Photo by Jo Lopez, from Bruce Springsteen Facebook page.
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band dropped by Chicago for a pair of concerts within what has become the frustrating confines of Wrigley Field, and made it a happy place again. I didn’t get a ticket, but having discovered during Paul McCartney’s concert last year that you can clearly hear an artist performing at Wrigley Field even when you’re outside the venue, I decided to go there on Saturday night and hang out for a while.
Springsteen, like McCartney, is on the A-List of performers that any true rock fan really should catch in a live performance. Even if you can’t actually see him. Time and travel limitations meant I could only stay for a fraction of Springsteen’s show, so I missed out on classics like “Born To Run,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” “Because The Night,” “Badlands,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” I also missed Springsteen’s duets with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam on “My Hometown” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.”
As with McCartney’s concert, there was a festive atmosphere hanging over the Wrigleyville neighborhood Saturday night. Before the show started, I passed a woman on the way to one of the entrances. She stopped, pointed to her face with both index fingers, and asked her friends, “Do I look happy?” They didn’t need to respond. The rooftops of the apartment buildings surrounding Wrigley Field were packed, and people were also partying on the front steps. Others had spread blankets picnic style on the sidewalk and were sitting with friends. Some of us stood in the vicinity of the Ron Santo and Billy Williams statues, and waited for the music to start.
Springsteen came on a good 45 minutes past the scheduled 7:30 starting time, yelled an enthusiastic greeting, and tore into “Promised Land.” What a kick to hear that famous voice in person; the voice that has emotionally touched so many people. It was haunting to hear the saxophone and realize the notes weren’t being played by Clarence Clemons. Later, I read in the Sun-Times and Tribune, that The Big Man’s nephew, Jake, was now carrying on the tradition. Initially, Springsteen barely acknowledged the crowd, preferring to offer a seamless string of energetic songs that included “The Ties That Bind,” “No Surrender,” and “We Take Care Of Our Own” (with a hook that still reminds me of Off Broadway’s “Hang On For Love.”) Even those of us outside were clapping, and two young women were joyously dancing outside one of the apartment buildings.
The most impressive moment from my limited time at the show came at the beginning of “Hungry Heart,” when the crowd started singing the lyrics without being prompted. Springsteen let the massive audience participation go on for a few verses; adding an occasional shout of encouragement. It was a great rock and roll moment, like the time Ray Davies played Grant Park in Chicago and everyone in the seated area jumped up in unison at the opening notes of “You Really Got Me.”
Springsteen finally addressed the crowd with a long introduction to “Death To My Hometown,” which I didn’t find out until later also featured Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. From where I was standing, it was hard to pick up what Springsteen was saying, and I’m sure I missed an inspiring message. But I had come to hear his music, and that flowed past the ivy-covered walls loud and clear.