Call it the ultimate triple-header. A buddy of mine, lets call him Todd, will go to see Bruce Springsteen Friday night at Wrigley Field, drive back to South Bend for the Notre Dame-Purdue game Saturday afternoon and then, with a plan in hand, head back to Wrigley Field for the second show.
Todd is not nuts because I only wish I could do the same, because there is nothing in all of rock and roll better than a live Bruce show and it has been that way for me since 1978. I had seen him once before, hard to believe today but Bruce and the E Street Band were an opening act, in this case for Chicago at Stepan Center.
But it was September 9th, 1978 that hooked me forever and that too was right here in South Bend, and almost equally as hard to believe as the opening act tour because it was also a football Saturday. Yep, we used to do that and I remember the day like yesterday because the Irish pretty much cast a pall on the place with a dismal 3-0 loss to Missouri.
Then Bruce took the stage around 8:30 and within minutes I could not recall the football game, because he practically blew the roof off the ACC (as it was named then), with one of the shows that has remained in the pantheon of all time Bruce classics. We had a curfew in South Bend back then and the band had to leave the stage around 11:45. Nearly everyone left and the house lights were all on when Bruce and the band pretty much said curfew be damned and they returned to the stage, plugged in what they could and treated a few hundred of us to a rollicking, seemingly never ending, version of Twist and Shout. I was hooked, a confirmed prisoner of rock and roll.
Warp speed forward 33 years and 80 (not a typo) Bruce Springsteen concerts to August 15th 2012, night two at Fenway Park Boston and the years melted away. It was a summer picnic in the park, as Bruce told the crowed, and he delivered a classic once again with throwbacks to those very shows from the early days.
Why 80 shows? Only thing I can say is no two shows are alike and every one of them brings a fresh experience. I went alone that night, or so I thought because I ended up sitting next to a really nice guy who, as it turned out, was going to his first Bruce show. He had a lot of questions, of course, but I kept saying, wait just wait, you will get it and he did. Towards the end when the ballpark lights came on for the encores, we exchanged business cards. I looked at his and started to smile. My new friend said, “So you’ve been to 80 shows, but I bet this is the first time you sat next to a Rabbi.” And I was and it was a first and I thought I am in the Temple of Bruce.
A few days after I got home the Rabbi sent me an email and I was stunned at how he “got it.” First show and he got it.
Here is what he said: “Since Born to Run came out when I was in the 5th grade, I was aware Bruce sings about redemption in a broken world, about healing, and about finding your own truths in a world where it is not always clear. Since Born in the USA, especially, I was aware of his politics, sympathizing with working people, and I have always found it inspiring. So, yes, I agree with you about the “Temple of Bruce” and I am always on the lookout for non-religious analogs to the message that religious teachings try to give to people, to help us redeem our lives from the reality that there is brokenness all around us. I agree that Bruce talks abut elevating people’s lives and he is committed to providing that kind of experience in concert and in his music. My life as a rabbi definitely runs along those lines, every day.”
So for those of you going to Wrigley Field, take from it what you will, be it the Temple of Bruce or just the Temple of Rock and Roll.