Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own” topped the set list at last night’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. I sat spellbound in Scottsdale as Springsteen and the band rocked their way through 19 tunes heavy laden with tales of upheaval and undying optimism.
The Apollo Theater concert was broadcast live by Sirius XM in celebration of its tenth anniversary, coinciding with the recent release of Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” album. Yes kids, that’s what some of us old timers call them. Without apology.
Critics have weighed in on both, and I find those from The New York Times most intriguing. But my own read on the concert has a different vibe. The Apollo Theater concert was simply Springsteen taking care of his own. Like all the best storytelllers, Springsteen listens. And he hears people hurting.
Hold tight to your anger. Don’t fall to your fear. Put old skills to new uses. Seize the break of blue in a long cloudy sky. Remember those dealt injustice, and help those suffering now. Be the change. Make the change. And enjoy the rock and roll ride — Springsteen’s vehicle for soothing the soul while calling heart and hands to action.
As Springsteen wove older works into newer “Wrecking Ball” fare, the continuity of his decades-long drive for social justice was clear. So too was his genuine gratitude for those who came before — including many an artist who’s graced the Apollo Theater stage. Springsteen is a soul man. And soul must be shared.
Some folks are especially gifted at simultaneously running with and passing the torch. Springsteen is among them. After longtime friend and fellow musician Clarence Clemons died last summer, the torch went to nephew Jake Clemons — now part of “the E Street horns.” The Apollo Theater concert was rich with brass, choral music and strings that make the band’s heart beat just a little louder.
Gospel. Soul. Rap. Rock and roll. Irish jigs and mariachi melodies. It’s not your mother’s Springsteen. Or perhaps it is. I remember taking our two daughters, then in high school, to Springsteen’s last concert in Phoenix. They were equally moved by the music and the food collection boxes scattered throughout the venue’s main hall. Music feeds the soul. But it takes more to feed the hungry.
Hence Springteen’s shout out, near the end of the Apollo Theater concert, to fans who support the work of WhyHunger — and to its executive director Bill Ayres, who co-founded the organization with singer/songwriter Harry Chapin (whose brother Tom Chapin recently performed here in the Valley).
Like plenty of Springsteen fans, we won’t be in the house for any “Wrecking Ball” concerts, but there’s much we can do to move our own communities past hard times. Learn more about WhyHunger. Support our local food banks. Advocate for just public policies. Promote the arts that sustain us. And rise up.
Wherever this flag’s flown, we take care of our own. — Bruce Springsteen
Note: Saint Mary’s Food Bank Alliance presents its 11th annual “Kids Cafe Open” on March 30 to raise funds for battling child hunger in Arizona — click here for details. Artwork featured in this post was part of the Young Arts Arizona “Living the Dream, Passing the Torch” exhibit celebrating MLK Day 2012 at the Arizona State Capitol.
Coming up: Rising Youth Theatre shares diverse youth perspectives