dionysus_mosaic.jpgThe god Dionysus, as most of us know, is the god of wine. In mythology, he is also the inspirer of ritual madness, ecstasy, and theater, as well as the god of the epiphany. He is sometimes known as “the Liberator” because he frees us from our normal selves.  Dionysus usually plays a flute or other reed-like instrument and his mission is to bring an end to care and worry.


Well, I saw Dionysus last week, right here in Manhattan, but these days, Dionysus plays a Fender guitar, not a flute. The end result is the same, though: for more than three hours, all my worries and woes vanished, swept away by an ocean of sound and energy, a torrent of screaming, clapping, booty-wiggling joy.


Yes. I saw Springsteen at the Garden and it was good, my friends, it was good.


Shuffling through the crowds into the Garden that night, I grumbled and groused at (long-suffering) Husband: we’re too old for an arena show, too tired to be out on a Sunday night, too broke to be spending money on concert tickets and babysitters.  Then the lights went down, the music came up…and it all made sense: of course we were here.  Where else on earth would we rather be? 


Bruce and the band played “The River” in its entirety (only the second time they’ve ever done so, apparently) and sent Husband back in time, to waiting in line all night to buy concert tickets (remember when we waited in line instead of online?). The songs from that album reminded me of high school, bombing around in my mother’s station wagon and bellowing the words to “Cadillac Ranch.”  


Carried along on Little Stevie’s guitar and Clarence’s horn, my youth went zooming through the arena–even my omnipresent cynicism faded away, so that the sight of Pat Riley (gotta love what you can see with binoculars, right?) pumping his fist to “Born to Run” didn’t make me laugh the way it should have.


But hell, we all pumped our fists–me and Husband; the sixty-something couple behind us who’d flown in from Seattle just for the show, having never seen Bruce before; the twenty-something kids sitting next to us, singing along heavily accented English–we all danced and sang and clapped until our hands burned. The spotlights glinted off gold watches and bifocals, and belt buckles cinched tight against the sploogy onset of middle age; graying heads bobbed along with every guitar lick. 


His audience might be aging and he himself is now on the other side of sixty, but Bruce and the band seem ageless: I guess drinking in the adulation of twenty thousand people a night must be a kind of immortality tonic. His joy at making music seemed as great–or greater–than our joy in hearing him play, and for more than three hours, it seemed like our energies might literally blow the roof off the place.



I forget sometimes, in the forward onrushingness of everyday life, that it’s important to stop. Yes, okay, sure, you can stop to smell the roses if that’s all you’ve got handy, but what about jumping up and down and screaming at the top of your lungs because the music has entered your bloodstream and you’ve been liberated from the need to be rational, calm, grownup.


Springsteen does what Whitman wrote about: sing the body electric/the armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them/They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them/And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.


It seems fitting, then, that the one of the last songs of the night–an audience request–was “Sweet Soul Music,” and that the very last was “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” That’s exactly what happened–Bruce and the band lifted us, and we lifted them–higher and higher and higher.


So even though the week that followed the concert was full of the typical logistics and schedules and hurry-up-we’re-lates, it didn’t matter as much–my body might have been shuttling kids around the city, but my soul was still clapping along with the heart-stoppin, booty-shakin, earth-quakin, hard-rockin, history-makin E-Street Band.


concert photo credits: Michael Zorn