Let’s be honest with ourselves — for most musicians, each tour stop is “just another show.” It’s another date closer to the end, another stop in a city somewhere on this planet. That’s not to say they don’t play their hardest or give it their all; it’s just to say that, what makes a stop in Boise, Idaho, any different from a show in Birmingham, Alabama? If there’s nothing that connects the artist to that date or that city — well, how is it special?
But last night, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band had a reason to remember Buffalo, New York. This wasn’t “just another show.” This was it. Whether that “it” is the end of the tour, or the end of the band as we know it remains to be seen, but, at least for a little while, this is the end. It’s safe to say they made sure this wasn’t “just another show.”
You could see it on the crowd’s faces as the lights went up and they did that dorky dance Courtney Cox made popular in the “Dancin’ in the Dark” video. You could hear it in their voices as they sang the entire first verse of “Hungry Heart.” You could feel it in the lobby of HSBC Arena as fans waited to get in, chanting “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!” as they triumphantly rode up the escalators. Mostly, you could tell by the band’s reluctance to leave the stage, by Springsteen’s cries of, “We’re not going yet!”
This was something special. What went down in those three and a half hours on a normal Sunday night transcended the normal concert experience. Hell, Rolling Stone was there, and you know it’s big when they come out. This was mystical. It was magical. It was something beyond the crowd’s wildest dreams.
From the opening notes of “Wrecking Ball,” through the entire Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, still going through the “requests” of “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” (the four-year old in line in front of me got her wish) right up to the show-ending performace of “Thunder Road”…no, wait, “Rosalita,”…no, they still weren’t done…”Rockin’ All Over the World” — the band gave it their all.
My dad told (read: yelled over the ringing in my ears) me at the end, as I was stumbling out of my seat at 11:45pm, wondering how I would ever make it up for work this morning, “If you can find a harder-working band out there, I’ll go see them anytime.” You wouldn’t be able to guess that Clarence Clemons has health issues, or Nils Lofgren’s knee/hip/wherever problems, or that “Little” Stevie Van Zant is “as old as [Bruce]. When did that happen?,” you wouldn’t guess from their performance. They kept up right along with the little girl who got up onstage to sing “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and the young boy who got to dance with Little Stevie and air-guitar with Bruce during “Dancin’ in the Dark.” (By the way, how do I go back in time and get that opportunity?)
Bruce and the band show up most acts half their age, hands down. You don’t see Fall Out Boy (wow, that was a random pick, please don’t judge my musical tastes right now) putting on three-plus hour shows, and I certainly can’t picture Pete Wentz dancing across the stage (or even being *on* stage) at 60 the way Springsteen does/is (seriously, the man’s gotta have that elixir from the Fountain of Youth or whatever stashed in his fridge). If they’re ready to hang up their hats because of health issues — well, I’m not buying it.
If last night was their swan song — or even if it isn’t — Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band did it better than I think anyone there could have imagined. “Legendary” is an appropriate word. “Once-in-a-lifetime” gets closer.
Really, though, the yellow signs being passed out by fans in line, on the premise that this was, in fact, the final show for the E Street Band, say it all: