Key Live Performance
Bruce chose to open his set at the 2012 Hard Rock Calling festival in London’s Hyde Park with a barebones version of “Thunder Road” accompanied only by Roy Bittan on piano. With his arms frequently folded behind his back, Bruce croons the lyrics to “Thunder Road” with the wistful restraint of a man who has been singing this song for 30+ years but hasn’t forgotten how important it was to him the day he wrote it. One of my favorite parts of this video is at the 0:28 second mark where a young couple cheer and kiss when they realize what song Bruce is playing. It makes me think of the joy my wife and I experienced the first time we both heard him play Rosalita live.
“It's town full of losers
And I'm pulling out of here to win”
“Thunder Road” is chock full of indelible lyrics but it’s this final exultation that serves as the rally cry for not only the Born to Run album but in many ways, Bruce’s entire career.
For many years I resisted this song because I had trouble embracing the instrumental conclusion. On the one hand I appreciate it as a lovely piece of music. But on the other, I can’t help not imagining it as what would be played if there was ever a commercial for a cheesy Springsteen-themed Broadway musical. You know, something between the real ads for Movin’ Out and this Ben Stiller parody of a Tom Cruise one-man show.
I’m pleased to say though that I’ve finally grown past this and come to embrace it with all my heart. “Show a little faith there's magic in the night”; “I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk”; “The door's open but the ride ain't free”… It’s not just some of Bruce’s finest writing, it’s some of the best pop music writing in history.