As my friend Karen and I sat in the seemingly interminable delay on the Blue Water Bridge in to Canada yesterday, I realized that we'd miss the start of last night's concert. We still had 3 and a half hours to drive -- if there wasn't another delay crossing back in the United States to get to Buffalo. We hadn't been set on tickets until 3pm, so it was the best we could do. Karen and I went through the openings we'd like for last night's concert, so long as we wouldn't be there: "Glory Days!! Yes, he should open with Glory Days! And then, maybe something from Devils and Dust." My foot turned to lead as I imagined the horror of my mission to see the final show turning in to witnessing only the encores. We screamed through Niagara Falls at 90 (and I don't mean kph), and then a miracle happened: no line at the bridge.
As I walked in to HSBC Arena last night, Bruce was building a house. I could check the setlist later, but at least I hadn't missed the one and only playing of the entire Greetings From Asbury Park album. The aisleways were deserted. I snagged the pretty yellow t-shirt (the first nice one Bruce has had in at least 3 tours, I'm pretty sure) and sprinted to my seat for my main event.
I might be excused for expecting a bit of raggedness from the songs on Greetings; after all, these are Bruce's oldest Columbia songs, and most of them are performed rarely, if ever. I might also be excused for expecting little from songs such as Mary, Queen of Arkansas and The Angel, the least well-liked songs from that album.
In short, the playing of Greetings was a blast. Yes, Blinded was ragged. So what? Yes, the start of Mary, Queen of Arkansas touched off a major beer run in pretty much all areas of the arena with seats, but it was still a pretty rendition, with Nils providing a backing on harmonica.
But there was also Growin' Up. As soon as Bruce said, "and there I waaassssss," I smiled. Bruce, in story-telling mode, back on Kingsley Avenue, meeting Clarence for the first time. Only in this story, he somehow ended up in a dream, and woke up in Fucking Buffalo. The crowd ate it up.
The Angel featured what appeared to a viola player (at least, I think that was a viola; I'm not used to hearing a viola played that low). After the show, no one I spoke to knew who the viola player was, she was the mystery woman of the evening. Bruce seemed to smile as he sang the words, "Madison Avenue's claim to fame," as if he were particularly proud of that line.
The only downer for me in the Greetings set was, oddly, It's Hard to be a Saint in the City. I have seen the band perform this time several times before, some with fierce piano from Roy Bittan, and typically with Bruce and Stevie ending up in a prolonged guitar duel that would blow the roof off any building. Not yesterday, unfortunately.
After Greetings, the show turned almost in to an "anything goes" sort of affair, and a very long one at that. It was Stevie's birthday, and to help celebrate, not only was Stevie presented with a cake with many candles, but Bruce and the band accepted Stevie's request and launched in to the first-ever live performance of Restless Nights. During the fan request segment that followed shortly thereafter, the band played the Chuck Willis standard, Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes, pretty much nailing it despite Bruce's protests to the sign-makers that he didn't actually know the words.
The evening had less of a "we're done" feeling than that of a house party. The arena didn't completely co-operate; it's one of those multi-box level arenas that detaches the upper bowl from the lower bowl. Despite the sell-out of ticketed seats, the 2nd level of boxes were mostly empty; the upper bowl patrons just seemed too far away; they mostly sat the entire night. The party was downstairs, where the pit was packed beyond what seemed possible, with Bruce frequently going in for... support.
One touching moment came for me during Waiting on a Sunny Day, when a little girl named Emma came on stage for the child sing-along. Emma was confident, loud, on the beat, and... decidedly off pitch. Did Bruce wince? Noooo. Did he pretend even to notice? Noooo. He looked every bit the proud father, and then acted it: He asked Emma to take another chorus, and congratulated her on the best he'd ever heard. Later on, during Dancing in the Dark, Emma's brother Jacob held up a sign asking to dance with Stevie, during which Stevie demonstrated old go-go moves, and after which Jacob played air guitar with Bruce. Now, I'm a skeptic regarding the children on stage (not least to it more than occasionally being vehicles for the parents more than the kids), but I happened to exit the arena at the same time as the kids, and they were just flying. Jacob went on for probably 5 minutes as to how he came up with the idea to ask Stevie to dance, and I figured, if it was his idea, that's good enough for me.
After 34 songs, the show and tour finally ended with a rousing chorus of John Fogerty's Rockin All Over the World. (As long as he was getting out the Fogerty songbook, why not nod to Buffalo with Rock and Roll Girls? Oh, well). Highlights beyond those already mentioned? Too numerous to recall now without consulting the setlist. Quibbles? Sure: Nils was pretty invisible last night, and I wanted one last explosive solo from him. And, never finding out who that viola player was. At the end, Bruce announced that the band would be away for a "very litle while," and both he and Stevie held a large sign that fans in the lower bowl had brought reading, "It's Only Rock and Roll... but it feels like love," and it just felt right.
The Other Akin Comment
4 years ago