“You are isolated, yet you desire to talk to somebody,” Springsteen said. “You are very disempowered, so you seek impact, recognition that you are alive and that you exist. We hope to send people out of the building we play in with a slightly more enhanced sense of what their options might be, emotionally, maybe communally. You empower them a little bit, they empower you. It’s all a battle against the futility and the existential loneliness! It may be that we are all huddled together around the fire and trying to fight off that sense of the inevitable. That’s what we do for one another.
“I try to put on the kind of show that the kid in the front row is going to come to and never forget,” he went on. “Our effort is to stay with you, period, to have you join us and to allow us to join you for the ride—the whole ride. That’s what we’ve been working on the whole time, and this show is the latest installment, and, in many ways, it’s the most complicated installment, because in many ways it has to do with the end of that ride. There are kids who are coming to the show who will never have seen the band with Clarence Clemons in it or Danny Federici—people who were in the band for thirty years. So our job is to honor the people who stood on that stage by putting on the best show we’ve ever put on. To do that, you’ve got to acknowledge your losses and your defeats as well as your victories. There is a finiteness to it, though the end may be a long time away. We end the night with a party of sorts, but it’s not an uncomplicated party. It’s a life party—that’s what we try to deliver up.”
This quote comes near the end of a lengthy profile, “We are Alive: Bruce Springsteen at 62,” by New Yorker editor David Remnick. I am hardly the biggest Springsteen fan, but I remember well the power of Born to Run (the album that is the soundtrack to my early college years.) Can’t you picture the album cover? Were you one of the cool kids who had already discovered Bruce, and gloatingly told others of The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, or Greetings from Asbury Park? So many of us shared that experience, regardless of where we were. It was a common reference point. What experiences do we share now? We are so fragmented, so overwhelmed with options and choices that we really have very little in common. We share very few experiences.
Springsteen’s words about what he wants for those with whom he shares the concert experience are so heartfelt and mindful, so generous of spirit, and so respectful of his audience and his bandmates–even those who are no longer with the band–that they resonate far beyond a stage or an arena. This is what we need from and for each other. This is what we should expect from those who lead us.