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Springsteen Live: A First-Timer's Response

04/24/2012 10:40 am ET | Updated Jun 24, 2012

Written by Stacy Heder

Bruce Springsteen's live performance of "Born to Run" was enough to make the nearly ten hour drive my friend Niccola and I made from Madison to the Palace of Auburn Hills completely worth it. When the song came on, the arena erupted. All of the lights came up and the place was pulsing with energy. Everyone there, old, young, drunk, sober, was having the time of their lives. Springsteen played and sang full of passion, which didn't entirely matter since the whole crowd was singing as well. It was my first Bruce concert and I've never seen anything like it. The man is 62 years old and put on the most energetic, exciting, and exhausting show that I have ever seen. There were many times when I wanted to let him know he could take a drink or a seat for a minute and no one would mind but I'm sure he would've refused anyway. The only "break" came before the encore when Springsteen and his band bowed, after which Springsteen went right back to get a guitar and keep on going. For twenty-six straight songs, Bruce delivered the kind of energy and power reserved for the final songs of most concerts.

My experience of the concert had almost as much to do with the crowd as the band. Before the show, the parking lot was crowded with people waiting to get in. Some were tailgating, some were just waiting in line. It was sort of funny. Most of the people there appeared to be around Bruce's age, dressed as if they were characters in one of Bruce's songs. I went in feeling more like a spectator than a participant. Our seats were right next to a young kid and his father. It was a great moment to see the two of them bonding over Bruce. The father had clearly passed on his love for the Boss as the young boy sang nearly every word. The father kept hugging his son as if Bruce was just bringing them together. My favorite fan though was a husky man in front of us. He was all alone at the concert. He looked like a caricature of a construction worker. He was silent while we waited for the show -- then the music came up and then he was flying high. He pumped his fist to the music and sang along: "we take care of our own/wherever this flag's flown/we take care of our own." This was his moment. Bruce's energy was all for him at that point and everyone like him. His life could be hard, his life could be easy, he could be down and out or on top of the world but at this moment it didn't matter. Everything was right.

For three wonderful hours, everyone at the Palace was living the dream, escaping their hometowns, and hanging out with their buddies. That's what Bruce is for these people. Unlike more flashy rock stars like Mick Jagger or Prince, Bruce acts like everyone there is one of his best friends. Kids were brought on stage to sing, dance, and share in his trademark slide. He took requests from signs in the audience. He played to every corner of that arena, so being behind the stage was no disadvantage for us. Bruce chugged a beer with his buddies (all of us) and even crowd-surfed. I can't imagine a much better show.



After the phenomenal "Born to Run" performance, our pal Bruce went on to sing "Dancing in the Dark," bringing some little girls on stage to dance with him, which was hilarious, and "10th Avenue Freeze Out," which closed the show. I marveled at the energy Bruce still had after all of that and when he got to the place where "the big man joined the band" that energy went through the roof. We clapped until our hands hurt and the whole place was feeding off of Bruce and, dare I say, Clarence's energy. Maybe there isn't any tangible explanation for it except that he's truly the Boss. It's just that simple.

Stacy Heder is a freshman at UW-Madison who comes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a fan of a "huge variety of music from Bob Dylan to Green Day and MGMT."