So, how was the show?

>> Monday, April 28, 2008

How do you think it was? It was fucking awesome.

At around two hours, it was a little shorter than I expected, but Bruce and the band deserve a little slack seeing as how they put a very old friend in the ground this week. Indeed, the show started a little late and on a mellow note, with the band doing "Blood Brothers" on a darkened stage while a montage of Danny Federici stills and clips played on the giant video monitors behind the stage. A little later in the show, Bruce told a funny story he said he'd told at Danny's funeral, about how in the late '60s Danny had a huge pot plant in the passenger seat of his car and then parked it in a tow-away zone.

One of the things that's been a hallmark of Springsteen shows since the '80s is that Springsteen usually tries to bring the light/dark dichotomy of The River to his stage shows. That is, The River is an album that purposely contains extremes--e.g. the drowning desperation of "Stolen Car" contrasted against the carpe diem, raucous joy of "Ramrod". Springsteen has said he was trying to find a path between the two extremes on that record. Similarly, Springsteen's live shows often drive between emotional extremes, and Sunday's show was no exception. The somber interpretation of "Blood Brothers" was followed two songs later by a surprisingly roadhouse take on Nebraska's "Reason To Believe" (preceded, surprisingly, by "Wild Billy's Circus Story" from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle; "surprisingly" because it was an interesting choice--but the last line of "Wild Billy's Circus Story," "All aboard, Nebraska's our next stop...," was a perfect set up for the segue, and I expected something from Nebraska the second I heard The Boss sing the line).

Also typical, if that word applies to a man who possibly never plays the same set list twice, was the way the band dug through the entire E Street Band catalogue. Magic, the band's most recent album, was well-represented with songs like "Radio Nowhere," "Livin' in the Future," "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" and "Long Walk Home." (I'd love to be more specific than "they rocked," but I still--yes, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it--don't own Magic. It wasn't until I pulled up the album on Amazon just now that I recognized some titles, and there may be some more songs from Magic that were played tonight that I missed. Yes, I need to address this neglect on my part and get a copy of Magic soon, maybe later this week.) But the band also played a swinging (and awesome) take on "Kitty's Back" (also from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle) and--a wonderful moment for me when I heard Professor Roy Bittan play the opening chords--"Lost In The Flood" from Greetings from Asbury Park, a personal favorite of mine (if I were to ever start playing even halfway seriously again, and were to try to put together a band, "Lost In The Flood" is the Springsteen song I'd want us to learn, an epic, apocalyptic song that evokes something like Yeats's "The Second Coming"). Born To Run was represented--the title track (during the encore with the house lights up and full audience participation, of course, an E Street tradition) and a classic take on "Thunder Road." So was Darkness On The Edge Of Town, one of Springsteen's four "perfect" albums (along with Born To Run, The River and Nebraska), with "Prove It All Night," "Badlands" (lots of audience participation on that one, as always), "Promised Land" and--another personal favorite that totally made my evening--"Candy's Room", with its beautiful buildup and stormy crescendo (Mighty Max Weinberg is one of my all-time favorite drummers, and the way he pounds the shit out of the drums on "Candy's Room" is nearly a religious experience).

The E Street Band is, in my opinion, the best backing band in all of rock and roll. They're solid musicians, they're tight as hell, they can turn on a dime, and they bust their asses for the hardest-working showman in rock and roll. Springsteen himself is an incredible guitarist--nobody ever says it for some reason, maybe because it doesn't seem fair that such a talented frontman and songwriter should also be as impressive a musician--and so is Steven Van Zandt. Nils Lofgren, on the other hand, is one of the single most impressive guitar players I've ever had the privilege of seeing live; and I only phrase it that way because of my deep love for David Gilmour (okay, I admit it--Lofgren's probably better, but Gilmour remains my fave, 'kay?) and because I really could agonize over whether Lofgren is better than Dave Rawlings or vice-versa all night long (I've also seen Richard Thompson, who is fucking unbelievable, so I suppose we have a full-on horserace). Anyway, Lofgren is unbelievable. I don't know if I should go through the entire band roster or not--Weinberg, as I've said, is one of my all-time favorite drummers and Roy Bittan's session work outside the E Street Band is notable.

Anyway, it was a helluva show. What else did I expect? Of course you may be thinking, "What else is he going to say?" Well, actually: I think we've all had shows that we built up in our minds beforehand, only to find ourselves a little disappointed when things didn't quite go as we expected. I had a bit of that last November, when I saw Tori Amos again and was a little disappointed that she wasn't as good as the other times I'd seen her. That wasn't the case Sunday night, I'm happy, happy, happy, happy to say. The Boss was in fine form, the band was tight, and the house was rocked.

That might be the whole review in two words, actually: I'm happy.


Tania Monday, April 28, 2008 at 2:52:00 AM EDT  

Sounds like it was a blast. I love the We Shall Overcome album.

Eric Monday, April 28, 2008 at 11:05:00 AM EDT  

Soozie Tyrell, from the Sessions Band that recorded Overcome with Bruce is now a full-fledged E Street Band member and was fabulous on violin (duh). (She also played acoustic guitar and joined on backing vocals.) Another Sessions Band alum on stage last night was Charles Giordano, who was filling Danny Federici's big shoes; a tough gig, but he did a fantastic job on the keys.

I think there was a third Sessions Band player with them during part of the encore, playing acoustic guitar, but I didn't catch the name and wasn't able to single it out with Wikipedia (that's how I was able to get Giordano's name; Soozie Tyrell I recognized last night from her other work with The Boss).

A blast indeed. If he's in your area, go see him. Tickets have gotten pricey as hell, but you'll get your money's worth. (Even nosebleed was expensive, but worth every penny.)

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