Bruce Springsteen and I don't know each other. We've never met. There are no Rolling Stone or NME-style backstage stories for me to recount about chats over beers after a gig — let alone memories of dancing onstage amid the E Street Band. And as a middle-class Brit who can't drive, I'm hardly the natural audience for an American singing about underemployed labourers driving '69 Chevies out west in search of work. Yet had I been one of the lucky fans asked about their relationship with The Boss for a new documentary released on Monday, that wouldn't have been a problem.
The thought occurred to me while looking around the crowd and singing along to a typically majestic rendition of “Jungleland” during his concert in London's Olympic Park a few weeks ago: the camaraderie between the devotees who cheer “Bruuuuuce” at every one of his shows feels — in my gig-going experiences, at least — unique. It feels like we know him, the man himself.
The followers of countless other musicians and bands feel the same about their heroes to some degree, of course. So what makes him special, and demanding of this new film, without ever partying in fans' own living rooms like Pete Doherty and Carl Barat used to in the early days of The Libertines?
The everyman nature of his lyrics certainly helps. The earnest strength of his words in “The River” or “Bobby Jean”, about modest people and their efforts to break free from poverty or make a faltering romance work, override the fact he has been a world-famous millionaire for decades.
Above all else, it's that warm-hearted charisma on display throughout his three or sometimes four-hour long sets. No longer content with picking pretty girls out of the throng for a boogie during Dancing In The Dark, he now gets little kids on his shoulders and hands them the microphone, or escorts old ladies onstage. He recognises when a super-fan has followed him around the world with the name of an obscure B-side written on a piece of cardboard to wave as a request — and he grants their wish. Even as a small figure in the distance to someone at the back of an 80,000-strong stadium crowd, there's an inclusivity to his gigs that is a rare but wonderful thing.
Springsteen and I don't know each other, but Bruce and me? In my mind, we go way back.
'Springsteen & I' is released in cinemas on Monday