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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Last of the hardcore troubadours

We spent three hours plus with Rev. Bruce Springsteen at the Rose Garden tonight. It was a beautiful experience. Springsteen is quite generous with his loving audience these days. He's hobbling around like he needs a hip replacement, but that isn't stopping him. He's going full tilt, dancing, hopping, gyrating all over the floor of the arena, cranking out one big guitar riff after another. And he's letting the throngs climb all over him, everybody from grade school girls to ladies his own age, which is now north of 60. He's filthy rich and getting richer with every strum of the guitar, but the faithful sure do get their money's worth.

The music these days is, as always, a mix of the new and the old, with the best of the old readily available. Tonight Bruce played "Rosalita," which we haven't heard him do live in decades, along with "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run," anthems he's probably tired of regurgitating. There was candy like "Dancing in the Dark," "Hungry Heart," and "Waiting on a Sunny Day." There was delicious nostalgia with "Growin' Up" and "Spirit in the Night." And tender moments were had in "If I Should Fall Behind" and "Drive All Night." The new stuff, from the album "Wrecking Ball," was fine, too, although we still haven't quite bought into most of it.

The two most important songs of the night for us were "Seeds," followed by a surprisingly up-tempo, full-band version of "Johnny 99." These songs rocked, but the lyrics, for those who listened to them, were darkly sobering, to say the least. Bruce is a wealthy old guy, but he's not shy about pointing out that all is not well in our nation and world.

Every minute of every Bruce show is dissected and analyzed these days, and so there's no need for us to go all journalistic about this one. Big picture: Bruce is older; so are we. He's got some young people in the back of the stage now, and they all get to come down to the front and shine with the old dudes a few times a night. Deceased sax man Clarence Clemons's nephew Jake is now playing his uncle's solos, and doing it quite well. It's a big group up there. E Street is 17 pieces nowadays. It looks as though Nils Lofgren, who's starting to take on a bit of a Groucho-esque appearance, is shepherding the younger set along. That's uplifting.

When the lights came on at the end of the show, it was evident that the average age of the audience members was well into middle age. But when the lights had been down and the band was playing a few minutes earlier, it seemed as though everybody in the place was a teenager. We sang along on a lot of the anthems, and cheered as loud as we could. We won't have much of a voice tomorrow, but no matter; the rasp was well earned. "But now you're sad, your mama's mad, and your papa says he knows that I don't have any money"-- in that moment, we were back in a basement nightclub in New York City, and it was the spring of 1974.

We're not sure we have an exact count, but by our best reckoning, tonight made 13 Springsteen concerts for us, over 38 years and change. There is no way we'll ever be objective about any of those shows. So hey -- we were there tonight. It was great.

One final note: Bruce's Portland lesbians were in the mosh pit again tonight, as they had been in '08, and this time he was looking for them -- indeed, downright happy to see them. They made it all the way to the stage for a dance -- we believe it was on "Darlington County." It was a sweet feature of a night full of them. Including a line that we'll never stop loving: "They scream your name at night in the street."

Comments (18)

"Bruce is a wealthy old guy, but he's not shy about pointing out that all is not well in our nation and world."

So true. So very true.

I agree that all is not well; I don't agree (with Bruce) that Obama is any part of the answer or that that advocacy serves him well. Regardless, I linked this piece here before. Long profile from David Remnick in a July New Yorker. Had no problem reading every word though it took a couple of sittings.


Now here's a guy who loves his audience as much as his audience loves him. Damn, Jack, this was the best thing I've read all morning. Thank you.

Thanks, Jack. I was in Seattle last night. Bruce is not coming here, but had. Rousing Vancover, B.C. show the night before.

I hope those who have not yet realized that Obama won the election handily, thanks to events named Bruce Springstein, Chris Christie and Hurricane Sandy will soon start pulling the right way on their oars.

Before the show I was telling someone I first saw him in Nov. 1974 along with about 1500 other college students in an early 20th century University gymnasium. Tickets were $4, and I think he he had just two albums out at the time ("Asbury Park" and "The Wild,The Innocent and the E Street Schuffle"). I remember him as a wiry little guy. This was before he buffed out around the time of "Born in the USA " about ten yers later. But what a crazed, wild fireplug, bouncing all over the stage for over 4 hours, jumping up and down on the amps and piano. So last night I loved it when, at 60+ ,he climbed back up on the piano during a song. Vintage Bruce, still rockin- still The Boss.
The "Johnny 99" rock version was a remarkable take on that dark lonely solo from the Nebraska album, definitely one of the highlights for me too. Overall, great sound, great energy and still 3+ hours of solid rock, roll and soul. Like every Thanksgiving dinner, it seemed like the best one ever.


