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Springsteen creates magic in the night

By Abigail Cukier, The Amazing Adventures of Wonder(ing) Woman

When I decided to write a blog on parenting and pop culture, I never knew how much the two could collide until Friday night in Toronto at the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert.

I am a huge Springsteen fan. I have loved him since I was a kid, trifling through my big brother’s tape collection. His songs have raised my spirits through difficult times and been on the stereo during some of the best.

Even at 62, Springsteen is legendary for his marathon concerts that regularly reach three hours with no opening act and no intermission. For the time you are at the concert, your troubles melt away and Springsteen makes you believe rock and roll is all you need.

After 40 years of touring, Springsteen gives and gives and always seems to be having more fun than anyone in the room. He never stops moving – or smiling. He creates different set lists each night and even switches it up on the fly.

As he told the New Yorker last month, “That ticket is me promising you that it’s gonna be all the way every chance I get. That’s my contract. And ever since I was a young guy I took that seriously.”

On Aug. 24 in Toronto, I saw my 11th Springsteen concert and it was very possibly my best – even better than when I sat in the front row.

It was a perfect summer night with an open dome. I had great seats on the floor and my husband beside me - the same man to whom 13 years ago, before marriage or kids, I had to teach the words to Hungry Heart to in preparation for his first concert while we were travelling in Paris.

It was an amazing setlist  and went on for more than three-and-a-half hours. I noticed that the stadium was filled with families – die-hard fans who had brought their kids along. Two rows in front of us was a couple with a daughter and son who looked to be about eight and  five years old. The dad beamed  as he had the chance to sing those familiar lyrics to his little boy dancing beside him.

Behind them was a couple with two teenage children. The daughter, probably about 16, hollered and clapped and sang along way more to the classics from the ’70s than to the more recent releases. These were the ones she’d grown up to, suffered through in her dad’s car and eventually found herself singing along to in her living room.

My husband and I croaked out the words to Thunder Road through tears as we thought of our two children at home (sadly too young for a concert). This was the song I sang to my son as we cuddled in my hospital bed the night he was born. The only song that seemed to calm either of them as infants.

Up in the front row were my brother and sister-in-law with their two kids. As a huge Springsteen fan, my brother had waited for the day he could finally bring his whole family to a show. At least six times, I saw my eight-year-old nephew on the Jumbotron on his dads shoulders, beaming.

Springsteen makes it a habit of pulling kids onstage during the song Waitin’ On a Sunny Day. In hopeful preparation, my 10-year-old niece had been practising the song for about a week and brought a sign with her asking if she could sing it.

When he started singing the song , he was at the other end of the stage and halfway through, ran over to the other side and pulled her up.

She absolutely nailed it.

In front of a packed Rogers Centre, she belted out the chorus as her face filled the Jumbotron. My husband and I screamed feverishly from our seats and proudly told nearby spectators she was our niece.  (See it here

When she finished, Springsteen gave her a kiss and carried her back to her spot, just before saying “Canada’s got talent.” In fact, some reviewers thought she was a plant, including the Toronto Star’s Ben Rayner who called her “suspiciously talented.”

I can only imagine my brother’s face as it was happening. To see your daughter up on stage confidently singing with your absolute favourite entertainer – someone you have followed thousands of miles over many years – and to share it with your wife and son. It must have been unbelievable.

Springsteen promises to always deliver. And on that beautiful summer night in Toronto, Springsteen didn’t just put on a perfect rock and roll show. For thousands of parents he delivered much, much more than that.

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