Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “Empty Sky” (2002)

“Empty Sky” again takes up the themes of loss, anger, and retribution from both the personal and broader perspectives. I’ve long thought that when somebody says they don’t like poetry, they haven’t been made aware of the beautiful distillations that language can present:

I woke up this morning
I could barely breathe
Just an empty impression
In the bed where you used to be

Just a handful of words there, saying so much. As the music becomes fuller, the perspective changes, with a reference to the streets of New York on that day, with the final destination of the biblical tree of good and evil.

At the Boston stop on The Rising tour, there was a moment that made me remember why I took the flag off the side of my house several months after the events of September 11, 2001. When Bruce finished that first verse: I want a kiss from your lips/I want an eye for an eye/I woke up this morning to an empty sky, the “eye for an eye” brought an eruption of sorts from the crowd. We hadn’t invaded Iraq yet but it was looking inevitable. Lines had already been drawn and I was apparently on the “wrong” side.

There are no shouts of jingoistic fervor on this live version (from Barcelona) of “Empty Sky.” Instead, we get Bruce and Patti in a beautiful duet, dressing up one of Springsteen’s most powerful lyrics.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

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