While Trump was failing to lock down a Bruce Springsteen cover band for the inauguration concert, the Obamas were getting their own private performance by The Boss himself. The 15-song set, which took place in the East Room of the White House on January 12, included classics like "Thunder Road" and "The Promised land, as well as some deep cuts, including "My Father's House" and "The Wish," Backstreets reports.
The event was done as a thank you to Obama and his staff, and was a fairly intimate affair. According to the account on Backstreets from an attendee, there were no celebrity guests there (aside from the freaking Obamas), just staff and their partners. Bruce was joined by Patti Scialfa, a member of the E-Street band, and talked in between the songs about their meaning, as well as reflected on the current political climate. Backstreet's reporter writes of the experience:
It was a dream of a setlist. Bruce opened with a very brief note of thanks to the President and the staff who were being honored before launching into "Working on the Highway." That opener led into an incredible "Growin' Up" for a lively start, but not much of the set was so upbeat, with haunting readings of songs like "My Hometown," "My Father's House," and "Devils & Dust." The mood in the room the whole night — both reception and concert — was not exactly somber, but it wasn't festive, either. It was elegiac, I'd say. There was a clear sense of something ending, both with the conclusion of an adventure for the staff and the silent presence of the coming political transition. Bruce's demeanor was definitely in line with that overall vibe.
It sounds like it was an incredible moment to be a part of, even if you're not a dedicated Springsteen fan (though those who weren't before the concert absolutely are by now). The intimacy of the concert and the honor and respect being mutually felt between everyone present is not something you can get at Madison Square Garden. Springsteen spoke about the song "Born in the U.S.A." and how he wrote it to be a protest song, and how it has been misinterpreted throughout time. It's clear through the account that the Backstreets writer is a huge fan of The Boss (and also a staff member for Obama??). Was it the best Springsteen concert they'd ever seen? It sounds incomparable. Here's what they had to say about it:
I have seen Bruce Springsteen a lot of places: front row at MSG, rehearsal at Convention Hall, summer runs at Giants, the last show at the old Giants, a surprise appearance in a shopping mall, 2004 Vote for Change, second row at the Lincoln Memorial in 2008, arenas all over.... But this one was a real personal thing, this thing for staff who sacrificed so much over the last eight years. It was a humble, quiet gesture from Bruce to say thanks to President Obama, the staff, and their families. No pomp, no ceremony, no press. Just the man, the guitar, and the songs.
I don't know about you, but I love to imagine that Obama's staff was full of die-hard Springsteen fans. You know, the kind who see a set and then write about it for a Springsteen fan site.