The concert’s third song began like a rallying cry rising from the chaos of a battle that was almost lost as soon as it began. Just moments before, I was growing despondent, trying to fend off the feeling that coming to this show might have been a serious mistake, that after only two songs, we might be talking unmitigated disaster.
First of all, Springsteen and the band were nearly an hour late getting to the stage. The first thirty minutes or so of the delay were forgivably annoying, and could have easily been put behind us. But once that time lapsed and there was still no sign or word concerning the imminent arrival of the show, it became harder and harder not to take it as a personal insult directed specifically at us. See, I had waited a tremendously long time for
to recover emotionally from our previous, massively disappointing Springsteen
concert experience (massively disappointing for her anyway; for me it was very mildly
underwhelming). Only now, after nineteen
years of complete separation, was she ready to attempt a reconciliation, and make
a tentative effort to mend our concert relationship with The Boss. But as the delay dragged on and on, it was as
though our good-faith overtures were being intentionally rebuffed. It got to the point that each minute that
passed inspired increasingly ugly and nasty thoughts, as often happens when a
person’s gracious gestures are ignored or met with silent repudiation.
When Springsteen finally did step out on stage, it was with a few mumbled words (you call that an apology, mister?) and an acoustic guitar. He began by playing an uncharacteristically quiet, almost solemn little tune called Surprise, Surprise. It wasn’t a bad song, just unexpected, and while I can’t say that it added to the negative momentum already set in motion, it didn’t do much to reverse it, either.
Lastly – and this was the one that had me worried – was the pure sense of detachment I experienced during the concert’s second song, No Surrender. I was caught completely by surprise by my own hardened indifference, all the more mystifying because the vaunted E-Street Band had just joined in. The performance itself sounded a little slow and kind of plodding, as though the band was a little subdued, or groggy for some unimaginable reason. But the real problem, I realized later, was that my connection to the song had been broken long ago. Listening to No Surrender now was like being reunited with a long lost dog that turns up years later, a dog so exhausted and spent that it is barely able to crawl up to your front porch before keeling over dead at your doorstep, and, only then, looking down upon its pathetic little corpse, do you realize that you never really cared for that dog to begin with. Of course that’s a terribly disrespectful thing, and wicked, and completely uncivilized, but that’s the truth. You can’t just manufacture that kind of emotional attachment. It’s either there, or it’s not.
As wrong as it was to be so callous, by the end of the second song that’s how I was feeling, and now I was beginning to think that this shockingly cold-hearted apathy was going to stick. I started to worry that at the rate things were going, I’d have nothing but one big pile of dead dogs on my doorstep by the end of the show.