It was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and Bruce Springsteen was playing a show in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center. I wanted to see Bruce one more time on his current River tour and the Pittsburgh show was the only one I could make work with my schedule. I took my daughter Caroline to the show. I think it may have been her third or fourth Bruce show. Not bad for a fifteen-year-old.
Apparently Bruce’s next album will not feature the E Street Band so this may be the last time we see Little Stevie, Mighty Max, Charlie, Suzy, the Professor, Nils, and Gary W. for awhile. (It was announced today that the band is heading to Australia in January).
Bruce did not speak about 9-11. He let the music do the talking. Though he has been leading off this leg of his U.S. tour with “New York Serenade,” the final track from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, it was particularly relevant on this night.
He followed “Serenade” with four songs from his 9-11-themed album The Rising: “Into the Fire,” “Lonesome Day,” “You’re Missing,” and “Mary’s Place.” Later in the show he played two more songs from The Rising: “My City of Ruins” and “The Rising.” I was disappointed when most people in my section sat down for “My City of Ruins” despite the powerful refrain to “rise up.”
After his early musical tribute to the fallen heroes of September 11, 2001, Springsteen took us back to his first two albums–Greetings From Asbury Park and The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle. The next eight songs came from one these early 1970s albums. During this stretch, which included “Growing Up” (the first time I have ever heard it played in concert), Springsteen regaled the audience with stories from his high school days and his first record deal. It was obvious that Springsteen was giving the Pittsburgh audience a foreshadowing of his forthcoming memoir Born to Run. Caroline was not entirely familiar with these early songs so I am glad I played both of these albums in the car on the drive to the concert. This kind of pre-concert prep has become a stable in the Fea household.
From our seats behind the stage (Section 118) I was able to get a very interesting perspective on the political dimensions of the concert. For example, when Springsteen played “41 Shots,” a song commemorating the 1999 New York shooting of Amadou Diallo, it seemed like more people than usual decided that it was a good time to get out of their seats and grab another beer or take a bathroom break. As Marc Dolan recently told us in Episode 9 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast, not all Springsteen fans appreciate this song.
In another revealing moment a fan in the front row threw a copy of the United States Constitution onto the stage. Bruce picked it up and showed the crowd that it had the words “F… Trump” written on it. The crowd cheered and the woman next to me lifted her hands in agreement, but a significant number of people in my section began yelling similar derogatory things about Hillary Clinton. Despite Springsteen’s outspoken progressive politics, his fans remain a politically eclectic bunch.
And of course what would a Springsteen concert be without this:
It was a great night!