So the first U.S. leg of Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball tour has come to an end, with Bruce and the band playing a killer set in New Orleans at Jazzfest, followed by a show for the ages in Newark, New Jersey. It’s been a wild ride that feels like it’s just getting started.
What was the moment that put the Newark show over the top? Was it the appearance of the (extremely!) rare “Bishop Danced”? The tour premiere (the next song, in fact) of “Hard To Be A Saint In The City”? No, the moment occured when Bruce, in tribute the late Levon Helm, started up a cover of “The Weight.” When that song was introduced via Twitter and various Web forums, the Internet practically lit up with envy. I was not there, but I sang along in spirit with those thousands of lucky New Jersey attendees.
It was a powerful moment, showing just how much Bruce appreciated both Levon’s place in rock music history as well as their shared interest in the roots of music stretching back into the past and extending out into the future.
Just last night I started reading the late Anthony Shadid’s memoir, House Of Stone. This is a book about Shadid’s familial roots in Lebanon, and the restoration of his great grandparents’ house. I’d read some of Shadid’s reportage concerning the Middle East, but sadly came to know him after his recent death from the asthma attack he suffered while attempting to leave Syria.
This book had been on my mind for quite a while, but it moved to the head of the list after Springsteen’s Levon Helm tribute. It seems to me that all three men shared an uncommon passion: Shadid for the Middle East, Bruce and Levon for the roots of rock & roll. You might think that these things are unrelated and, on the surface, I might tend to agree. But the point of commonality comes with how that focus and love becomes…something else. As I’ve said before, in matters of art and music, I’m a big proponent of the “butterfly effect.” Enthusiasm bolstered by passion can result in great effect, with the results making their way into the future in surprising ways.
So when that Newark crowd raised their voices in celebration of Levon Helm, the passion for both the music and its history radiated out in all directions. Some might say that it was “just a song,” but the effects of that passion? They’re just getting started.