Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Johnny Dee Reviews the Boss on Opening Night

The great Johnny Dee has offered his review of the Opening Nught performance of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's current tour in support of Magic. Thanks John.

My review of opening night of the "Magic" tour, Hartford Civic Center, October 2, 2007:

Cards on the table: I've seen Bruce, with and without the E Street Band, something like 15 or 16 times, in several different venues (MSG, Continental Arena, Giants Stadium, Shea Stadium, PNC Bank Arts Center, even Carnegie Hall). I have usually either been heads-up enough to get my bid for tix in early, or used corporate connections/brokers, to get better-than-average seats. (I deserve no less.) Let it be said that I had incredibly lousy seats last night, which ticked me off from the get-go, which contributed somewhat to what follows.

Let's start with a given: what Bruce and the E-Street Band (let's call them, collectively, "BEST"), does well, they do better than anyone else, probably ever. Their obvious chemistry, both personal and musical, combined with their ability to relate to and command an audience, is unmatched in my experience. Last night in Hartford, that was on display from the first notes of "Radio Nowhere," a song that initially didn't knock me over but since cannot seem to get out of my head. Had the energy and enthusiasm BEST displayed in the first 3 songs continued, or even if the concert had stopped right there, it probably would have been one of the best shows I'd ever seen.

The problem I had was in what came after, namely the New Stuff. Let me be clear: I've heard the new album, I like the new album, I may not agree with all of the politics on the new album but I think musically it's one of the best he's ever done. Also, I recognize and support their need to sell the new album. The problem with it in the context of last night's show is two-fold: first, the album hit yesterday, and the BEST true-believers out there (including me) haven't had time to absorb and personalize the stuff the way we do with Bruce's music. Which leads to the second problem last night, which was the timing/placement of the new songs in relation to the rest of the setlist. In many cases, the "Magic" stuff seemed to belie, or interrupt, or downright kill the buzz, of the other stuff he was playing.

Dig the setlist and I'll try to illustrate:
Radio Nowhere
The Ties That Bind
Lonesome Day
(JD: great start, huge energy.)
Gypsy Biker
Magic
(JD: Wounded, dead soldiers, and lying politicians, one in particular. Beertime.)

Reason to Believe
(JD: HOLY CRAP! Highlight of the show--bluesy, raw, totally different than I've ever heard it before.)

Night
She's the One
(JD: Fantastic 2-fer. Crowd on its feet.)

Livin' in the Future
(JD: Very catchy, good protest song, but as usual, could have done without the PSA. Essentially the same one you saw on the Today Show: cheeseburgers, motorcycles, bill of rights, wire-tapping.)

The Promised Land
(JD: We're back on track.)

Town Called Heartbreak
(JD: Have to say, wanted to hate it, Patty song done as a duet. Actually very effective and her voice did not make me want to plug my ears with hand-grenades as usual.)

Darkness on the Edge of Town
(JD: Always loved this one live. Still do.)

Darlington County
(JD: Here we go! Lights up, stalking the stage, great solos, everyone up.)

Devil's Arcade
(JD: Crashing back to earth. Maybe worst two-song segue in music history.)

The Rising
(JD: Ah, could we be back again? Great version, great energy, everybody singing....)

Last to Die
Long Walk Home
(JD: I stand corrected: above was the second worst segue, this was the worst. Getting painful now. PS, 2 excellent songs, as is Devil's Arcade, but following Darlington and Rising, just simply do not belong here.)

Badlands
(JD: Great set-ender. Brought us back to our feet.)
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thundercrack
Born to Run
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
American Land
(JD: Absolutely great encore set. Bit of a funky mix. I may have been the only person in the place who knew "Thundercrack," but they nailed it, given the last time they played it, Max hadn't joined the band, which he did in 1974.)

In summary: I give them an A+ for execution, as always. However, pacing, choice of songs, and order in which to play them, I have to say C+. That said, it's the first night of the tour, and I'm still going to both shows in NYC. By then I'll know the new stuff better and it may just make better sense. Or he'll change it. That's the beauty of BEST.

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