A KEY THEME OF THE TOUR IS DEALING WITH LOSS
in time, which was what a ‘ record’ does. It’s the record of your thoughts, feelings and experiences at a given moment. That came at a moment obviously with the terrible financial crash, which saw an enormous price paid by so many people when that occurred. It was just a question and a declaration at the same time. It’s one of those songs that has a lot of different layers to it.’’
In Oakland, Springsteen went out among the crowd gathering up signs used by fans to write their requests. Hits, deep cuts and obscurities are all called for. In Anaheim actor Rob Lowe asked to borrow a pen to make a makeshift sign using a large napkin. He asked for a full band version of The Promise.
A greener fan holds up a placard for Born to Run: Bruce assures the audience they don’t need a sign for that one.
Later in the night he revisits his own rock ’ n’ roll past and lifts a girl out of the audience to dance with him during Dancing In the Dark. It’s a perfect moment where a fan meets her idol and whole room is willing them on.
‘‘ It’s a rock song now,’’ says Springsteen of how he has reinvented the work. ‘‘ We’ve moved it a bit from its pop inception — it’s now a more spit-out version of it than it was on the record. But it still contains its essence: it sets the joint alight because it was such a big hit,’’ he adds, laughing.
‘‘ It was a hit because there was something really universal in it. That’s just one of those perfect pop songs that come out and catch a particular attitude and feeling at a certain moment. It maintains its urgency, which is the secret to anything that we play at night.’’
With the passing of time the song carries a little more weight than when it was a synth- driven smash in the mid-80s and totally unlike anything else in the Springsteen songbook. ‘‘ It was a song partly about ageing and ‘ the joke’s on me’ little bridge is pretty nice. That was an element of it, which has always been an element of my music, going back to Thunder Road and maybe before. People tend to forget that in the 70s the oldest pop musicians were probably 30-something . . . maybe, and that’s the oldest.’’ He laughs. ‘‘ Dylan and the Stones were only in their 30s. Those guys are only about six or seven years older than me — it doesn’t feel like much now. It’s a short generational jump, between the second and third generation of rock musicians. It’s brief.’’
Politics is never far from Springsteen’s conversation. Springsteen is a Democrat supporter, along with Jay Z and Will.I.Am, and his input into this year’s election was seen as crucial in giving Barack Obama’s flagging campaign the lift it required in the final stages. When he was called, Springsteen turned up at rallies across the country armed with an acoustic guitar and was prepared to do his bit.
‘‘[ My involvement] began with the Bush presidency . . . things got very bad . . . [they were] dire. But it’s nice to be there the night before the day. I always put my two cents in if we are asked. I was glad to be involved and certainly glad of the outcome.’’
With Obama’s win so striking, one wonders whether the US could be on the threshold of a new liberalism.
‘‘ It’s hard to say,’’ Springsteen says. ‘‘ Through history [America] tends to be a pretty centrist country at the end of the day. I think that obviously the voter demographic is changing dramatically. It certainly affected this election, and you can’t have a political party that’s going to succeed while trying to just appeal to older white males at this point. That’s not going to work.
‘‘ Those changes were acknowledged as facts, as historical facts, as a way the country is moving. You can figure that out in the mid-90s in California when I wrote The Ghost of Tom Joad, which was basically a record about immigrants, and you could say — you knew in California in the mid-90s that this was the way the rest of the country was going to go 10 or 15 years later. That’s exactly what happened.
‘‘ I’d like to think there’s a more progressive push — it’s hard to say — I actually felt the Republican presence was so poor in the election. It was sad. The country needs debate and exchange about different ways of doing things. But I think this election was a watermark and acknowledgment that the country is changing.’’
An hour after showtime, the stage is being pulled down and about to be shipped to the next city. Springsteen is back in his civilian clothes, tired but glowing like a man half his age. Thirty odd years ago he said it best: ‘‘ When you get out there man . . . you gotta be rockin!’’ Sparks fly on E Street.