In the old days he would have jumped off the piano, rather than just stepping down. But hey, he's still up there exorcising demons. We're all richer for it.

Thanks for the gushing review, Jack. As one of the faithful, I could feel it. Born to Run was the soundtrack of my freshman year at boarding school in Massachusetts. The senior proctor of my freshman floor was a fellow New Yorker whose room was next to mine. He dabbled with the saxophone and did his level best, over and over and over again, to play along with Clarence's solos, slaughtering them and everybody on the floor in the process. But we got the point. That record was a triumph. Like Drewbob I first saw the boss in a small academic hall, in my case at the Choate school in Connecticut in 1976 or 1977. God knows what that cost Choate, but back then those schools would really pay for big name, big football weekend entertainment. It was an odd juxtaposition that night - E Street on stage and 1200 of the richest kids in America in the audience. I was lucky enough to be very close to the stage and was astonished, astonished at the experience of Springsteen live. You know what I'm talking about. At one point between numbers, a kid in front of me shouted, "You are the King of Rock and Roll!" The Boss smirked at Clarence, stepped up to the mike and said. "And I'm playing to a room full of princes." The band loved it. The audience cheered nervously. The Boss made his point but was oddly gracious about it with, I dare say, kingly panache.

Total envy. As a certified Old Guy I do not like listening to bands of my youth getting all geriatric on stage. But I would make an exception for The Boss. Based on Atlantic City alone. And a Mosh Pit Full O Lesbians would be worth the price of admission.

Three sections over in 107, Jack. An amazing show. My introduction to Springsteen was when I moved here in 1977 to be a Jesuit Volunteer, working in old town. We listened to two albums - Earth Wind and Fire, and Born to Run. I was fortunate that one of my fellow JVs had a ticket to the spring 1978 concert in the Paramount (that's what the Schnitzer used to be called) and wasn't able to use it. Back then Bruce was dancing up the aisles as far as his guitar cord would go, and it was about halfway up the hall.

It's always interesting to see what he plays from fan requests - the spin-the-wheel sign was priceless.

The walking like a hip replacement candidate - word is he might have been hurt in Vancouver during the crowd surfing. Might have taken a harder fall than he did last night returning to the stage.

I also hate to say this - but, given the number of old chestnuts (Jungleland was missing), the show had a feel of a farewell tour. I really hope not.

Hey, and I'm in your photo! Above Joshua(?) Clemens, first row, in the red top next to the guy in the green jacket!

Sounds like a real good time.

One or all of you would love that New Yorker piece.

Umpire, I saw him at the Paramount in '78 too, but it was in December, when he returned for his second shot of the year in Portland. Ticket was $6.50 for a seat in the balcony. An absolutely life-altering experience. There's no one else like him. In the last verse of "Badlands" he sings about "the ones who have a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive". I've always thought that that is Bruce's greatest gift to his fans. He reminds us that it's great to be alive. (And I think it's Jake Clemons, the Big Man's nephew).

Right before that Portland Paramount show (which has a good bootleg recording floating around), Bruce was one of the last acts performing at Winterland, the legendary theater in San Francisco. I went down there for it. He was absolutely at the top of his game.

Bojack, this is your best blog ever. Thanks for helping us "be there" when we weren't lucky enough to be there. Awesome reporting!

I'd love to have a copy of the '78 boot. That show was epic. I agree that Bruce was at the top of his game during that series of concerts. He released a boxed set of a remastering of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" a couple-three years ago, and it included a dvd of a show from (I believe) Houston recorded just a couple months before the Paramount show.

I have XM radio, which has the Springsteen channel, and I think they've played the '78 Portland concert - one of them, anyways. Also, one of my fellow basketball refs is a huge fan - next time I see him I'll ask about the tape.

I hesitated to go to the concert since Springsteen is just a bit ahead of me, generationally-speaking, and since I only know about six of his songs. That said, it was the most entertaining concert I have ever attended.

There is a man who truly enjoys his work, seems to love his fans as much as they worship him, and the energy he puts out (the band, too) is absolutely inspiring.

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