I feel like this little trip has changed my life in some way, although I have yet to put my finger on just how.
I met a lot of really nice people at the shows. Many dedicated Springsteen fans refer to themselves as the "E Street Nation" and, cheesey as it may be, there is something to that. There is a real community feeling, a pool of shared imagery and shared experiences. There is, often, a sense of the need to take care of one another; there are always charity efforts going on (in KC a group of fans put together a raffle and raised $1100 for a local food bank, an effort which garnered onstage thanks from Bruce himself), and many fans take care to watch out for one another on the general-admission floor -- you get out there a couple hours before the show starts, and if you've come alone, it's pretty easy to get someone to hold your spot for you while you dash to the restroom or get a drink of water. One of the people I met emailed me to make sure I'd made it home safely.
There are a lot of things I want to write about, after this trip. It's going to take me a few days to wrap my mind around it all. It was about the music (and oh, how I need to remember that music is what saves my soul, over and over again) but it was about much more than that.
Kansas City was the last official show of the "Magic" tour. (The band is playing at HarleyFest in Milwaukee this Saturday night, but it may not be a full set, as there's an opening act and stuff. And Bruce himself said that KC was the last night of the tour.) There was a definite farewell feeling to it. A bunch of fans had made up small (just sheet of paper size) signs that simply said "Thank you!" on them, and coordinated a moment at the end of the show to hold them up; Bruce and the band were clearly very touched by this and it was such a sweet moment. (After all these years, you'd think it would come as no surprise, how we feel about this band. You'd think they would start to take it for granted. But I really don't think they do, and that's why it's so magical.)
The first encore began with "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," dedicated to Danny Federici -- the E Street Band organist/accordionist who died of melanoma this past April -- and to Terry Magovern, Bruce's personal assistant and close friend who died just over a year ago. I wept through the whole thing. It's been a long tour for this band, punctuated by too many funerals. It's not the same band it was a year ago when they kicked this thing off. It's not the same world it was a year ago. I can't imagine how exhausted they must be, physically and emotionally. And yet they gave us their absolute all, night after night after night. Just amazing.
For the final encore, Bruce sang a sweet, tender version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" -- not a song that's normally found on their setlist -- that roared into a loose, rollicking rendition of "Dancing in the Dark" and then a purely celebratory "Rockin' All Over the World." And then one final bow, as Bruce thanked us for supporting the tour, supporting the "Magic" album, and supporting the music for all these years. He thanked the E Street Nation by name, and for some reason that was tremendously touching to me.
The last few shows of this tour have been just off the hook, insanely good. They were added sort of at the last minute, and people have wondered why. I have a theory, now. You know how, when you're about to leave on a long journey, you make sure you tell the people you love that you love them? Just in case something happens? Well, I think that after the losses they've suffered in the past year or so, Bruce and the band are keenly aware that there are no guarantees. I think they have every intention of touring again -- I don't think this is the end of the E Street Band. But these guys are in their fifties and sixties, and nobody lives forever, not even Bruce Springsteen. And I think that these shows have been a little love letter to the E Street Nation ... just in case.
I hope they know we love them, too.
It seems so cheesey to be saying these things, talking about "love" in the context of a rock & roll band. I sound like such an over the moon fangirl. Of course I don't know Bruce personally, or any of the band members, and probably will never even meet any of them. But there is such a sense of love in that community and in that room when they are playing. I mean, most of those guys have been working together for 35 years or more. The love among them is visible onstage and it's such a strong thing. I know, I know, it's part of the mythos they've developed, and it's part of their job to be entertainers and look like they're enjoying themselves. But you can NOT fake what they do & what they have. You can't fake that much fun and that kind of brotherhood. And it's contagious. I know that this band & this music has made me a stronger, braver, better person in the 30+ years (eek) I've been listening to them.
Well, I didn't intend for this blog post to veer so far over into a pure declaration of fandom. Oh well. Them's the breaks. I'll talk about poetry again sometime soon, I'm sure. :) I've got some writing (and maybe even some poems) percolating in my head after this little road trip. For now, I'm just struggling with the return to the "real world" after the Summer Vacation to the E Street Nation.
(For setlists and full reviews, check out the best source for all things Springsteen: backstreets.com)
(P.S. As a result of this little trip, I'm way behind on every-freaking-thing again. I owe some of you email! I will get to it over the next couple of days. I had my laptop with me, but as soon as I got out on the road, it was like nothing mattered but the shows, and even when I had time in the hotel room during the day before a show, I was just sort of pacing around waiting until it was time to go over to the arena. Sigh. Now I know, just a little bit, how touring musicians feel... )