Monday, April 9, 2012
Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band: Friday Night In NYC
(Photo- A.M. Saddler, from Backstreets.com)
By and large, Friday evening's concert given by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street band at Madison Square Garden, the world's most odious arena, was everything you'd come to expect and more. If that sounds like standard praise from a crazed fan, consider this. Bruce Springsteen's bar is arguably higher than just about anyone, and yet, 35 years down the line, people are still whipped into an emotional frenzy from the minute this guy appears from behind the curtain. No one, I repeat, no one can do this like Bruce can. No one. It's always a feeling of, "How can he top this?" Before the night is through, he always does.
The lights did not go down. The band just sauntered onto the stage, as if taking a summer stroll on the boardwalk at Asbury Park. They waved, blew some kisses, admired the view and comfortably found their spots and instruments. Bruce did the same, and just like that, they launched into "Badlands," house lights still on. There's something about that effect, seeing a giant venue at capacity all lit up, while the stars of the show are hard at work on stage, that sends me over the moon.
The set list was "Wrecking Ball" heavy, and live, all of these songs worked. The crowd danced and sang to "Shackled & Drawn" and "Easy Money" with the same relish as "Out In The Street" and "The Promised Land." Since the tour warm-up at NYC's Apollo Theatre, the E-Street Band has found the pocket for the new material, and like no other live band, can make a hockey barn feel intimate.
Some set list additions were, to my taste, a bit of a disappointment. Though "Murder Incorporated" featured a blistering guitar duel between Bruce & Little Steven, I just don't like the song. "Lion's Den" fared better, but again, I don't love that song. I prefer the feeling of something tried and true over the fleeting joy of something unexpected but weak.
There were many highlights, but none moved me as much as "My City Of Ruins." As my friend pointed out, "This must feel like the Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest you're always telling me about." Indeed, it was. Bruce took the pulpit, and with more than a touch of soul, turned the Garden into church of praise and emotion. The horns, the voices and the message all came together for a truly magical moment.
Another highlight was Wilson Pickett's "634-5789." Again, I think I'd have preferred "Atlantic City" or "Candy's Room," instead of the Apollo Medley, but it's hard not to fall prey to what Bruce can do with a capacity crowd of almost 20,000. He took to a smaller stage set up in the middle of the Garden floor, surrounded by the chaos of the patrons in the pit. Over the repeated chorus of "634-5789," he fell back and body-surfed back to the stage. It wasn't the stunt that impressed me. It was that while on his back, trusting his life to the sea of bodies slowing moving his body on a wave of hysteria, he had the foresight to call out to the band for a modulation. "Bring it up!" And the band did. Bruce is listening to the band. The band is listening to "The Boss." Chills!
"American Skin," "Lonesome Day," "The Rising," and "We Are Alive," reminded me of that "4-pack"-- "Devil's Arcade," The Rising," "Last To Die," and "Long Walk Home"--that had been closing out the shows on the "Magic" tour. Songs that individually, have a lot to say, but when strung together at a point in the show where people are starting to realize the end is coming, feel like a chore. It is a 25 minute speed bump that I hope gets paved as the tour progresses.
The encore was a blast. It started with a beautiful reading of "Rocky Ground," a song from "Wrecking Ball" that at first, felt out of place with its rap section, but now, has become one of my go-to songs on the record. Michelle Moore sang her part and rapped her rap, and she was fantastic.
At this point, all I was thinking was "Kitty's Back." And just like that, the guitar screamed into the intro and I just about lost my mind. This song is always a highlight and I'm grateful that it isn't a standard encore. The anticipation of whether or not you'll get it, makes it sweeter when you do.
Friday night's 3 hour event was everything I wanted it to be, even with my minor complaints.
And the two 40-somethings with the bad haircuts, squeaky voices and iPhones, if all you wanted to do was talk about how Richie and Gary wont take you on a cruise, and show each other pictures from Deb's 50th birthday party in Boca, did you have to do that right next to me...for 3 hours? And by the way, "Kitty's Back" is NOT another new song. One friend intimated that maybe I should only attend private concerts from now on. While I've been known to be a bit cranky, expecting people to pay attention to the artist and respect their immediate surroundings, doesn't seem like much to ask when you're dropping $250 for a pair of tickets. Cranky, maybe. Unreasonable, I think not, especially after being doused on my neck with a used beer by the 20-something drunks behind me. I think I plowed through and throughly enjoyed one of the better concerts I've seen in years.
They do it all again on Monday, 4/9. Bruce, the band, and a few more idiots who will talk through "Jack Of All Trades" and ruin that moment for some other unlucky guests. It's a tough ticket, if you don't already have one. But if you do, consider yourself privileged.
We Take Care of Our Own
Out in the Street
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Jack of All Trades
Shackled & Drawn
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
American Skin (41 Shots)
We Are Alive
* * *
Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out