Here in Sweden, the sun tries to prove it all night. It’s getting late — close to 10:15 p.m. — but the great ball of fire hasn’t really gone down yet. There’s still a stubborn glare of blue sky above the Gothic towers and arches of Stockholm Stadium.
The sun’s got some serious competition, though: Up on stage, already two hours into an epic rock & roll odyssey (and another hour away from the final collapse-to-your-knees crescendo), Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are blazing through an anthem called, coincidentally, ”Light of Day.” Halfway into the song, as he does nearly every night, Springsteen starts hollering like he’s got a direct gospel hookup to the other Boss, the one who created the moon and the stars. ”I’m gonna resuscitate you!” he testifies to a churning congregation of 32,000 Swedes. ”I’m gonna regenerate you! I’m gonna re-liberate you with the power and the promise, the power and the promise, the POWER and the PROMISE — the majesty, the mystery, the ministry of rock & roll!”
At 49, Springsteen is a little bit older than rock itself, although he’s probably in better shape. For much of the ’90s, the brand of music that he specializes in — cannonball rock, meditative dust bowl folk, oily Jersey R&B, all stoked up with grand declarations of glory and freedom — has suffered a total eclipse of the charts, giving way to everything from sticky teen pop to prickly rap-metal.
Suddenly, though, Springsteen’s defying the laws of both the marketplace and physics; like that Scandinavian sun, he’s found a way to extend his rays far past the normal limit. Amazingly, it’s the last summer of the century, and a 49-year-old guy who talks about ”the power and the promise” of rock & roll is the hot concert ticket of the year.
To be sure, the youth brigade isn’t lagging far behind. Pollstar, the bible of the concert galaxy, puts out a list of the summer tours that generate the most frantic quests for online data. Springsteen tops it. Limp Bizkit and Britney Spears rank second and third. The rest of the season breaks down to a demographic jambalaya: You can set the blender for strum (a victory lap from the Lilith Fair caravan), jam (Dave Matthews Band), shred (the brain-banging rampages of Ozzfest and the Vans Warped Tour), or splatter (yet another pilgrimage to that mud-caked mecca known as Woodstock).
Nothing, however, has set off quite the get-me-a-ticket feeding frenzy of Springsteen’s reunion with his Asbury Park posse, the E Street Band. The U.S. tour, which begins its locomotive trek July 15 in New Jersey, has already taken on a mythic, Rock’s Last Stand sort of status. (Fifteen shows on Bruce’s home turf, Jersey’s Meadowlands, sold out in the time it takes you to say The Wild, the Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle. Faster, actually.) It’s been more than a decade since all the core members of the band — including prodigal six-stringer Steve Van Zandt — shared a stage. The way fans see it, such a miraculous alignment of the planets may never happen again.