Sifting through my old LPs during the Christmas vacation at my parents’ house, I ran across the LIVE 1975-85 box set of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. I’ll admit that back in 1985, at age 12, I listened to the albums some, but not very much. Aside from the hits I already knew from the Born in the USA album, I think it’s fair to admit that Bruce’s songs are not immediately accessible to the sensibilities and maturity of a middle school kid from the Connecticut suburbs.
I never even went to a Bruce concert back in the day, because by the time I was old enough to be going to concerts, I wasn’t a big fan, having taken a detour into more morose and dark sounding music in my teen years. So the first time I saw Bruce live was not until a concert in Turin in 2009. It was, as everyone has always told you, unbelievable. Nearly three hours of nonstop music, energy, passion.
So listening to the LIVE album these days, I was struck by a consideration. It’s not news to anyone that Bruce Springsteen’s concerts are and always have been notoriously good for their music, energy, and passion, but nevertheless, thirty plus years after some of the recordings on the LIVE album, he and the band certainly could have chosen to turn it down a notch.
Generosity was one of the cardinal virtues of the ancient Greeks, and in my travels across the globe, I have seen firsthand how generosity remains a primary mover of people, most of them poorer than any of us can understand. And just as generosity could put you on the path of righteousness, so the lack of generosity, or its sister virtue of hospitality, could end you up in the hotseat. Just ask the suitors of Penelope.
I think it remains one of the principal ways that you can identify good people. Generosity and hospitality can only be proffered by those who have a genuine sense of all people being a part of a single community. Similarly, the paucity of generosity is often a searing mark of smallness in others. People who neither invite you to eat with them, nor accept your own invitation of conviviality, are not to be trusted.
Therein lies an insight into the legacy of Bruce’s concerts. Only a man of enormous generosity could go out, time and again and again and again, and give us concerts of such music, energy, and passion. And his generosity has been deservedly recompensed.