Thursday, September 17, 2009
Last night at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC I attended my first Bruce Springsteen concert. The impetus for going was as a birthday present for my father, but as a music fan whose Born In The U.S.A. cassette got plenty of play when I was about 10 I have no trouble admitting I was psyched. I don't know whether it was because of Springsteen's workingman image or reputation for lengthy shows but I assumed the concert would start relatively close to the 7.30 advertised time. When it got close to 8.15 and no Bruce we began to hear some restless noises from the crowd. (A new ticketing procedure at the venue may have accounted for some of the delay) Who does Bruce think he is, Amy Winehouse?
Of course the show did start, and after some general whipping-the-crowd-into-a-frenzy stuff the band launched into "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." I'm no better than anyone else when it comes to evaluating new work by classic stars; the temptation to compare the new stuff to the songs that made you love the artist in the first place is always there. Springsteen could never be accused of not knowing what his fans want, so the set list was heavy on the older stuff ("Badlands," "Glory Days," "The Promised Land," "Dancing In The Dark") and the new songs were broken up with crowd pleasing antics including a requested cover of "Satisfaction." For the record I think I might need to give the "Magic" album another listen and "Working On A Dream" is just as effortless as on record. "Outlaw Pete" still doesn't work though.
As for the E Street Band, it may only be in concert that one can really appreciate that it takes this many people working this hard to create Springsteen's sound. You don't associate Springsteen songs with guitar solos (though Springsteen, Nils Lofgren, and Steve Van Zandt each got off a couple); it's the piano of Roy Bittan and of course the sax of Clarence Clemons that really define the E Street sound. Suze Tyrell on violin added some good tonal coloration (and got a nice spotlight on "American Land") and young Jay Weinberg more than ably held up the family's reputation on drums. Whatever one thinks of Springsteen there's no way not to appreciate the man's energy. He doesn't have to go into the middle of the crowd but he does, and that spirit has kept him relevant all this time. All in all an evening I'll remember and a reminder of why I cared.