To try and describe a live Bruce Springsteen performance with the woefully inadequate word “concert” is absolutely foolish. Throughout the years, many a writer has tried and failed to put into broader language what takes place at these sometimes two, sometimes three, and sometimes even four-hour revues, and only a very select few have succeeded. Jon Landau, the venerated ‘70s rock critic and Springsteen’s present-day manager, came perhaps the closest when he wrote after a 1974 gig in Boston, “I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” That night, Springsteen made Landau feel the way he would make so many millions more feel in the years and shows that followed. “On a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time.”
Fortunately for all of us, Springsteen is one of the most bootlegged musical acts of all time, and there’s hardly a note that he’s played live over the past five decades that hasn’t been somehow captured and is presently swimming out there in the vast emptiness of digital space waiting to be played. Nobody bats 1.000 of course, and there’s a vast number of gigs available that are either plainly unremarkable or, in some cases, just downright bad. But then there are also those select few, maybe 50, maybe even as low as 20 that are truly otherworldly. For our purposes, here are the absolute 10 best of those select gigs. They are the cream of the crop, the be-all and end-all of Springsteen’s live music supremacy.