Editor's Note: On October 4, I wrote a complimentary review of a Bruce Springsteen show and linked to a track over twenty years old that I referred to as "one of the best songs ever." Apparently, this was offensive enough for Blogger to, without consulting me, delete an entire post of this site because it "violated international copyright law," which I guess no other blogs do. They (or Bruce) could have asked me to take the song down--and I would have--but they thought deleting my work forever would be easier or more effective. I Google cached the shit out of the article and am re-posting it here, minus the offending link. Remind me not to praise Bruce Springsteen anymore.
Saturday I gathered with 25,000 of my closest enemies at a Barack Obama rally, which was an inspiring, galvanizing experience. Mostly because Bruce Springsteen was there and performed an unplugged set for free.
My journey to see The Boss started earlier this week when I got an E-Mail with the heads-up from a friend who is getting texts every five minutes about what Barackster ate for breakfast. Springsteen was playing on Saturday afternoon for free on Ben Franklin Parkway (one of the busiest streets in the city), and all you had to do for tickets was sign up for them on Obama's website.
On there, you had to mark whether or not you were registered to vote and whether or not you supported The Big O. At first I marked "no" and never got my tickets. Then I went in under Wifey's name, marked "yes," and got them within four seconds. Leave it to the Democrats to have a rally where everyone already agrees. God forbid you have anyone there who needs to be convinced.
That thing in the center of the frame? Bruce Springsteen. The thing behind him? City Ha--the town's boner for Obama.
It was confusing once we got down there. People were randomly yelling "yes we can," and there was some confusion over where to go based on what kind of ticket you had. Eventually, we got through a gate, and I performed my patented Black Friday Bowes speed-walk to get as close as we could.
The crowd was mellow and upbeat (White). I know Bruce isn't the biggest draw in the Black community, but I was hoping a few people would be confused by all this Boss talk. Whenever I saw a Black person, I waited for him to get closer to confirm that he was selling t-shirts. It was a beautiful day, so if they can't show up for this, the Dems better hope it doesn't rain on Election Day. (No racism?)
Before Bruce hit the stage, there was about an hour and a half of left-wing back-patting emceed by a local radio host. Competent Philadelphia pop musician Nora Whitaker opened, and she invited her friend MC Kouf Knots on stage for three songs. It sounded okay provided that you had never heard anyone rap before, which, considering this crowd, was a possibility.
Then Amos Lee did a small set of his panty-dropping brand of singer-songwriterism. He finished with a particularly rousing "A Change Is Gonna Come." He oozes earnesty.
Since Bruce was running late, a few Obama staff members gave their testimony, and they all did a pretty good job. Despite some nervousness, they told some genuine stories about their inspiration and devotion. To pump up the crowd, all the hosts would provoke us with "...just like the Phillies are going to sweep Milwaukee tonight, am I right?" That got old fast, and it was kind of troubling that the go-to tactic to get people excited at an Obama rally was mentioning the Phillies. I also heard the word "change" 1,243 times. During this stretching and time-killing, I, of course, ran my Springsteen impression into the ground, to the point where Wifey asked, "Do you even like Bruce Springsteen? I'm unsure why we're here now."
As I mentioned, everyone there was decidedly pro-Obama, and Philly is 75% Democratic, so the rally became more of a "make sure you're registered" party, which is kind of what I expected.
See. It was him.
After an introduction from Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and Sen. Bob Casey (D)--this was a big deal--the Boss finally strode onto the stage. There's a reason why he's one of the most legendary live performers of all time. Even without anyone else up there with him, he commanded everyone's attention. It was a short set, but he hit all the numbers you would expect for the occasion. "The Promised Land" led into an incendiary version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and the classic "Thunder Road." Then there was a song I didn't know that really sapped the momentum. Few people sang along or danced to begin with, but during this stretch of the show, the air really seemed sucked out of the parkway. Bruce saved it of course.
He had a prepared statement written on a sheet of paper that kept blowing away. "I need a rock," he grumbled, before joking, "Don't throw one." That speech, full of platitudes but completely genuine, energized the crowd more than any of his songs. He explained how his creative life has been spent analyzing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and how he still felt a responsibility to point that out. Something tells me Bruce would be a good politician if he wanted to be one, even though he doesn't have the best taste in colleagues.
That speech turned into "The Rising," a given considering the circumstances, and Springsteen finished with a stripped-down singalong of "This Land Is Your Land." For all I know he came in a private jet, but the man found a way to connect to all the hopes and fears of the people in that crowd, which is pretty much why he's been one of the most famous musicians of the past thirty years. Even if I had to lie on a form, seeing him, in the most democratic way possible, was a treat. Obama got quite a boost from the Boss on Saturday, whether he needed it in Philadelphia or not.
Okay, I promise nothing political on the site for about a year.