There was a sense of unity among the several thousand at the Montreal Bell Centre on March 2nd. It may have been the fact that the show took place in what is primarily a hockey arena, allowing everyone to see at least a few hundred fellow Bruce fans at any given moment; or it might have been the crowd’s wave that went around the centre nearly a dozen times just minutes before the show; or maybe it was the kids wearing bandanas and do-rags, yelling, “Bruuuuce!” as the lights began to dim.

The Boss and his E Street Band opened the show with their standard, casually epic flare and the power of everyone’s energy was focused into the first chords of their opener, “Night”. The entire performance was injected with this raw soul: he vigorously played his harmonica before listlessly throwing it away when he was done; he guitar dueled Stevie Van Zandt during “Lonesome Day” and threw his guitar across the stage to a roadie when finished.

During “Because the Night”, one of the bigger crowd favourites, a father standing in the floor area in front of the stage took his two kids to an empty space at the side. He sat them down; they gazed at Bruce as the father turned around, raising his fists with a pure sense of jubilation.

Bruce took a moment when introducing “Living in the Future” to talk about what’s wrong with society today, just before announcing that “the mighty E Street Band is gonna do something about it!” He then paused, just as dramatically.

The band tore into the next roster of songs, including “The River” and “Waiting on a Sunny Day”, which had every other older couple in the audience swaying arm-in-arm, sticking out their lighters and singing along.

It’s exactly this mass appeal that made me wonder why I even like the man. Because I realized, I can’t identify with him—with his life, his American idealism or blue-collar upbringing, and I certainly empathize less with him than I do any of my other favourite artists… So, why do I like Bruce Springsteen?

I suppose it has to do with his total and utter lack of pretension, his honesty, or the raw energy of his lyrics and performance. He’s not out to impress anybody. He struts around on stage with the E Street Band in standard jeans and a nice shirt. He doesn’t rely on flashing lights, shock value or sex appeal—only the purest essence of rock n’ roll.

And so, for the last few songs of the encore, the house lights turned on, and you could see every single person in the centre clapping along to the same tune; meanwhile, Bruce just did his job and kept crying out, “Baby, we were born to run.”

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