time flies when you’re having fun
and the reviews are in

bruce springsteen concert #35

Show #35 was another good one. Bruce never lets us down, but over the past five years or so, he has reached a consistent level as high as any in the long period we’ve seen him, going back to 1975. The band is tighter, the newer additions smoothly integrated, and Bruce still seems genuinely happy to be there after all these years. The key phrase is “consistent level” … at this point, there isn’t much I can say that I haven’t already said before. This was the second time we’d seen him on the Wrecking Ball tour, so the novelty of hearing those songs, and the new makeup of the band (three backup singers plus a fourth who doubles on percussion, five-piece horn section) is something we have quickly become used to. Jake Clemons has settled in more than nicely. The newness of his stepping into his uncle’s place is still there, but he has taken on a larger role in the proceedings since we saw in April. I wondered what the other four horn players might be thinking, realizing that Jake got so many opportunities to step forward on his own. But he plays all of Clarence’s old solos, he has a fine stage presence of his own, and he does as good a job as anyone could hope of trying to fill the Big Man’s big shoes.

The set list was mixed up nicely. No tour debuts, but “Devils and Dust” had only been played once before on this tour. There were two songs that might have been personal debuts for me, although I doubt it. I have the complete set lists for 33 of the 35 shows I’ve seen, and “The E Street Shuffle” and “Kitty’s Back” do not appear on any of them. But the two missing lists are the first two, from 1975-76, when Bruce only had three albums to pick from. I’d have to guess we heard “Kitty” both times, “Shuffle” probably both times as well. To be honest, I was surprised I hadn’t heard “Kitty” in all those years.

This report sounds a bit dispassionate, which couldn’t be further from the experience itself. It’s just that, as I said above, he is consistently great these days, and so the changes in the set list are the main things to talk about that separate one show from another. Some highlights (all videos from medolyns):

“Land of Hope and Dreams” made an interesting and effective opener. The previous eight times we’ve seen this one going back to the Reunion Tour, it was a finale, or close to the end. But it worked very well to kick off the show.

That was followed by “Cover Me”, “Adam Raised a Cain”, and “Something in the Night”. Two Darkness songs in the opening four was a nice surprise, and made for a very intense beginning. Then came “Hungry Heart” with the body surfing, and our friend Diana will be glad to know that Oakland wasn’t a lot better at this than Vancouver was (as medolyns notes, these videos were taken from a good spot, but outside of the interesting perspective, this particular video didn’t work quite as well as hoped):

“My City of Ruins” was the most overt example of Bruce the Revivalist Preacher, and the first mention of the absence of Clarence. As noted, I liked hearing “E Street Shuffle” after all these years. And then came the signs. He didn’t just take them from the front of the pit … he wandered back to the barricade between pit and the rest of the floor, grabbing signs all the way, until he had a lot of them. When he returned to the stage, he rummaged through the signs, and pulled out the one about the Hungarian dancer I mentioned in an earlier post. He called her onstage, and while she danced, he commenced to playing “Pay Me My Money Down”, which I thought was a sign request, but she hadn’t really asked for any song in particular, and the song was on the original set list, so the band was ready:

“Devils and Dust” was perhaps the most surprising of the sign requests:

“Shackled and Drawn” was one of my favorites of the night, which I expected (the video starts dark, give it time):

“Kitty’s Back” was a monumental, 13-minute rendition with plenty of solo time for all, especially Roy Bittan:

The most emotional moments for me were predictable: “My City of Ruins”, “Born to Run” … “She’s the One” worked as great as it always had going back to 1975 … given the intense opening to the show, I have to agree with Neal, who said this was a mostly happy show. There’s no use rating these things … I suppose it was my second-favorite of 2012, but I guarantee that anyone seeing this tour for the first time was thrilled, as was I. Robin sat next to a Bruce Concert Virgin, and it’s delightful to know that even now, people are still coming to see for the first time what all the fuss is about. They are never disappointed.

I do not consider myself a religious man, or a believer in much of anything outside of the concrete. But all of that goes out the window when I am seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert. I have been blessed this year with many things: a new grandson added to a family that is better with every year, and let’s not forget a certain baseball team winning the World Series for the second time in three years. Tonight’s concert, and the one in April, make that list, as well. We took Neal and Sara to their first Bruce show in 1988; Neal was there again tonight. I can only wonder if Bruce will still be doing this when Félix is old enough to join us.

Neal said he likes grades, so, grade for concert: A.