Photo: Getty Images
When I woke up Thursday morning, I had two things in mind: going to see Rhett Miller's KGSR set at the W and making sure I got in line to see the Bruce Springsteen keynote. An 8am show is a little unholy for the rock 'n' roll set, but apparently people get up real early to see these shows. I was standing in line for the Rhett Miller set, listening from the outside. I eventually got in afterward and got to see Delta Spirit, which is an excellent act. As the KGSR gig winded down, I started thinking about heading to the Convention Center. I checked my email, and behold, I had won tickets to the Springsteen show that night (there was a lottery, in which I had checked in earlier that week with my badge). Mind you, this would be at ACL Live, a rare, intimate setting with 2700 people - when The Boss usually plays giant arenas. I was thrilled, felt so lucky, and ran around showing the email to anyone who would look at it. It had been a while since I'd seen a Springsteen show the first being a couple shows in Greensboro, NC circa 1984 (in which my friend Debbie and I had camped out for tix) But in my wildest dreams, I could never have imagined that I would be able to see a show from such a close vantage. I, of course, chose the floor, general admission, standing room only, so I could get as close as I could (yes, my feet paid for it the next day, but it was so worth it).
So, with the keynote and the show, March 15, 2012 will be forever known to me as Springsteen Day. The keynote was amazing. We were threatened that no pictures could be taken, which was fine, because I was just riveted by his every word. You should definitely check out the audio of his talk streaming on NPR. It was inspiring, funny and emotional, but there was no doubt that we were in the presence of greatness... a regular guy, albeit one that has risen to legendary status. His words dripped with wisdom and passion. Speaking of influences like Elvis, Roy Orbison, the Beatles, Dylan, Woody Guthrie, even country music. And, like the song "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place" by Eric Burdon and the Animals. More to come on this. There were so many high notes, I can't do it justice. Listen to the stream. Listen to every word of it. Listen to it more than once. Best thing ever...
There are no words to describe the energy of the actual show, later that night. I apologize for these terrible iPhone photos, but I had to catch some of the moments. Bruce is amazing, in fantastic shape, running around the stage and even jumping into the crowd multiple times, almost as if he couldn't help himself. The E Street band is better than ever. One of the most emotional moments of the show was when Bruce recognized members who were no longer with us (including legendary sax player Clarence Clemons), chanting "If we're here, and you're here, then they're here."
The show clocked at 2:40 with Thunder Road, The Promised Land, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, and Badlands, selections from the new Wrecking Ball, and lots of surprise guests.
As if by magic, Eric Burdon of the Animals just happened to be in town. As Bruce said "the Tweeterverse" made it happen, and he joined them on stage to sing that song that had influenced Bruce so much. The song that he said was Born to Run, Born in the USA, all the new stuff, every song he'd ever written. This is magic that only SXSW can produce.
The show ended with a stage full of legends, Burdon, Jimmy Cliff and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello (who had both performed several songs earlier), Joe Ely, members of Arcade Fire and the opening acts Alejandro Escovedo and The Low Anthem, all singing the Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land." Springsteen had wrapped up his keynote in the same way, telling the story of singing the song with Pete Seeger at Obama's inauguration. The room sang together with him. Amazing. These were special moments. I will never forget this day.