Tag Archives: concert

Springsteen’s Record-Breaking Night in New Jersey: There is Something Wrong With This Man (via Live Nation TV)

City = busted in half

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Live Nation TV — Something is wrong with Bruce Springsteen. On Tuesday night, to open a three-night series at MetLife Stadium in his home state of New Jersey, he played three hours and 52 minutes–his longest-ever show on U.S. soil and a demonstration of terrifying fitness for a 66-year-old. On Thursday night, at the same stadium, he ambled right out and promptly beat his record by eight minutes. His TWO-DAY-OLD RECORD. If you’re seeing him on Sunday night, bring protein bars.

Whatever your count, Thursday’s show is easily the speediest-feeling four-hour anything I’ve attended. It’s important to note that in the mythological Legends of Springsteen passed down through the generations, the marathon shows he performed on the Darkness and River tours often included an intermission, or a long speech about how he met Clarence, at the very least an encore break. The MetLife shows had zero of these. For the second night in Jersey, Bruce eschewed the full-River construct that was the basis for the River Tour in the first place, but dug up a bunch of the album’s high spots, including “I’m a Rocker,” “Cadillac Ranch,” and “Hungry Heart,” which he sang, naturally, strolling around the floor. Here’s what else he did.

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Review: Bruce Springsteen burns down Bonnaroo — for the Official Site (TM)

saddler_bonnaroobrucespringsteen.net (Tour Notes) — Even setting aside the Tennessee hot, the sprawling carnival-world landscape, and the frequent need to avoid people who are hula-hooping where you need to be walking, it’s safe to say Bruce Springsteen has never played an environment like the one he burned down Saturday night at Bonnaroo. The night was jammed full of Bruce-time idiosyncrasies: it was only the band’s second-ever festival date (after Pinkpop), and it unfolded not in the relative safety of an arena but on a lush, pastoral and almost entirely inaccessible farm that 48 hours prior had been prolifically drenched by what amounted to a freak one-night hurricane season (and spent all of Friday being dried out by a sultry sun that seared the grounds and turned the place into a wonderland for fans of the smell of fast-drying mud).

Read the full review at brucespringsteen.net (over in the Tour Notes section).

• Phish (with Bruce Springsteen) — Glory Days.mp3


Live review: Springsteen’s “Magic” in the night

PopMatters — If The Rising was Bruce Springsteen’s soaring, spiritual attempt at making sense of whatever parts of 9/11 one could make sense of—its title track, you’ll remember, found a heroic firefighter ascending a burning building with “spirits above and behind (him)”—his newest record, Magic, is the crashing aftermath, a darkened, defiant survey of the emotional and political wreckage since that dark day. Its 12 songs are laden with alienation, disappointment, and evaporated hope. These themes certainly aren’t new to Bruce’s notebook, but it’s still something to hear such themes so prevalent, so front and center. In a few cases, Magic takes Springsteenian lyrical chestnuts and turns them on their disenfranchised ears: the girl in the Motown/boppy “Livin’ in the Future” sways into town on high heels that sound like the clicks of pistol, while the “flag flyin’ over the courthouse” in “Long Walk Home” inspires not hope or redemption but a subtle national sense of remorse for crimes committed in the names of people who never wanted anything to do with them.

These are not easy tales to spin to a crowd that is used to leaving your live show feeling as though the world was a searingly hopeful beacon of justice, rainbows, truth, and fresh-baked oatmeal cookies. But maybe the magic-est thing about Springsteen’s Magic show is that, even in a slightly abbreviated and grayer form, Springsteen maintains the uncanny and increasingly unbelievable ability to identify hope in a daily rain of chaos.

Springsteen is 58 years old right now, the first of many reasons that the Magic tour shouldn’t be anywhere near as vibrant and relevant as it is. Other obstacles include, but are not limited to, perceptions that: he’s overly preachy and political, his band is too old (Clarence is 65!), and he’s too rich to identify with the common man. And given his own superlative, impossible history, going out and putting on simply a “good” show might not be enough for a fan base that’s come to rightly expect a regular stream of “greatness.”

Lucky for us, there seems to be something about these challenges that’s making him dig deeper. Dark or not, alienating or not, there’s never a moment in the two hour-plus show where you think that Springsteen—all six decades of him—might not be able to pull this off.

None of this is to say that there aren’t the usual, scorching moments of cathartic release: the D.C. show’s opening salvo of “Radio Nowhere”, “No Surrender”, and “Lonesome Day” roared with a vengeance; the first set closed, if you can call it that, with “Badlands”. This show also found Springsteen leaving time for a stomping, galvanic “Working on the Highway” (complete with Elvis poses), as well as the one-two punch of the new, better-on-stage “I’ll Work for Your Love” and “Tunnel of Love”—the later of which sounds more ‘80s than ever and closed with an absolutely bonkers solo from Nils Lofgren.

