As fate would have it, I’m not meant to go to CMJ this year* with 90% of the other bloggers and music journalists. Mama T-Sides is in town (T-Sides comment readers will know her as “DOM”: Dear Old Mom) so I’ll be showing my not-old lady around NYC. Now, any reason is a good reason to visit New York City, even visiting without a particular reason is perfectly… reasonable. But the purpose for the timing of this visit is none other than Bruce Springsteen, who we’ll be seeing at Madison Square Garden tonight.

There’s a lot to love about the Boss. He’s got a distinctly American style without the obnoxious stereotypical connotations of gun-toting, christ-loving, mcdonalds-binging that we’ve somehow morphed into today. His America isn’t about extremes, it’s about averages. It’s about the working class, the boy and girl next door, “the American dream” and the American awakening – the realization that maybe we’re not what or where we intended to be, but maybe that’s not all bad. You can point to nearly any of his hits as examples of this – “Thunder Road,” “The River,” “Glory Days,” “Born To Run” – he almost makes it too easy.

My personal favorite is constantly changing. I love “Redheaded Woman” for the obvious reasons. “Secret Garden” has an outstanding sensual quality that makes it one of the most seductive songs of all-time. During my junior year of college, I listened to “Human Touch” almost every day for an entire semester. Over the past year, I’ve grown especially fond of “Sprit in the Night.”

Bruce Springsteen: “Spirit in the Night” (download)

A friend and I were driving back from seeing the Rolling Stones in Jersey, and he put on “Spirit in the Night.” When it got to the last verse, he quieted down and said, “I love this part.”

now the night was bright and the stars threw light on Billy and Davy
dancin’ in the moonlight
they were down near the water in a stone mud fight
Killer Joe gone passed out on the lawn
well now Hazy Davy got really hurt, he ran into the lake in just his socks and a shirt
me and Crazy Janey was makin’ love in the dirt singin’ our birthday songs
Janey said it was time to go
so we closed our eyes and said goodbye to gypsy angel row, felt so right
together we moved like spirits in the night, all night
baby don’t know what they can do to you
spirits in the night, all night
stand right up and let it shoot right through you

I’d heard the song before then, but I don’t know that I’d ever paid enough attention to it. Shortly thereafter, Jefitoblog featured a bootleg of a Bruce Springsteen show at the Agora Club in ’78 that has a particularly magical version of the song.

Bruce Springsteen: “Spirit in the Night (Live at the Agora Club, 09.08.78)” (download)

“Spirit in the Night” is so much of everything that makes Springsteen so endlessly appealing: the storytelling complete with vivid imagery, the way he turns a typical night out into revelation, the way the instruments interact – oh, that saxophone line! – and the way the song evolves, how he slows down for that last section, because he knows how powerful it is. The song becomes that spirit in the night, standing up and shooting through us.

*with any luck I’ll be going to one show on Saturday: Torche & Jesu. See you there?