Thursday, March 27, 2008

Incidentally, No Magic in Columbus

My report from the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert in Columbus, March 24, 2008, as published on the official Bruce Springsteen website.

Before the Cincinnati show, I told some friends that just once, I'd like to be "between the mics," that small portion of the front of the pit between Bruce and Steve. The lottery odds of that are rather small, of course, but last night my number came in. So, any veneer of objectivity I might otherwise pretend in a review will be absent in this one, there's just no way. My ears are still ringing, I'm operating on three hours sleep, I have a meeting with a new boss in half an hour, and, and... I'm feeling just fine.

Even taking into account a once-in-a-lifetime (so far) position, I've seen Bruce enough times (73) to know that last night's show was pretty hot. Right from the opening salvo of "The Ties That Bind," Bruce and the band were on a mission. Shaking things up just four songs in to the set, Bruce circled the stage multiple times to call out for "Adam Raised a Cain"; Charlie Giordano, unable to read Bruce's lips, missed the beginning of the song while getting the translation. Did it matter? Hell, no. I'll remember it for one of the more fiery performances I've seen, including Bruce tearing into his guitar solo at the end.

"Magic" was dropped from the setlist last night. That meant losing part of the spoken "message," though I believe it was covered well enough during "Livin' in the Future." With the relatively quiet number removed, the show had virtually no letups -- rockers and classics all. It also opened up the set a bit for a different selection from the Magic album, and last night's debut performance of "You'll Be Comin' Down" was more than worthy.

Highlights? Way too many to remember them all. "Something in the Night." Nils possibly topping the "Prove It all Night" solo from Cincinnati with a blow-out on "Because the Night." ÊBruce's guitar playing on "Adam Raised a Cain" and on "Incident on 57th Street." Every time Clarence played the bari sax. "Long Walk Home," with Steve's new vocals at the end. A cameo by Ed Manion on bari sax during "Born to Run," leading Bruce to say, "C'mon, Big Men!," and also producing the biggest, baddest sound I have ever heard for that song. And "Rosalita." Yes, "Rosalita"!

One bit of strangeness, likely to become a recurring event at Springsteen shows, was the song contest winner. There are advertised contests for several upcoming shows for fans to select a song. Last night the "winner" -- and who knows how many voted; no one near me was aware of a contest for last night's show -- was "Sherry Darling." Bruce asked who picked "this bastard," prompting Stevie to raise his hand (Stevie used another little gesture involving both hands a little later when Bruce announced "sexy time").

Everyone on stage appeared to be in high spirits, having a great time being with each other and giving Ohio everything they had. My favorite interaction was after "Sherry Darling," when Bruce found a sign in the pit that read, "Incident, Please," then, after holding it up, walking over to the piano to say to Roy, "Incident, Please!" Pure magic.

Leave 'Em Wanting More

My report from the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert in Cincinnati, March 22, 2008, as published on the official Bruce Springsteen website.

At just about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band left the stage, having just completed "American Land" before a nearly packed house at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. The crowd was loud and had been on its feet -- even back in section 201-- for nearly the entire show. But, even before Springsteen was off the stage, the house lights were on. At barely two hours, the show was over.

On the floor, some long-time fans were apoplectic. What the #%&!? Anyone with an internet connection knew that, in the prior two shows, fans had been treated to incredible guest appearances. Not that anyone expected anything like that again, but here we were, on a Saturday night, with a phenomenal crowd, and it was already over?

Sure, we'd collected a bunch of moments. An unusual (and unrushed) opener of "Darlington County." Consecutive audibles by Bruce, the first shouted out to Max and Garry during "Reason to Believe" to follow with "Candy's Room," and then for "Prove It All Night." An incendiary, wailing, gun-slinging, foot-stomping (literally) solo by Nils Lofgren to punctuate "Prove It All Night." An audience scan for signs, leading to a relatively rare performance of "Be True." Following that, a show-stopping "Lost in the Flood" before the final five songs of the main set. And, as likely captured on YouTube already, an encore dance with Hannah during "Dancing in the Dark." Still, I couldn't escape the feeling that Bruce rushed the band through the final hour of the show as if he were late for the plane.

Not that the performance suffered too much from the breakneck pace. Clarence sounded great. Charlie Giordano fit right in, adding his own textures from Danny's spot. Patti wasn't there (Bruce's explanation, as it were, included a terribly lame joke about dealing with the kids and the hash brownies back home), so Soozie helped out with "Magic." If anything, the themes of death, life, despair, faith and hope that run through the set, and the final sequence starting with "Devil's Arcade," were amplified by the pace. The playing was nearly flawless, and Bruce's voice was in fine form. And that solo from Nils on "Prove It All Night" -- put that one on brucespringsteen.net, please! If it was Bruce's intent to keep the audience out of breath and begging for more, it worked.

But just as fast as all the songs had been, that's how fast it was all over. Or so it seemed.

The techs came out to gather the equipment, with the roadies to follow to take down the stage. That was it. Some fans filed out, some celebrated the evening, and some, well, were asking "What the #%&!?"

That's when the roar went up from behind the stage, as Bruce and the band re-appeared -- with the house lights still on -- to re-take the stage. Fans rushed back to their seats, equipment was plugged back in, techs were sent scrambling. "Kitty's Back" was a lovely mess, with Max flubbing some of the opening beats, Clarence's tech struggling with the Big Man's neck strap, and an extended guitar solo from Bruce. They gave 'em a helluva time. And left 'em wanting more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monty is climbing Everest

What does one do when a seemingly normal friend -- albeit one I've met in person only once, through more than a decade of email correspondence -- decides to climb Mt. Everest?

Not that Monty can't do it, he's climbed mountains in the Himalayas before, and has had his share of near death experiences. But I'm aiming to see Monty out in Portland in August, so he better make it back it one piece! And while my travbuddy profile is now updated because I have seen the Birmingham, Alabama airport from the tarmac, I think Monty's is a bit more interesting... and scenic.

So what I do is, decide to follow along with Monty's blog. It's at http://monty-val-everest.blogspot.com. Good luck, Monty, and I look forward to sharing some good wine with you in about half a year.