Elsewhere, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” shimmered and waved. Aside from that great chorus, it’s one of a few songs on the new record that find Bruce—grudgingly, one imagines—copping to his age: they might pass him by now, but Springsteen allows himself a twinkle to the Sandys and Rosalitas anyway. (For the setlist hawks, this night found Springsteen and band killing an audibled “Growin’ Up” and taking it directly into a roaring “Kitty’s Back”—both songs going on 35 years old).

But for the most part, there’s more darkness on the edge of the Magic show than any tour before it. In the context of such alienation—especially in the D.C. setting, which Springsteen acknowledged with the hot-cha zinger, “I’m so glad to be in your wicked, I mean beautiful, city tonight!”—“No Surrender” became a fierce challenge (the “wide open country in our eyes” seemed a lot more distant). “Reason To Believe”, meanwhile, was rebuilt as a dust-spitting Western rocker in the vein of “La Grange” and “Radio Nowhere”. The tune opened with a war cry (“Is there anybody alive out there?”, which Bruce has been stage-pattering since the ‘70s) that was part call to arms, part indictment—a line that can kick off a big rock show while slyly wondering what, exactly, in the hell have we let happen around here.

Springsteen has said that the hook, the whole turning point of the show happens near the end of the first set, when the cathartic, hopeful-against-odds “The Rising” gives way to “Last to Die”, the new record’s most direct indictment of the war. It’s made more potent when one realizes that the title character, whoever it is, may not have enlisted yet (the song’s based on a speech by John Kerry, no less). When that moment comes, it’s a killer: the shift, the tension, the tone, are like a kick to the stomach. Out of the “li li li”s of “The Rising” comes a black highway, an aimless wander and the question of who’ll be “the last to die for a mistake.”

That’s Springsteen’s challenge this time out: serving the bitter pills of “Last to Die” and “Devil’s Arcade” (given a stern, hammering, Max Weinberg-heavy reading in honor of Veterans’ Day) next to the fizzy release of “She’s the One” and the roaring-as-ever “Night”. The final song of the evening, “American Land”, is a Celtic-punk holdover from his Seeger Sessions experiment. It turned the GA section of the pit into a rubber-floored free-for-all, lobbing these lyrics at the lobbyists and lawmakers in the audience: “The hands that build the country we’re always trying to keep out.”

No one is more hip to the inability of American audiences to read between the lines than Springsteen—these are the people that wanted to use “Born in the USA” to sell pickup trucks, and if anyone can drag Pat Buchanan out of his crypt maybe he could explain why he once used the song as entrance music—but that Springsteen is as invested in such seemingly aging ideals is maybe the biggest reason he’s still doing all this. Such is the assignment that Springsteen has given himself: to keep arguing for the points and people he’s spent nearly four decades arguing for, to allow just the briefest glimpse of nostalgia (via “Born to Run”, of course, and a revved-up “Dancing in the Dark”), to allow more for age and experience. He’s there to to cast light on the horrors of a government run amok, and to make people leave a concert thinking that redemption is not only possible, but is possible by tomorrow morning.


Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band — What can a poor boy do but play in a ragtime band?

st_springstePopMatters — Nothing — absolutely nothing — about the scene at Bruce Springsteen’s concert in Indianapolis hinted that there was Bossness afoot. The crowd was smartly dressed and orderly; purple chandeliers hung on stage; and in the pit, general admission fans jockeyed politely for position. More beer stands were shuttered than open, and there wasn’t a single line for a single bathroom. On an unseasonably sticky Indy night, it was hard not to look out at the yawning green lawn (empty as it was) and think sadly: Jimmy Buffett fans are gonna stuff this entire space next month to hear him sing about cheeseburgers.

But, such is the bizarre alternate universe that has swallowed Springsteen’s strangely under-attended summer tour with the 17-member Seeger Sessions Band. Rambling along languidly in almost clandestine fashion, it may take the prize for the Worst-Pitched Concert of the Summer.

For the Hazy Davy’s sake, I’m as big a Bruce homer as they come, but I’ll admit, at first the idea of enduring a folk-powered evening of Pete Seeger songs made me want to sprint home and smooch my copy of Born in the U.S.A.. I like Bruce, and I like Pete Seeger, but when the Boss indulges his folkie leanings, the results are songs like “Nebraska” or the equally festive “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Both tunes are perfect for curling up in an abandoned warehouse and chugging a bottle of whiskey, but that’s hardly what you want to do at a sunny amphitheatre show.

