Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Something In The Night

I am so done with stadium rock concerts. Even with a nice afternoon of tailgating, complete with home-made burgers and cajun shrimp, plus a few baked clams courtesy of some nice folks a few cars down the line. What is the purpose of going to a show if you can't hear it? Chance are pretty good when you bought your ticket you knew you were not going to see it, but hear it? - you would think that should come with the price of admission. If you get stuck underneath the seats above you, what you are hearing sounds like it has been swirling around in garbage can ... which is a pretty accurate description of the Meadowlands and hopefully among the reasons that a new stadium is being built to open in a few years.

But there I was, once again, in New Jersey to spend a good two hours or so with The Boss.

Right off the bat, Danny Federici is sadly and sorely missed. Any true fan of the E Street Band will tell you that it's just not the same - and that part of the magic is gone forever. His replacement, Charles Giordano, is a solid musician and definitely is paying tribute to Danny - for now. Sooner or later he'll have to start working up a little magic on his own.

Clarence was not looking - or sounding - too good last night. He was pretty amazing at the Nassau Coliseum show last March - all the reviews seemed to pick up on the fact that he was blowing as strong as ever and Bruce pulled out all of the big sax songs as to take advantage of that fact. Last night, just the opposite. He was honking all over the place and Bruce pulled "Backstreets" from the setlist.

For the record it was a good show, probably a great show if we had better seats. There was an interesting mix of songs, including some that haven't been played for a while. Which brings me to Bruce's latest bit of schtick - taking "requests" from the audience who have been bringing handmade signs and banners in an attempt to get him to play their favorite song. Bruce ran back and forth across the stage collecting the signs which he dumped in a big pile on stage. He would walk over to the pile and pretend to decide which one he would play - I say pretend, because most of the "requests" he played were on his handwritten set list! What a con artist! Still it's all great fun for those involved - it is kind of cool when he reveals the choice to the crowd. Plus, in a few cases he truly pulled one out the bands collective ass - "Held Up Without A Gun" was a blast - Bruce duly noted that his lyrics are more in sync with the times now than when he wrote the song in the late 1970's.

Even some of the songs that were on the setlist gave the band a challenge - "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" started off with a spirited discussion on what key the song was in. "Drive All Night" from "The River" got big cheers from the long time fans. Quite a few covers made the set including "Summertime Blues," "The Detroit Medley" and "Twist And Shout" which went on way too long. The audience was completely insane - even towards the very end they got as loud as I ever heard a group of people get - and when Bruce was asking them to sing "a little bit softer now" during Twist And Shouts little LaBamba side trip, it was pretty cool hearing about 50 thousand people whispering together.

The kids got in the act as well. Bruce daughter came on stage with a bunch of her friends and basically just jumped around on Twist and Shout, and Max's son came out to play drums on "Born To Run." He definitely is not as stiff as his dad, and rocked the song really hard. It made hearing that one for the 200 plus time actually more exciting than usual. Yes, it still is exciting no matter what.

There is so much talent on this stage, including the wonderful bassist Gary Tallent of course. Steve Van Zandt, when he's not clowning around with Bruce, is a truly masterful guitarist - one of those guys who makes it look way easier than it is. When you have a moment be sure to check his Underground Garage website. On the other side of the stage Nils Lofgren gets the spotlight once a night - last night it was on "Because The Night" - and he never fails to bring the show to a new level. His solos soar, higher and higher and just when you think he's peaking, he brings it on even more. Plus now he's tumbling while he solos! Its only a matter of time before the trampoline comes back. Nils has a new CD - a collection of songs from his old boss, Neil Young, called "The Loner - Nils Sings Neil."

I kept feeling that there was some sort of farewell vibe to this show. That's not been hinted at anywhere and I can't pinpoint my exact reasons for feeling those feelings. No doubt, he could do this forever - fill these stadiums and give them their money's worth (including the $20 hit for parking!) To my eyes there were too many drunk yahoos who just kept shouting "YEEEEAHHH" into each other's face, too many fan boys and girls who had seen it all too many times and pick songs for their bathroom breaks, too many people who thought his last CD was Born In The USA, just too many "too manys." He needs to scale this thing back, play the theaters, get the excitment back. Let everybody hear the words. Tell a story or two. Deal with the changes, the ones that have come and the ones to come. I love this guy, I really do. I have followed him through it all - almost from the very beginning. It's time to bring this thing back home - and I don't mean back to New Jersey.

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