'Do you want to see Springsteen?'

I saw Bruce play three times last week. And each show seemed better than the last.

But the real thrill came in seeing the reaction of people who had never seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform live.

My friend Melanie - a photographer for a newspaper that shall remain nameless (but see the photos on this page) - had purchased dozens of tickets for the Boston shows via an online agency in June. She then allowed me the pleasure of selling them for her. It was like a holiday for me - or so I thought. I figured the tickets would sell themselves. Turns out, it wasn't so easy.

For a quarter-century, since high school, really, I've been asked "Why Springsteen?" As a kid from the small working-class corner of an affluent suburb of Boston, I could relate to his early songs. As I grew older, and his music changed, I still found it related to my life. Over the years, his concerts have retained their power and passion. They are celebrations.

Stuart: 'Is he worth it?'

We'll begin with Stuart. He's a graphic artist, a year or two out of college. He has quite an eclectic taste in music: He's as happy listening to old Broadway show tunes as he is to Led Zeppelin. But when I approached him about the Springsteen show, he was hesitant. He didn't know the music and thought it was just a lot of hype. I even offered to subsidize his ticket: That's how confident I was that young Stu would walk away from the show believing he had seen the ultimate concert.

In the end, he relented, handed me $70, and wrapped his hands around the toughest ticket in town.

The morning after the show, Stuart walked up to me in the office. "Vince, when God invented rock 'n' roll, last night was what he had in mind."

Gosh, that's a good line.

Stuart had seen the light. "How can I ever go to another concert?" he lamented. After last night, they'd all pale in comparison. Of course, I agreed: I'd been at the same show. It came a month after I had trekked to New Jersey to review the opening night of the Springsteen tour for this paper.

Debbie: 'Take someone else'

My next sale was also difficult, and much closer to home. My wife, Debbie, had never seen Bruce play. As Thursday night's show drew near, she was dropping hints that maybe I should take someone else. But at 7:45 p.m. she strolled into Boston's Fleet Center for the show. By 8:30, she had been converted. Around 9:15, she screamed in my ear, "I see what you mean!" Later she said it was by far the greatest show she had ever seen - filled with the energy, intensity, and humor she always believed could be part of such an event but had never seen before.

Jeremy: 'Does he do rap?'

When Friday morning came, I was exhausted. Debbie had said if I could find a ticket for the Friday show, I should take my 11-year-old son, Jeremy. I doubted my ability to buy seats on the day of the show, and my legs were tired from all the dancing at my seat the night before. But I logged onto Ticketmaster's Web site just for grins. Rumor had it a few-dozen tickets would be released that day.

I hadn't been on the site 15 minutes when "Boston - Springsteen 8/27" appeared. I frantically typed in all the required numbers and addresses, and slammed the "enter" key. Sure enough, Jeremy was going to see Bruce!

Jeremy stood on a chair for almost three-and-a-half hours that night, playing drums on my head and singing along to the words in the two or three songs he recognized.

After the show, he said it was "the best concert I've ever seen." Of course, he hasn't seen that many. But I told him he'd probably never see another like it.

For me, and many others, a Bruce Springsteen concert is more than the music. It's respect for a guy who donates hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to causes like the homeless, the hungry, and military veterans. A guy with his own foundation (named simply "The Foundation") who quietly helps folks in his home state get their homes repaired, furnaces working, and walls insulated. Most people who receive aid from The Foundation don't know where the money has come from.

Meanwhile, the Springsteen tour moves on. If you live near a city where Bruce and the E Street Band are playing, I encourage you to find a ticket. And, hey, if you get two, give me a call.

*Vince Winkel is news editor of the Monitor's Web site, csmonitor.com.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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