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Picking Up Crumbs: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

13 May

3525331183_2f25d9db75_jpg_595x1000_q85cas and Staciaann got up close and personal with the Boss on Monday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. You can read the Decider recap here.

Notes From a Near-Conversion or Bruce and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The whole endeavor was inspired by CakeIn15 friend and contributor Alexa, who is totally obsessed with Bruce. This is why we found ourselves in line at the Xcel 5 hours before the show to get a wristband to get in the front pit, hoping that Alexa’s luck would hold out for the lottery. Herded down like lost cattle into the concrete belly of the RiverCenter for the drawing, the magic held and we were in. Follow that up with some crowd management skills and a complete lack of shame and CakeIn15’s first Bruce Springsteen show was experienced right up at railing, 15 feet from the Boss.

At this point it would be good to note that I am no huge Springsteen fan. But when the man who wrote the book for bar bands of this generation rolls into town with his legendary band, you don’t pass up the chance to go. I was excited to see the E Street Band, for the “I’ve seen you on TV!” disconnect and thrill of Steve van Zandt and Max Weinberg, but mainly because Clarence Clemons is so much cooler than anyone else. Those often-imitated-never-replicated saxophone solos are peals of grace and cool irony in the midst of the prevailing sentiment of the evening; faith-filled optimism and dedication. The Penetecostalist interlude where the Boss got down and cried out to sweep away sadness, despair, fear and doubt would not have been out of place at a big-tent revival, “American Land” was Depression-era populist reductive history and singing “Outlaw Pete” with a cowboy hat crossed over into western schmaltz.

I know times are tough, and the Boss knows it too, he told me so. But it is the simplest response and often a necessary release to join in with others singing “I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day / Gonna chase the clouds away.” If rock and roll is the closest thing we have in America to a secular religion- a communal experience that embodies the ethos and values of a culture- it is also that doubt and darkness that make the light and hope so transcendent. Songs like “The River” give me the shakes because of it’s stark directness and “Streets of Philadelphia” is the plain-spoken conclusion to “Walk on the Wild Side”, cutting through rock and roll pretense to articulate and face down fear.

Maybe the faceless venue of an arena is no place for a conversion experience, and there is no doubting that I saw a brilliant execution of rock and roll on Monday night, but it was difficult to shake the feeling of being an apostate amongst believers. That kind of faith magnifies questions of faithlessness. Blessed are us poor stiffs, for ours shall be the kingdom of hope and power chords. We flee to rock and roll because the town will rip the bones from your back, and between when you’re born and now it’s a death trap, you’re never gonna get out of here alive. I shouldn’t take the suicide rap too seriously. Especially not when a fifty-nine year-old can out-dance me. Especially not when I know that I am free to dance at the altar of my own choosing and find my own hot licks of the holy spirit. Especially not when I get to see that blissed out Jonesyface.

Bruce Springsteen & Alexa Jones at the Xcel Energy Center from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

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