Dave Nantais on Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's latest tour just wrapped up, and Dave Nantais has the goods on the Boss's performance.  Nantais rightly puts his finger on something that many more high-toned critics miss: his concerts are...fun.

Some call Bruce Springsteen “The Boss” but on Nov. 13, during a performance with the E Street Band in Detroit, he was working for the audience. (His national tour ended in Buffalo on Nov. 22.) The third song of the almost three-hour set, an energy-infused version of “Johnny 99” from the “Nebraska” album, could not have been more poignant, with its description of auto plants closing and the desperation that attends an economic recession. While many in the Detroit audience were likely feeling the pinch of these hard times, Springsteen paused to solicit help for a popular local non-profit, Focus Hope. This grand gesture reminded the crowd that there are those who barely scrape by, even during times of plenty, and who could never afford to attend one of his shows

Many distinguished scholars have written about Springsteen, from Andrew Greeley’s discussion of his “Catholic imagination” to Robert Coles’ collected testimonials on what average Americans feel about his songs. What makes a Springsteen show great is the way it serves as a clarion call to wake up, embrace life and have fun! This is not musical escapism—no one is denying the suffering felt by so many, least of all Springsteen, who has been writing about the plight of the average worker for three decades. But he has a striking ability to make a 20,000-seat arena feel intimate, as though the show were meant for each individual present. The Boss is on a mission: to give the audience three hours of enjoyment and the permission to forget the depressing news headlines.

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