakland California changed what I have felt for so long. How so? I left last night's 3 hour and 25 minutes performance with one total and complete conviction. Were I given the chance to meet Bruce Frederick Springsteen I know exactly what I would say him.

I would tell him: every time I see you perform, I leave wanting to be a better teacher. I would want him to know how I feel this deep down in my soul. And then I would explain how and why.

I watch what he does on the stage and see a performer and an actor, an athlete and a poet. He doesn't mail a single song in. There are no easy buckets. I wonder "does he ever go on auto pilot? Can he ever just "check it" for single minute?" 
In his live performance, I am a witness to the spiritual gift of friendship.
Stevie Van Zandt & Bruce have been friends for 50 years.
Looking at Bruce, one can't help but be inspired by his energy, his vulnerability and his joy. When he stands on stage, I am moved. I leave his show and recognize that I am a witness; I must testify. I want to be better at every single thing that matters most to me in my life. If I were married, I would leave there wanting to be a better wife. This is how his music and his message affect me.

I know why he speaks to me as a teacher. In the classroom, there are days when I am a performer. I expend a lot of energy to get my students into the curriculum. With my second semester seniors, this can be taxing. I need to take them to where we need to go—no teleprompter required...although a few notes (some of which are musical) do help. I tell stories, I touch those in the crowd. I check in with them and get a read from their energy. Being at last night's show reminded me of all of that.

The set list was tight. I love that the band was scaled down to many of the originals—to name a few, just Gary Tallent on bass, Roy Bittan on piano, Max on the drums (I think he is working almost as hard as the Boss and that says a lot). I could feel the communion of saints as Bruce paid tribute to Clarence "the Big Man" Clemons and Danny Federici. A video montage played on the large screen of images of them on the sax and the organ and Springsteen sang "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." 
This song, one of my top 10 favorites, brought Bruce out to a mini-stage in the middle of the floor. I got to touch his hand several times as he sang. Hoping to make eye contact as a way of saying "thanks," I never did. He was singing it from a different place—one of tribute and honor to those who he...who we, remain connected to in love. 

My friend Kathy noted that I have said "he makes me want to be a better teacher" at several shows in the past. She's right—I have. And yet, I know why it took me until this show to figure out this truth. Last night was a spiritual experience.

With the predetermined set-list of the 21 songs from "The River" in place, I feel as though we fans could relax and enjoy each song as it is....at other shows, the temptation to get caught up in what's next is so great that I sometimes lose sight and appreciation of the present.

After the completion of "The River: side A and B" Bruce and the band turned up the energy with fan favorites: "Badlands" and ascended into Prove it All Night (one of my top 3)" But a few songs later, the crowd was thrilled to hear "Candy's Room." Even though this is not a song I particularly enjoy, I loved witnessing the reaction of those who were standing beside me for two plus hours prior. The energy didn't subside. Bittan started the haunting notes of "Because the Night on the piano and the crowd wailed in ecstasy. I looked around at one point during this song and realized the energy inside of Oracle was so unbelievably high. Bruce was taking the crowd to a place it was wiling to go. It was spiritual, it was sexual, it was communal, it was transcendant. It's exactly what he aims to do. You can say it's art, he'd say it's Rock 'n' Roll. 

Today, I woke up in a total daze: exhausted from standing outside for over two hours "with the rain falling down" for our place in the GA line., sitting on the floor without a seat for over an hour prior to the band's arrival and after three plus hours standing, dancing, jumping, screaming, laughing and crying. I said to my colleagues that  I was running on an emotional high, one that reminds me of falling in love. You walk around in a fog. You just don't see anything the same way for a while. You can't. That's what love does, it breaks you out of yourself and into the arms of another person. Though a concert is different, in many ways, it's not.....because we are never the same when we love someone or something.

So this is my love letter to the man and more importantly the music of Bruce Springsteen. You make me want to be better at every single thing I care about deeply and what I give my life to. THANK YOU for that.

Photo Credits
All from Backsteets.com

No comments:

Post a Comment