Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band — Philadelphia, PA. March 28, 2012.

There are few things in this world I believe in as much as I believe in Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and last night, my faith was once more renewed.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band rolled into Philadelphia last night and brought with them absolution — sanctifying a sea of thousands. They do not, will not, cannot promise life everlasting but they sure as hell delivered on the promise of life right now.

The show was a combination of:

– New stuff: tracks from Wrecking Ball all of which were pretty great and some of which were heavily inspired by Irish music. Crank up the volume a little and Death of My Hometown could be the greatest song Flogging Molly or the Dropkick Murphys ever wrote.

– Old stuff from The Rising album including the eponymous track, Waiting On A Sunny Day and My City of Ruins.

– Really old stuff: The Way You Do The Things You Do by Smokey Robinson and 634-5789 by Wilson Pickett.

– The classics: The ones that live deep inside of you – Thunder Road, Dancin’ In The Dark, Glory Days and the ineffable Born To Run.

And Atlantic City.

I love this song. No, really. I love this song with the sort of irrational ferocity usually reserved for one’s own flesh and blood. And I am the worst kind of canonist in defense of this piece of music.

“You don’t like that song? What is wrong with you? You know, I don’t even care what’s wrong with you. What I do know is that your mother is ashamed of raising a child with such piss-poor taste. Oh and for the record? You’re half the man she is.”

Yes, I am both horrible and passionate.

Last night, I heard this song the way it is meant to be heard — live with the entire E Street Band backing Springsteen’s gravelly vocals.

And I know I’m this little ball of hyperactive, hyper-verbose hyperbole but I swear — my life is changed as a result. I feel a little more complete. Like I experienced something that was meant to happen. Guess that’s what happens when you truly love some silly little piece of music so much that it hurts.

The show was definitely bittersweet, serving as part memorial to the dearly departed Big Man himself, E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

Nowhere was this more evident than during 10th Avenue Freeze Out.

A staple of the E Street catalog and requisite barn burner, the song features the lyric:

When the change was made uptown
And the Big Man joined the band

Usually, this is the part of the show when Clemons kicks in with a sax solo, the entire audience breaks out in goosebumps and Bruce Springsteen’s face lights up with an almost child-like joy. As if he has just realized that he’s Bruce fuckin’ Springsteen.

However last night the music dropped, Springsteen held out his mic and the audience launched into two whole minutes of the most raucous cheering and applause I have ever heard.

Springsteen used the power and glory, the ministry and the magic of rock ‘n roll to make a joyous noise unto the Lord and punch a hole straight to heaven in the hopes of showing the Big Man just how much he is missed.

I hope he heard us. In fact, I’m willing swear that he did.

Clemons’ nephew, Jake stepped into some huge shoes as the new saxman of the E Street Band and the guy did an amazing job, proving that as usual – Bruce was right.

The E Street Band will never really die. Palm Beach may take his bones but E Street will forever keep the Big Man’s soul.

I heard a rumor that Bruce and the band will be back in the fall and when he is, I will be there once again. Standing in my seat and cheering until my voice is hoarse.

No retreat, baby. No surrender.

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