Passion of The Boss

Ever wonder why Bruce Springsteen became so popular? Watch this piece of rock theater and wonder no more. August 15, 1978 at the Capital Center in Landover, MD. An 11-minute impassioned performance of Backstreets. Watch him define the early days of the soft piano intro. Watch as the power ballad takes form.
Listen to a young Bruce sing a story, of younger love, memories of growing up, exploration, yearning. Then betrayal, abandonment, loss. Listen to his voice, soft and then thunderous. Contrast the clear high piano with the distorted grunge guitar. Consider the depth embodied in the song. Wise beyond his years.
Watch the performance take on a dark edge as Bruce improvises around a memory. Watch the close-up, dark eyes doubled with the long-shot bright guitar. Think about Springsteen’s quote in the recent Bob Dylan documentary where he says that hearing Dylan sing, such as it was, gave him voice – if Dylan can succeed with his voice, anyone can.
Listen to the compositional structure of Backstreets, how the song changes as they approach the beginning, middle, and end. Listen to the crowd, who know all the lyrics, singing along, powering The Boss and the band in a frantic sweaty dance of mutual elevation. Bruce’s shows were longer than the Grateful Dead, even into the ’80s. He put out this energy for three or four hours a show, non-stop, for years.
Take a gander at his background: Son of a bus driver and a legal secretary, raised in a tough New Jersey borough, Bruce is an unlikely singer-songwriter, an unlikely star. Not particularly photogenic, a little rough around the edges, but with a guitar and a song all that disappears. Realize when this performance took place in his career: He started performing in late 1969, but didn’t form the E Street Band, or record his first album until 1973. This performance is five years after that. Imagine playing a 15,000 or 20,000 seat arena five years after starting out. The drama and passion in this performance shows you why he caught fire. When you have that passion, and a determination, your gift can really shine, sometimes in unpredictable ways.
Hat tip to Fred Wilson, a VC at Union Square Ventures in NYC, for the link that prompted this brief reverie. You never know where your links are going to come from….