Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bruce @ The Apollo

I imagine the difference between being one of the 1,200 inside the Apollo Theatre and one of the hundreds of thousands listening at home via satellite on E-Street Radio is similar to the difference between eating a Peter Luger's steak and reading about one.

I was home, listening and waxing nostalgic. The voice of co-host Meg Griffin, the legendary DJ from WNEW-FM shot me back 30 years to the great days of FM radio, and those incomparable weekends spent on street corners and carhoods with the coolest friends in the best parts of Brooklyn, listening to Meg, or Dennis Elsas, or "The Night Bird" Alison Steele,  as they played the greatest music and introduced such special events as Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band Live From The Capitol Theatre In Passaic, New Jersey.

The backstage din and the pre-concert interviews with Meg, Dave Marsh and their special guests added some extra zip and excitement to the anticipation and to my reminiscing.

The concert, which began at 8:20, was pleasing. Running just a bit over two hours, the newfangled E-Street Band, greatly expanded with horns and voices, sounded solid yet tentative.  The setlist seems specifically tailored for both the venue and "special event" distinction.

Bruce and company showcased the new album "Wrecking Ball," by playing 8 of the 11 songs it features, all of which seemed to work as live pieces. Of the remaining 12 tunes, only "Mansion On The Hill"---which was preceded by Bruce saying "On our new record, our motto is dancing and crying. This one is just about crying."---had that "dig deep" setlist feeling. The staples were there, "Badlands," "The Promised Land," as were the speed bumps, "Waitin' On A Sunny Day." The band also acknowledged the history of the legendary Apollo Theatre by playing some choice covers. Both The Temps "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and the "Wicked" Pickett's "634-5789" were highlights.

The real moment of E-Street emotion took place rather early, during a slightly more soulful and uptempo version of "My City Of Ruins." As the band began to vamp about halfway through, Bruce introduced the E-Streeters with a "roll call," and gave each member a brief solo. Then, he threw the bucket of cold water in our faces. "Are we missing anybody?" (My hands are shaking as I type this.) He summoned the crowd again. "Are we missing anybody?" 

Bruce Springsteen acknowledged his lost friends and E-Street Band members Danny Federici and Clarence "Big Man" Clemons with these words, "The only thing I can guarantee tonight...if you're here, and we're here...they're here."

The greatest moment of last night's performance was not musical. 

Meg Griffin said at the top of the broadcast, "Never been to a Bruce show, big or small, where I didn't go in as one person and come out as another." I couldn't have said it better myself. I've been there.  I even felt that way listening to the live broadcasts from The Capitol Theatre in 1978. This is what Bruce can do. 

I'm sure, or at least hoping, last night's setlist and performance was strictly last night's setlist and performance. It was the first show of the tour and it was indeed a special event, but it was not a "special" show, not from my seats. Chalk it up to first night jitters, or the millions of extra ears tuning in, but as much fun as it was to dial up the live broadcast, I came out exactly the way I went in.  I'm thinking even from 7th row center, the Apollo show was missing just a little bit more than Danny & The "Big Man."  We will soon find out. The Boss said so himself.

"Hold on! We're coming!"

I'm holding, Bruce. I'm holding.

We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
The E Street Shuffle
Jack of All Trades
Shackled and Drawn
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Mansion on the Hill
The Way You Do The Things You Do
The Rising
We Are Alive
Thunder Road
* * *
Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
Land of Hope and Dreams/People Get Ready
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Hold On, I'm Comin'


buzzbabyjesus said...

I never listen to his records, but when Bruce is onstage, I'm a fan.

Dave said...

I love the Boss, but his show last night was lacking. He hasn't reworked any of the standards in the past few tours. Compare "Should I Fall Behind" from the reunion tour to the record - no comparison. Compare "E-Street Shuffle" from '75 to the record - no comparison. The past few tours he has not gone outside the lines and made any new versions..."Badlands" has the same reprise ending, "Waiting on a Sunny Day", same call and response. You get the point. But of course I'll see him this tour as I alays do. Here's looking to a few new tour gems!

Anonymous said...

Same thoughts about the show re: tentative and somewhat constrained. On the other hand, keep in mind that, for the most part, this was a rehearsal show. I can't help but feel that Bruce was a little less than pleased with it all and will rework some arrangements by the time he rolls around to the Garden and Meadowlands shows. Have faith...Bruce never disappoints! - Alan

Troy said...

For every tour since The Rising, the whole first leg has been tentative - - let alone the first show - - as the band learns the new album. Since they were barely even part of the recording of the new album, it will clearly take time until they are more comfortable with it. Add in all the new expanded band personnel and the challenge becomes even greater.

I was impressed by how Bruce handled the acknowledgement of the loss of Clarence and Danny. On Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, after the line "and the Big Man joined the band", they stopped and let the audience cheer the Big Man. Then the whole expanded horn section played the solo. Very nice, and I hope they still perform it that way as the tour progresses.

A walk in the woods said...

Nice review, Sal. I'm always hardest on the artists I dig the most - so I know what you mean when you say you wish this would be a great, transportive show, but since you know how high he can go and didn't, you have to call it.

His first full show of the tour is in Atlanta and I'm considering it, but with it being in a huge arena I don't get the warm fuzzies. Hard for me to get excited about arena shows - at least from where I know my seats would be.

jeff k said...

That moment where he asks are we missing anybody tonight. Wow. Wow.

steve simels said...

I can't wait to hear this, Sal, and thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was there, and I thought it was special. I'm not bragging, I'm giving you the feeling I had, 7th row ( but not center )
Bruce seemed on fire, the band seemed to be finding their sea legs with the new material. Bruce climbed the walls and the balcony, scaring us all, but he did seem to be almost compensating for the show being a tiny bit flatter than a "real show". The Clarence related moments were lump-in-the-throat moving, but they weren't the only highlights ( I didn't get in til Promised Land, btw)
Just wanted to say it had, for a half of a short show ) the thrill we turn to Bruce for, in that way that no one else I know of can deliver live ( and I've seen Bruce dozens of times.)
Great piece (as always), Sal.

charlie c. said...

Crescendo will undoubtedly be Sunday afternoon, April 29 in New Orleans . . .
Can't believe any musician would treat a gig at the Apollo as a rehearsal, but not having heard it yet, I will reserve judgement.