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On Bruce Springsteen, Sport, Music and Community Spirit

Miércoles, 1 de Junio de 2016

Read our June article.

         On Saturday the 14th of May, my friend and I - along with around 65,000 other people - sang along to Bruce Springsteen as he shook the Nou Camp to its very foundations. It was the opening night of the European leg of his tour celebrating seminal 1980 record The River, and for three and a half hours the icon delighted the assembled thousands, as I hope we delighted him: upon taking the stage at dusk he was met by a huge red and yellow sign on the opposite end of the stadium which read, simply, ‘BRUCE’.

It was an incredible show, and one that really kicked into another level in its closing hour. The singer and his E Street Band closed the main segment of the concert with an incendiary ‘Thunder Road’. From then on - and over two encores - classic followed classic, and the crowd danced and roared its approval.

Truly great concerts can evoke huge volumes of feeling, whether they take place in tiny basement venues or enormous arenas. Reflecting on the evening the following day, though, it struck me that they all have one thing in common: a sense of community. Listening to music with other people - whether that be hundreds or (tens of) thousands - is a wholly different experience to listening to music on your own: a truly great concert is one in which the music encourages an intense connection with and among its audience.

This is a feeling that’s magnified in an audience the size of Springsteen’s, particularly given how varied it was. From the group of middle-aged women to my left, the young couple behind me and the father with his adolescent son to my right: everyone was united, for a moment, and it was breathtaking.

I haven’t been to a great deal of sporting events, but those that I have brought about similar emotion. I was away travelling for the London Olympics in 2012, but the goodwill present in England reached me on the other side of Europe, while students of mine born here in 1992 love telling me that they are ‘Olympic Babies’.

Likewise, being from a small town far from any football club of note, the passion displayed by those who support F.C. Barcelona is astounding to me, whether that’s in a small neighbourhood bar or from the rafters of the Nou Camp itself. A semi-professional rugby player friend of mine used to tell me that he saw many parallels in sporting events and concerts: the ritual; the volume; the excitement and the passion. It’s fascinating, to me, as someone who’s interested in both, that the two have so much in common. I have a young class in which one of the students is obsessed with basketball, and others for whom music is of paramount importance. They couldn’t be more different, yet the happiness they derive from their interests comes from similar places; from celebrating together on a court or in a concert hall.

I could go on and on. It doesn’t stop at music and sport; community spirit is why all the countless, wonderful subcultures that exist in the world exist. It’s something that, on a larger scale, everything from schools to cinemas and stadiums to pharmacies foster. And, in an increasingly digital realm, the online communities surrounding almost anything you could think of make the argument that human beings will continue to think of new ways in which we can connect, even if they seem unrecognisable to previous generations.

Speaking of his early days as a musician, Springsteen notes: “You go into a town, you play a little music, you leave something behind. That idea connected us to the local community. It was a very simple idea, but it really resonated with me.” He also talks of the importance of the audience; how they elevate his performance, and how he likes to try to see some individual faces among the crowds as soon as he takes the stage. We’re all our own people, is what he’s saying, but we’re all in this together, too. And every so often - more often than not, if you’re lucky - you’ll get a beautiful reminder of that fact.

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