Bring It On, Bruce

When Springsteen plays in Philly this weekend, let's hope he gives it to us European-style: a four-hour show with lots of surprises.

I don’t know if American audiences can take a three-and-a-half hour show. They’re exhausted. In Europe there’s a rat race too, but they take six-week vacations. They have siestas. They take naps in the afternoon where everything shuts down. In general, people move at a slower pace and a concert is just a concert. In America, everyone is so driven and rat-raced out. —Nils Lofgren, E Street Band Guitarist: July 19, 2012

You have to give the Phillies’ management some credit for having had the foresight to book Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band into Citizens Bank Park this coming weekend. Given the team’s travails this year, it will be good to have some legitimate excitement in the stadium in 2012.

Yes, I know Roger Waters built his Wall in the CBP outfield in June, but after having seen that performance indoors, I can assure you the old Floyd vet cannot match the sheer exhilaration that Springsteen will produce Sunday and Monday—although it is a helluva show. Waters may “Run Like Hell,” but Springsteen was “Born to Run.” Anyway, it’s good the park has had the opportunity to live a little this year, what with the below-.500 dreck the Phillies have produced throughout the season.

The best thing about seeing Springsteen outdoors in the summer is that he is always more relaxed than he is while playing in arenas. When he stopped in Philadelphia in March, he was intent on introducing his audience to “Wrecking Ball,” his latest album. The shows were built around the dual themes of the healing necessary for him, his band and the community of fans after legendary sax player Clarence Clemons’ death and the persistent Springsteen theme that “nobody wins, unless everybody wins.” That leg of the tour accomplished his goals. Fans had the opportunity to mourn Clemons’ passing, celebrate his life and move on. And the “Wrecking Ball” songs hammered home Springsteen’s assertion that a big part of this country is still getting it between the eyes. Despite breaking out some old chestnuts (“Seaside Bar Song,” “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street,” “Thundercrack”), Springsteen was focused on his messages.

Then, he went overseas, and everything changed.

Springsteen in Europe is a different phenomenon than the man on his home soil. He loosens up. He plays longer, crazier shows. Setlists that were once heavy with new material become free-for-alls. He basks in the crazed adoration from crowds who see him far more rarely than we do in the States. And as dispatches and setlist reports make their way across the Atlantic, American fans’ desire builds. When Springsteen finally returns to the U.S.A., our expectations are such that nothing short of a legendary performance, packed with rarities, will satisfy us.

Usually, that happens. The last outdoor Springsteen show I saw was back in 2008, in Hershey, as the “Magic” tour wound down. It included a mere four songs from album, a bunch of wild-cards (including the John Lee Hooker tune, “Boom Boom”) and an encore that dropped bomb (“Jungleland”) after bomb (“Rosalita”) after bomb (“Gloria”) on fans. It was exactly what you would want from a late-summer Springsteen show.

But it wasn’t long enough.

Which brings me to the above quotation from guitarist Nils Lofgren, who made those remarks in Rolling Stone as the most recent Euroleg wound down. Lofgren was responding to a reporter’s question about whether the band would break through and play a four-hour show. (It did, July 31 in Helsinki.) Lofgren’s comments demonstrated his misunderstanding about the American condition. Nobody needs the catharsis of a four-hour Springsteen show more than a U.S. crowd. We don’t get siestas. We don’t get “six weeks” vacation. We grind. We struggle. We fight every day. And then we do it again. And again.

A four-hour, energy-sapping, soul-rejuvenating marathon would drench us in sweat, purge our demons and send us home to sleep the sweet, dreamless sleep of the innocent. Don’t you see, Nils? They don’t need that in Helsinki. What stress do they have up there? The Finnish economy is one of the strongest in the European Union. Finland has an average life expectancy of just a hair under 80 years. American families take trips there to visit Santa Claus. They don’t need four-hour shows. Come on.

And what better place to break the magical barrier on U.S. soil than Philadelphia? Springsteen played in front of his first-ever arena crowd here. (He opened for Chicago on June 6, 1973 at the Spectrum.) He used to play epic shows at The Main Point. D.J. Ed Sciaky was one of his greatest champions. It’s time. And this is the place.

So, Bruce, send us home fatigued. Invigorate our struggling souls so that we can get up the next day and attack the very rat race that threatens to crush us. Throw it all at us. Hit us with the “Wrecking Ball.” Bring out Rosie. And throw in some real, holy-shit! rarities. (For instance, “And the Band Played” would be nice.) We can take it.

More than that, we need it.

Rescue us, Bruce.