Bruce’s fans, and flannel, unchanged

Singer tells Northrop audience that it’s still great to be the Boss

by Keri Carlson

Every Bruce Springsteen fan believes the Boss is still relevant.

“He’s the everyman,” said a man nicknamed Dr. Rock. “He remained true to his audience even as it’s changed. Grandkids could come and still be interested.”

Fans like Tom Smith from Hudson, Wis., say the Boss continues to make good albums, such as his April release, “Devils & Dust.” In Springsteen’s 30-plus year career, to the thousands crowded into Northrop Auditorium on Wednesday, the man can do no wrong.

And maybe they are right. Maybe Springsteen is just as powerful a voice to those who heard him for the first time in the 1980s as to those hearing him for the first time now.

Audrey Griffin,13, said she “really enjoyed” “Devils & Dust.” On Wednesday, Griffin saw Springsteen for her third time. She also saw him perform in North Carolina.

This is quite a feat for a young teenager but not uncommon for Springsteen fans.

Smith and Mike Bennett have seen Springsteen eight times each, all over the Midwest.

“I’ve probably driven 350 miles to see him,” Smith said.

Dr. Rock said he has attended a dozen of Springsteen’s shows. The first was at the University of Hartford in Connecticut; Mountain was the headlining act and Springsteen was the opener. Dr. Rock said Springsteen was so good that the middle band, the Chamber Brothers, refused to go on afterward.

Megan Septer and her stepmom drove two hours from Iowa; this will be Septer’s fifth time since 2003 experiencing the Boss.

“My dad was a big fan,” Septer said. “Now, I’m thinking of any Springsteen songs to dance to with my dad at my wedding.”

Though the Springsteen fanatics insist the music still resonates, the overwhelming majority of concertgoers were gray-haired and beginning to wrinkle. A few, like Griffin, were young and came with their parents; but there were few, if any, less than 30 minus the ‘rents.

To have Northrop Mall overflow with baby boomers and no college students suggests perhaps the Boss reaches only the younger kids who listen to music with their parents. Or it could have something to do with parents being the only ones to shell out $86, or more, for tickets.

Griffin said her whole family is obsessed with Springsteen. Does his music really speak to a 13-year-old, or is it purely to connect with her family? It’s probably a bit of both.

Springsteen has the ability to come across in many different ways to many different people. He’s obviously a giant rock star, yet at the show Wednesday, he looked predictably Springsteen. Same flannel shirt with rolled-up sleeves, tattered jeans and ruffled hair. OK, so he left the bandana in New Jersey.

“People always ask me, ‘What is it like to be the Boss?’ ” Springsteen said to the audience. His reply has always been: “No big deal.”

But Wednesday, he let the audience in on a secret. “It’s beyond your wildest dreams,” he said.

Maybe he’s not the everyman, but he makes every man believe he is.