Rock stars and superheroes: cut from the same cloth?
On one of my recent trips in the Panda, I announced to the other occupants of the car, rather grandly and with some pleasure, that I was going to see Bruce Springsteen performing live in Joburg.
However, as I made the announcement to my two children, currently aged 6 and 8, it was not received with the awed admiration I’d been expecting.
“Who is Bruce Springsteen?” said Liam baldly.
I had not quite foreseen this, but made a quick recovery.
“Bruce Springsteen is a world famous ROCK STAR!” I informed him, reverently.
His response was deflating as he said with childish indifference: “Huh. Well, IIII haven’t heard of him!”
“That is because you are still young,” I replied, somewhat coldly. “If you were a bit older you would know exactly who Bruce Springsteen is. He is a LEGEND! And my lovely friends Anne and Mel bought me a ticket to surprise me, because we all used to listen to him when we were young. I mean younger.”
“Yes,” interjected Matthew, ever-supportive of his big brother, “but he’s not a SUPERHERO.”
This lack of respect for he who is also known as The Boss was starting to grate a little.
“There are many people in this world,” I responded, still with a hint of ice in my voice, “who would argue that he is indeed a superhero. Many people think that rock stars like Bruce Springsteen are also superheroes.”
(I refrained from adding in, ‘So jolly well sucks boo’, but at that moment, I dearly wanted to.)
Now, Matthew and Liam are both very literal young men and they still tend to see the world in black and white. However, they do also try to be fair and humour their ageing mother from time to time when something is patently important to her, even if they don’t quite understand why.
So they started to think about it and I watched from the rear view mirror as the cogs began to turn in their young minds.
It was rather endearing, seeing them trying to equate my concept of the rock star with their cherished concept of the superhero.
Matthew got there first.
“We-ell,” he said thoughtfully, “if you changed ‘Springsteen’ to ‘Wayne’ then he would be… Bruce Wayne! Who is Batman!”
Liam nodded in enthusiastic endorsement.
“Maybe Bruce Springsteen is also Bruce Wayne!” he chimed in excitedly.
Upon which I managed to keep a straight face – and also carry on driving in a straight line – while simultaneously clarifying that Bruce Springsteen was not actually Batman in disguise, even though they both have seriously good physiques.
(At least, I don’t think so: mainly because superheroes always have less flamboyant alter egos as part of their disguises, right?)
Later at the concert…
…I decided that even if he wasn’t Batman, Bruce and The (ever-inspiring) E Street Band were indeed superheroes. As they started their three-hour plus concert with a tribute to our beloved late great Nelson Mandela…
…I remembered how, around the globe, musicians – famous and less famous – have always helped to draw attention to rampant injustice; promote a worthy cause; raise money to feed the starving.
The entire concert was a fantastic experience. I didn’t know all the music, but if I wasn’t entirely familiar with all the songs, the sheer mastery of the musical moments made up for it. Even the heavy rain that fell later didn’t (if you’ll pardon me for this one) dampen our enthusiasm.
And The Boss smiled and smiled as he played and sang and bounded around the stage. I have never seen a rock star of his calibre (and I’ve been lucky enough to see a few) have so much fun while performing. Joburg rocked in the pouring rain that night, and Bruce was our leader.
At the end of the show, when he’d played his second (or was it third?) encore and finally left the stage, he was humble enough to end with another great musician’s tribute to another departed South African freedom fighter.
I had goosebumps going up and down my spine when I realised that Peter Gabriel’s heart-wrenching anthem to justice, ‘Biko’, was playing us out of the stadium.
“Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko
Yihal Moja, Yihla Moja
The man is dead
The man is dead…”
And the eyes of the world
Are watching now
Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko…”
Such humility in your greatness, Bruce, by playing out your fans with another musician’s tribute. We don’t – often enough – see humility and greatness combined, and yet I feel that the truly great are always humble.
So I really do think that some rock stars are superheroes.
And jolly well sucks boo to anyone who doesn’t agree.