It’s June 25th 2016, a nice sunny Midsummer’s Day in Gothenburg, Sweden. 62 676 fans, packed in the pitch and in the stands of Ullevi, eagerly awaits the arrival of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It’s the first of three concerts in Gothenburg (the River 2016 tour). Finally Bruce Springsteen strolls onto stage, but without the band. He waves to the crowd, says a few words and sits down by Roy Bittan’s pianos and starts playing. The rarely heard notes of the song the Promise flow through the air; “Johnny works in a factory and Billy works downtown, Terry works in a rock and roll band looking for that million-dollar sound…”
The Promise was written in the midst of Springsteen’s personal turmoil revolving the time of the infamous lawsuit after Born To Run, that kept him from the recording studio. It conveys the feelings Springsteen must have had at this time: all his dreams were coming crashing down because of a broken promise- the ultimate tale of betrayal. The song was originally considered for the Darkness On The Edge Of Town album but was kept out. In the 2010 documentary The Promise: The Making Of Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Springsteen says that The Promise is “a song about fighting and not winning, it was just about the disappointments of the time.”
“I built that Challenger by myself…,” reminds me of the song Racing in the Street, where the singer and his partner built their unconquerable Chevy “straight out of scratch,” The Challenger, is this song’s metaphor. The Challenger, with its muscular frame and killer engine, represents the idealism and arrogance of being young and bold. It’s the singer’s vision of the future. Unlike the song Racing in the Street, where the singer and his hotrod beat the competition and ride off into the sunset, the protagonist in the Promise has a more crass view of life. He continues, laconically, “but I needed money and so I sold it.” Period.
This one single line captures the resignation he feels. A car door is being slammed in his face. A dream has died- a promise has been broken.
Every day it just gets harder to live this dream I’m believing in
For me, what this song means is that you can spend your whole life making promises, chasing dreams and trying to do what’s you, but life has got its chains and not everyone breaks free from them. Hearts get broken, dreams get swept away and second chances don’t always come around, so you better make the best of the ones you get.
What a perfect start to a beautiful evening! I know I’ve said before that I prefer an uptempo song to open the shows but this proves that an acoustic song works as well 😉
1.The Promise, 2. Badlands, 3. Out in the Street, 4. The Ties That Bind, 5. Sherry Darling, 6. My Lucky Day, 7. Wrecking Ball, 8. Spririt in the Night, 9. Save My Love, 10. Hungry Heart, 11. My City of Ruins, 12. You Can Look (but you better not touch), 13. Death to my Hometown, 14. My Hometown, 15. Johnny 99, 16. Youngstown, 17. Murder Incorporated, 18. The River, 19. American Skin (41 Shots), 20. The Promised Land, 21. Working on the Highway, 22. Darlington County, 23. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day, 24. I’m on Fire, 25. Drive all Night, 26. Tunnel of Love, 27. Shackled and Drawn, 28. Because the Night, 29. The Rising, 30. Land of Hope and Dreams, 31. Born in the USA, 32. Born to Run, 33. Seven Nights to Rock, 34. Dancing in the Dark, 35. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, 36. Shout, 37. Bobby Jean, 38. Thunder Road
Photo credit: Robin Lorentz-Allard