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Thursday, May 11, 2023


Over several decades, I’ve made it a mission to see some of history’s greatest musical performers . . . . And even I’m impressed with the list of live performers:

Jethro Tull, Steppenwolf, Ten Years After, Deep Purple, Three Dog Night, David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Mikel Cross, Neil Young, Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, The Who, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Sam Moore, Sting, Alicia Keys, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Paul Simon, Madonna, Sara Brighton, Andrea Bocelli, Barbara Streisand, The Beach Boys, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Cher, U2, Stevie Wonder, Florence + The Machine, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen . . . .

Flashback: It’s September 21st, 2001, 12 days after the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. All four American television networks are broadcasting a live benefit concert called “America: A Tribute to Heroes.” Hundreds of candles solemnly illuminate the stage.

Opening is a New Jersey storyteller and balladeer who, for a few minutes, captures the nation’s wounded soul by singing “My City in Ruins.” It’s a song written before the 9/11 attacks about his hometown of Asbury Park, and not New York City, wherefrom the smoke of tragedy still rises. He’s only sung this song a few times before, and only at New Jersey shows. Now, lights up . . . and the sound of a harmonica and a crackly voice pierce the air: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEHD8MZs7WY]

There’s a blood red circle
On the
cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s
thrown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone

My city of ruins
My city of ruins . . . .



Almost 20 years later, January 19th, 2021, it’s a different scene. A cold Washington, DC night, and America is still suffering the worst global pandemic in one-hundred years. It’s the eve of the Inauguration of a new president – a new beginning, a new chance – and the same old New Jersey storyteller and balladeer stands before the Lincoln Memorial to offer what he calls “a small prayer for our country”: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW_Vny_aXNM]

. . . . Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows
Let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine
And all this darkness past . . . .

A few months later, September 11th, 2021, it’s the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 and who else but the same old New Jersey storyteller and balladeer, dressed in a black suit with a loosened black tie. He faces a crowd of widows and orphans, of families and friends of those lost on 9/11, fighting still-new tears, alongside a nation remembering: [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJum7B1KnkA]

The road is long and seeming without end
The days go on, I remember you my friend
And though you’re gone and my heart’s been emptied it seems
I’ll see you in my dreams . . . .


. . . . I’ll see you in my dreams
When all our summers have come to an end
I’ll see you in my dreams
We’ll meet and live and laugh again
I’ll see you in my dreams
Yeah, up around the river bend
For death is not the end
And I’ll see you in my dreams
(See) you in my
See you in my dreams

He speaks America’s soul. Born from a land of storytellers . . . he’s our storyteller.

Bruce Springsteen and his stories have been helping America across our journey since, nearly 50 years ago, he appeared on the cover of both Time and Newsweek on October 27, 1975.

So, who’s history’s greatest live performer?

The answer is like someone telling you who the greatest baseball team of all time is—and coincidently, someone just wrote a book about this. https://www.amazon.com/1998-Yankees-Inside-Greatest-Baseball/dp/1538722976/ref=asc_df_1538722976/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=598235994954&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=15680165922760710253&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9061285&hvtargid=pla-1801869298764&psc=1

The answer is subjective: Elvis, Prince, Queen, Michael Jackson, the Rolling Stones, The Who, U2, the Foo Fighters, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin . . . pick your favorite. But . . . by longevity of career, loyalty of surrounding band, length and scale of performance, depth of set list, theatrical discipline, ticket sales, originally of lyric and music, presence at historic moments, production of a killer Broadway show, and the subjectively spiritual energy that one gets from 3 hours with Bruce . . . . Well, you know who I think it is. And he’s only beginning a mega-US and global tour.

So, I agree with Forbes’ Steve Baltin. https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebaltin/2022/03/20/john-mayer-beyonce-eminem-the-foo-fighters-and-the-top-fifteen-live-bands-of-the-last-thirty-years/?sh=76b220135873

And I agree with Rolling Stones’ readers who, in 2011, voted the greatest live performer ever: Bruce Springsteen, and not even close, followed by the Rolling Stones and The Who.


And I agree with writer Leonie Cooper, who in 2012 argued:


So, who’s history’s greatest live performer? Well, go [LINK] watch Bruce Springsteen, age 73, and the E Street Band perform two three-hour shows last week before 117,000 people in Barcelona . . . and let me know who you think it is . . . . [Link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8z_77td_MA]

In the words of The Telegraph, giving Bruce Springsteen’s 31-city tour a five-star review before it heads back to the US for a final round: “If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the greatest rock star of our times with the greatest rock and roll band in the world, I would urge you to catch this tour.”


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