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."