The Sacramental Nature of Springsteen and the ESB

Eucharist and Springsteen The video below is  of Springsteen and the E Street Band performing their song "High Hopes" on the Jimmy Fallon show several months ago. I love this performance. Who else would bring 17 band members, cram them on to a stage, and have a wrap around balcony for an audience?

What I'm most taken by in this performance is the movement of the bodies of Springsteen and the E Street Band. They engulf their instruments with their bodies. It's memorizing to watch Tom Morello, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell, and Everett Bradley (my fav!) organically move their bodies to the words, energy, and rhythm of "High Hopes." Each has their own unique movement on stage yet they all fit together as a band/community in their uniqueness.

They have "presence." This is a word used in theater, referring to "stage presence." Stage presence refers to the impact the performer has on the audience. Presence heightens the spectators' own awareness of their own presence in that particular moment, time, and place. Presence of a performer can create a liminal space. Liminal is a fancy word used in ritual studies. Wikipedia has a good definition:

....when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes..... 

The ESB's presence is a communal one---their liminal impact  through sound and body movement doesn't occur in isolation; they create presence and liminality together.

Presence and liminality are important to me in the Eucharist.  For me, Presence isn't located in the elements of communion rather in the act and participation of communion.  Communion is a gathered, communal meal, rather than a ritual that focuses on the objects of bread and the cup. It's a lumped up sum of people seeking to end up on the other side of the communion experience existing in a new way however profound and subtle.

In the video I'm taken from beginning of the song, to middle/threshold/liminality, to the end because of the presence of the band--their movements, sense of connection, deep sense of community on stage, and passion for music that critiques the dominant social order. My favorite movement/presence moment starts at 4:52 when they hit the refrain and their bodies create a magnificent presence on stage--fluid, connected, communal, liminal.

The Baptism of Springsteen
The Baptism of Springsteen

My spouse, Bob, and I went to the Springsteen concert in Columbus during Holy Week.

In this picture. Tom Morello takes a gi-normous sponge, full of water, and drips it over the head on Springsteen who, at this point, is down on his knees. Morello was making a dramatic moment out of cooling off his front man. I see baptism. You can see Springsteen in the JumboTron with Morello leaning over him. Look to the right hand side of the picture for the real thing.

What an image to have in the middle of a 3+ hour concert that prophetically blasts songs about social responsibility, taking care of each other, economic justice, and offers up a social critique of capitalism. It's what Christian baptism claims--that in community we take responsibility for our place on the planet. Baptism creates a liminal experience of taking us from one existence pre-baptism to a threshold, liminal moment of transition, and into to a new existence within community with the Presence at-hand. Thanks, Springsteen, for doing the same.