Tonight was my fifth Springsteen show in 2 1/2 years.
Tonight was also my favorite Springsteen show in 2 1/2 years because it included my favorite Springsteen moment.
During one of his encores, he dedicated "Land of Hope and Dreams" to The Greater Chicago Food Depository, his local cause. About halfway through the song -- maybe to the bridge -- a string broke on his guitar. "Oh, now we're screwed," he said without skipping a beat, and then started singing a capella. And then the audience (sensing just then would be a good time to ignore his opening remark about not clapping along) put their hands together and kept time while Bruce finished the song. His guitar tech brought him another guitar, but we kept clapping. It was simple, but thrilling. For just a few moments, we became Bruce's backup.
I saw him in Detroit, too, so going tonight felt a bit like going to see a movie a second time. Still, tonight was a much different show. Much of the same banter, but the setlist held a few surprises.
The setlist from Detroit:
Reason to Believe/Devils & Dust/Youngstown/Lonesome Day/Long Time Comin'/Silver Palomino/For You*/Real World*/Part Man, Part Monkey/Maria's Bed/Highway Patrolman/Black Cowboys/Reno/Racing in the Street*/The Rising/Further On (Up the Road)/Jesus Was an Only Son*/Leah/The Hitter/Matamoros Banks/This Hard Land/Waitin' on a Sunny Day/My Best Was Never Good Enough/The Promised Land
The setlist from Chicago:
My Beautiful Reward**/Reason to Believe/Devils & Dust/Lonesome Day/If I Should Fall Behind/Long Time Comin'/Silver Palomino/Incident on 57th Street*/The River*/Part Man, Part Monkey/Maria's Bed/The Line/Reno/Paradise*/The Rising/Further On (Up the Road)/Jesus Was an Only Son*/Leah/The Hitter/Matamoros Banks//I'm on Fire (on banjo)/Land of Hope and Dreams/The Promised Land/Dream Baby Dream**
Early in the set, Bruce mentioned "Devils & Dust" and then quickly cut off the beginning smatterings of clapping: "No, no. I don't want that sycophantic applause." Sycophantic. Time magazine called him a "rock poet," you'll remember; no slouch in the intellect department, this guy.
Jeff Zaslow, this part of the post is for you: Bruce did a beautiful rendition of "If I Should Fall Behind." I thought of you and Sherry. I wish he'd done it in Detroit. I've never heard it sung more beautifully.
And he did -- again! -- his amazing "Reason to Believe." Second song this time, not the show-opener, but every bit as mesmerizing as that night in Detroit. I hung on every note.
Before the show, a woman in the row in front of us asked generally, "Do you have any idea if he'll start on time?" As she made her way down the row to the aisle, I said, "I saw him in Detroit, and he started about 45 minutes late. You have time."
Her eyes got huge. "You saw him in Detroit?! How was it?!"
It was amazing, I told her.
"What did he open with?"
"Reason to Believe from 'Nebraska.' "
Again with the huge eyes.
"But you've never heard this song before," I told her. And then filled her in on how he performs it.
"If you hear semi-orgasmic noises from me later, just throw something at me to shut me up," she said.
After the show, before we filed down the stairs, I made my way through an empty row in front of her and asked "Was it good for you, too?"
She smiled. We gushed about how great it was. She asked if it was like Detroit. I told her it was a much different show. She said she wants to scalp tickets for the next few cities, to see how he does the show differently. And then she hugged me. Bruce fans. Just go with the flow.
As he was performing a song I can't remember at the moment, I found myself thinking about death. Not in a morbid way. But something he was singing about made me start to ponder, and I realized that I'm happy with my life. There are still many things I want to do, but if tomorrow becomes my last day, I'll be OK. I have amazing family and friends. I know the experience of truly loving someone. I've recently conquered a long-standing fear. I have nothing in my life I'm ashamed of, nothing I can't answer for. Leave it to Bruce to convey a life lesson to me during one of his little inter-song chats. He was talking about making choices, and said, "What gives those choices meaning are the things we give up when we choose." I grabbed a pen out of my purse and scrawled that down on the back of my ticket in the dark.
Too much to remember. Too important to forget.