Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising” (2002)

There are points during nearly all concerts where the emotions and internal language of the music can take over to express something that’s out of the grasp of mere words. For me, this phenomenon isn’t particular to Springsteen shows, as I’d count singer/songwriters Greg Brown and Dar Williams, and guitarist Pat Metheny as capable of creating that sort of transformative experience.

With “The Rising,” a song not just of 9/11 but more broadly a song of the struggles of life, that moment comes with the simplest lyric: “Li,li, li,li,li,li, li,li,li.”

The song builds slowly and powerfully throughout, with each gospel-infused chorus acting as a slingshot into the next verse. The tension rises as Bruce drops back for the “Sky of/Dream of Life” sequence, exploding into that last chorus, which is in turn amplified again by the simple “Li, li…”

If you’ve ever seen Springsteen talk about this on VH1 Storytellers, you’ll know that he said those words stand in for: “Sing with me. Stand alongside me.” And that’s exactly what it feels like.

Up next: Paradise

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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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