on the way to the conference
for setlist junkies

solo bruce

First thoughts on the show.

First, the pre-show. We met up with our This Train buddies, including our ticket angel, East Bay Eileen. Thanks to the complicated ticket process, Robin entered with Eileen, I entered with Jim, and Billy entered with Maureen. Once we got in, Jim sat with Billy in the 4th row, Eileen and Maureen had the 5th row, and Robin and I ... well, we got in :-). Best fan story was a woman who came with Maureen ... she did the ticket drop lottery, and I guess you could say she won ... she not only got a ticket, it was in the first row!

Maureen was our other great fan story. The day tix went on sale, Maureen found out two things: one, that she could sit up front with Billy, and two, she had cancer. Well, she had surgery two weeks later, and a week-and-a-half after that, she was with us at the Paramount, sitting up close, watching her beloved Bruce.

Celebrity watch: Robin Williams was there, and Greil Marcus ... both had seats down front.

The show:

He opened singing "My Beautiful Reward" while playing a pump organ. If I'd left after that song, I would have gotten my $85 worth ... first time we'd seen him sing that gorgeous song since 1992. Next up was the weirdest version of "Reason to Believe" in history. He stomped his foot for a drum, played harmonica, and sang into some oddball mic that distorted his voice beyond recognition, so even someone like me, who knew it was coming, didn't recognize the song until it was almost over. Try to imagine Captain Beefheart singing Delta blues from the bottom of a swamp ... it was downright scary sounding.

After that amazing opening, he settled in. The music was much more varied than on the Joad tour ten years ago. Beside the pump organ and the odd mic thingie, he played acoustic guitar, 12-string acoustic, slide guitar, electric guitar, piano (a lot), and harmonica. I'm probably forgetting something, but among the songs he played were lots of songs from the new album (the guitar work in particular was excellent here ... the songs had a more varied sound than they do on the album), "Empty Sky," "The Rising," and an actual good version of "Further On (Up the Road) ... "Youngstown" and "My Best Was Never Good Enough" ... an ode to George Bush, my all-time fave "Part Man, Part Monkey" ... "The River" on piano (which got a standing ovation) ... a chilling "Nebraska" ... "The Promised Land" and "Racing in the Street" (on piano) ... and finally, for the first time in 13 years and 9 concerts, a song from Tunnel of Love: "Two Faces," which we had seen him sing exactly once previously, in 1988. That and "My Beautiful Reward" were the highlights for me.

It was 30 years ago that we saw our first Bruce show, at the very same Paramount Theatre. At times, seeing him standing in the same place he did in 1975, taking that same patented stance, holding his guitar, it was like time had stood still. The funny thing was, he didn't sing a single song tonight that he sang at that first show ... the earliest things he performed tonight were from 1978.

Overall, this was better than the Joad shows. Not Ultimate Bruce ... gotta have a band for that ... but a fine show nonetheless. More after I've had time to digest.