The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

The Boss

Last night, I spent three hours having my face rocked off by none other than Bruce Springsteen.

It was unbelievable.

I went with Kyle, the biggest Bruce fan in the universe, and Bri, who likes Springsteen about as much as I do. Which is to say that Kyle air-guitared himself silly while Bri and I knew most of the choruses and sometimes just danced to a great song we recognized but couldn't name. 

Bruce Springsteen is the man.

Part of what made it such an incredible evening was the spirituality of it all. After the first couple songs, Bruce put the guitar down and picked up the pulpit. He told us that the reason he is still touring the country at his age (60-something) is because his greatest joy is transforming people. Changing people from who they were when they entered the venue to someone entirely new as they leave.

All night, he preached to us about the goodness of the American people; our resiliency, our faith, our strength, our fire. He wailed on that guitar and took us away from our outside worlds and brought us to a place where all we needed was the horns section, our clapping hands, and our dancing feet. 

It was unadulterated freedom.

He talked about the state of the economy in the 70s and 80s when he wrote these iconic jams, and the state of the economy now, as he continues to bring the good news to a consistently exhausted working man. When he sang "Jack of All Trades," a song he wrote in response to the 2008 financial crisis, you could feel the crowd's response -- an understanding, a commiserating, a communion. 

A hurricane blows, brings a hard rain
When the blue sky breaks, feels like the world’s gonna change
We’ll start caring for each other, 
like Jesus said that we might
I’m a Jack of all trades--we'll be alright

Now sometimes tomorrow comes soaked in treasure and blood
Here we stood the drought, now we’ll stand the flood
There’s a new world coming; I can see the light
I’m a Jack of all trades--we'll be alright

And he brought a lovely woman who had sung on his latest album, Wrecking Ball, to sing with him on "Rocky Ground," another song that spoke right to the depth of our distress.

You use your muscle and your mind and you pray your best
That your best is good enough, the Lord will do the rest
You raise your children and you teach them to walk straight and sure
You pray that hard times, hard times, come no more
You try to sleep, you toss and turn, the bottom's dropping out
Where you once had faith now there's only doubt
You pray for guidance, only silence now meets your prayers
The morning breaks, you awake but no one's there

He has this way of bringing you into whatever headspace he's in. When he played these, I was connected, heart and soul, to the pain of this nation. Tears welled in my eyes during "Jack of All Trades" and again when we chanted "Hard times come and hard times go" over and over and over during "Wrecking Ball" and again as I tried to wrap my mind around how applicable "American Skin" still is to the violence in cities across America.

But, oh, did I shout for joy as we powered through "The Rising" and "We Take Care of Our Own" and the soul medley they did, in reminiscence of their recent trip to the Apollo. And no, I'm not from Jersey. I'm not from Detroit, or Philly, or any other archetype of working-class Americana. But when you're [I'm struggling to choose a verb: singing, dancing, experiencing, living, being, becoming...] with Bruce Springsteen, that doesn't matter. All that matters is that we are alive.

[Process sidebar: I couldn't help but think of who we were, at that concert, as a nexus of occasions all being transformed by the same event that was the same experience for everyone and yet impossibly not the same experience for everyone. What in our lives has been changed by having been in that space, together? As individuals-in-community?]

Anyway, he played some of my favorites--like "Shackled and Drawn" and all the crowd favorites--"Born to Run" and "Badlands" and "Dancing in the Dark" and "Thunder Road"--oh, how he played "Thunder Road."

He played the first verse and then turned the microphone on us. We sang, to each other. I didn't really know all the words. A guy a few rows in front of us turned around, arms spread wide, and sang to everyone around him. I remember saying, "Amen!" in his direction. 

I'm just going over the setlist, now, remembering every moment. Every clap, every fist pump (you gotta!), every "oh-oh-oh-oh" combination, every screeched lyric at the top of our lungs--TRAMPS LIKE US, BABY, WE WERE BOOORN TO RUUUUUUUUN

During "Born to Run," actually, a guy in the row in front of us completely lost his mind. He was jumping and flailing and singing and dancing and hugging his friends and probably had not ever experienced that high a rush of adrenaline. Watching those life-altering experiences is one of the reasons why I love concerts so much.

I say, all the time, that live music is simultaneously the holiest and the sexiest thing there is--there's a reason both are called ecstasy. Bruce Springsteen is a prime example of this. He truly is the Boss.

From the Border to the Bay

Earth Day!