E Street Review: Bruce Springsteen performs at the 9/11 memorial in New York City

On the twentieth anniversary of the terror attacks in New York City on September 11th, 2001, Bruce Springsteen – to the surprise of just about everyone – appeared at the memorial service in New York City to help remember the losses, recognise the sacrifices and celebrate the resilience of a nation that rose up in its aftermath.

It was on September 21st, 2001 when Springsteen opened up America: A Tribute to Heroes with “My City of Ruins” and first implored his countrymen and women to “rise up!” after the tragedy, and as a “prayer to his world“, the song would later bookend his album reflecting on 9/11, The Rising. These projects were the first in his attempts to help heal his nation, and it’s a healing process that continues to this day. In the last week he contributed towards narrating 9/11 20 Years Later, a feature highlighting the recovery and rebirth of the New York City Fire Department, and of course, today he stepped onstage to offer a few words of comfort to those missing someone special.

Dressed in a suit for the first time in a long time for a musical performance, Bruce’s song of choice today was, almost unsurprisingly, not a selection from The Rising, but rather Letter To You with “I’ll See You in My Dreams“. A song that clearly means a lot to him, he’s spent quite an amount of time with it as of recent with it being the closer for his summer Springsteen on Broadway shows. His accompanying monologue stressed its significance as an ode to lost friends and those in mourning, and while portions of his fanbase have lamented this song’s simplistic lyrics since last October, on occasions such as this a simple message of “we’ll meet and live and love again” is all that’s needed. With that being the case, the quality of the performance becomes unimportant. As on Broadway, the sentimentality of the moment and the comfort Bruce was seeking to provide far outweighs any talk about vocals, guitar playing and upcoming tours. And along with the lyrics about objects and memories retained, the song goes a long way to further ensuring that our fallen brothers and sisters will not be forgotten.

The Rising is Springsteen’s message of hope following 9/11, but after twenty years “I’ll See You in My Dreams” echoes that long stretch of time from the perspective of the victims’ families and friends, to the extent that the song becomes just as impactful, if not more.

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