The River was about
the taking of that time
and how we each have a finite amount of it
to do our jobs
to raise our families
to do something good
How the fuck does a SIXTY-SIX YEAR OLD MAN play with that kind of energy for THREE AND A HALF HOURS?
The last time we saw Springsteen, was nearing the end of the Bush Regime, and a lot has happened since then. This time around, he was celebrating the 35th anniversary of what he called his ‘coming of age’ album. I bought that album when it came out (amusingly enough, through Columbia House ). However, that was when I was getting heavily into metal and punk, and I confess it mostly left me a bit meh….the vinyl ended up in a crate, rarely played for a long time. Mainly, I recall thinking there were a few good songs, and some serious filler.
Well, I have drastically changed THAT opinion.
Shit. 3 1/2 hours. THEY JUST KEPT PLAYING….
Of course, the first half of the show, while stellar and amazing and all kinds of zombie, held few surprises. I did enjoy that they played the first song, Meet Me In The City, with the house lights up so all of us could see all of the other people, and the E Street Band could see us too.
I found myself remembering every damn one of The River songs. Apparently they made more of an impact all those years ago than I thought. Particular highlights: Independence Day, Jackson Cage, Out IN The Street, The River, Point Blank, Cadillac Ranch, Fade Away, Stolen Car, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night, Wreck on the Highway. Holy pasta, Wreck on the Highway!
One of the things I found most endearing about Springsteen live is how much he craves connection with his audience and fans. He was constantly – CONSTANTLY!- walking the front of the stage, grasping hands and high giving, laughing with delight at the signs people held. Adorably, he pulled a woman out of the audience to dance during “Dancing In The Dark” – and she was wearing a shirt that said “I Love Dancing In The Dark”! He also had a runway that looped around about the halfway point of the floor, and he came out through it four damn times – the first time, he leaned back and had the crowd body-surf him back to the stage. I am certain several members of the audience got a handful of BossJunk…
Last time, we saw Clarence Clemons play sax. It was his last tour. He seemed fatigued, and spent much time sitting on a chair. Tonight, his nephew Jake was playing sax, and spent as much time running around in front as Bruce did. And during Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, they played a montage of Big Man photos and videos on the screens. I was a bit surprised to tear up…
In particular, I enjoyed that they ‘took back’ “Because The Night” from that Patti Smith character. Highlight during this was a BLISTERING spinning guitar solo from Nils Lofgren that melted faces.
I also have to mention that Max Weinberg’s work on a relatively small drum kit (Are you WATCHING, Neil Peart?) was fucking amazing. it was propulsive and impeccable and he never flagged. The sound drove the band and was consistently deep and resonant. An amazingly athletic performance. Thunder Road indeed…
But the final and enduring thing I have taken away from two Springsteen concerts is this: how much damn JOY the band has in playing these thundering, full-of-life, anthemic music, sharing the joy with as many people as will listen, and they are so thrilled that this is their life, and that 20,000 people will jam into a barn to join in. Many times, Bruce allowed the crowd to sing the first refrain of a song, grinning wildly.
During the show, the band members continually danced around each other, sharing microphones, and mugging for each other. They seem to sincerely delight in their work together, and love to work together. Steve Van Zandt in particular spent some time manipulating Bruce’s face….
Over the course of , what, 33 damn songs? Many of which got stretched and expanded to cover Springsteen’s time playing with the audience. 3.5 hours, people.
meanwhile, the Republicanuts had their final debate. How long was it? 2 hours? Which event do you think added more life and joy and sheer GOOD to the planet?
Over the course of 33 songs, the band drove the audience into the heights of joy; people, many of them old as I am, into dancing and screaming and just having as much fun as they possibly could. Joy and Thunder and songs about sex and pain and life…with guitar. Was zombie happy? You tell me….
There was a time when I would have scoffed at a Springsteen show. I was young and confused. I think many people would say that a Springsteen show is a bucket list item; I saw him once before I died and now I’ve seen him after I died. I can recommend it, especially if you can do it with two of your best friends, like I did. It’s good for your health to experience loud joy.