And that’s why this Seeger business is such an out-of-left-field surprise: against all odds, it’s fantastically fun. Seeger’s name is on the ticket, sure, but in Springsteen’s hands the music gets an enormous, big-band, horn-powered treatment that can only be explained with commas: gospel, blues, folk, rock, and zydeco (there is totally a washboard in the encore). All of this pours out of a tap attached to New Orleans. This is a big Big Easy show, a tribute to the flooded city. It’s Bruce born on the bayou, part mourning, part hope, part house party, part cry for rebirth — all metaphors you may remember from Every Other Thing Bruce Springsteen Has Ever Done.

In the Seeger band’s debut performance at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, the mood was understandably subdued, mournful, and respectful. Now, though, the band indulges the spirit of the city, pulling great joy from great pain. As the man slyly howled in the show’s ragged, revved-up version of “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”, “What can a poor boy do but play in a ragtime band?”

To be sure, this tour involves a certain degree of trust, particularly when you’re dropping 90 bones to hear what my buddy Bradshaw rightly predicted was, “Bruce singing “Froggie Went A’Courtin.'” In fact, everything about Springsteen’s brief summer tour seems to exist in a slightly altered reality. It’s a universe where twentysomethings square dance, where “Nebraska”‘s lo-fi monotoner “Open All Night” becomes a showstopping rave-up, where an emotional high point is a venomous cover of a forgotten blues song that’s been retrofitted as an indictment of the government’s bungled response to Katrina.

No one really knows what to make of it — particularly those who rise and fall with the E Street Band. But what it might lack in the fist-pumping mass catharsis of “Badlands”, the tour makes up for in the fist-pumping mass catharsis of “My Oklahoma Home.” Frankly, I can’t remember having a better time at a Bruce show. Or any show, for that matter.

Nor can I remember attending a show where the performers seemed to be having a better time. Aside from during songs about New Orleans, there was a smile on Bruce’s face the entire time. And it was with that smile that he drove his 17-piece mean machine through horn-kissed, house-rockers: “Old Dan Tucker”, “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep”, “Pay Me My Money Down”.

If Bruce approaches the E Street Band as a man with a legacy to jealously protect, he approaches the Seeger Sessions Band as a work-in-progress, a means to no particular end, a science-fair project that’s produced way better data than expected. He does it with a satisfyingly enviable glee. In Indy, he indulged a clever request from a seven-year-old fan down front who brought along a stuffed green frog. “I think we got a request!” Springsteen beamed, igniting the band’s first-ever “Froggie Went A’ Courtin'”. Bonus gag: The kid reported that his name was River. “I think I’ve got another one I can do, too,” Springsteen cracked. Zing!

But this is music that’s pure, old-timey American — a phrase that rankles Springsteen aficionados and detractors alike. Springsteen, the poor bastard, carries the torch as one of America’s greatest living rock ‘n’ roll icons. Fair or not, it’s the sort of thing that happens when you stamp your flank in front of the stars and stripes on an album that sells a million fourfillion gajillion copies. But here’s the funny thing — the album We Shall Overcome actually is the treatise on American music that the pinheaded conservative right thought Born in the U.S.A. was; it’s just as sneaky in that context as U.S.A. was sneaky outside of it.

As such, political overtones burbled to the surface throughout the show. Wartime prayers appeared in the form of the Irish tale “Mrs. McGrath”, the story of a mother whose son returns home after seven years without his legs. Of course, the showstopper was Springsteen’s refashioning of Blind Willie McTell’s “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” Bruce kept the first verse and rewrote the last three to reflect Katrina: “Me and my old school pals had some mighty high times ’round here / And what happened to you poor black folks well it just ain’t fair,” he sang, recalling the infuriating scene last fall in which President Bush stood with Trent Lott and said he looked forward to partying on Lott’s soon-to-be rebuilt porch. It’s brutal discourse.

The show ended with a sweet, acoustic-based “When the Saints Go Marching In”, stripped of its horn-fueled zaniness and recast as a melancholy prayer shared by Springsteen and guitarist/vocalist Marc Anthony Thompson (who records as Chocolate Genius): “And some say that this world of trouble is the only one we’ll ever see / But I’m waiting for that morning when the new world is revealed.”

For the encore, a guy came out and, in a moment of purely Bruce-ian shtick, played dishes, bowls, and a kitchen sink…. with a spoon. “Jesus Christ, be careful,” Springsteen joked. “That’s my mother-in-law’s goddamned silverware… Patti’s gonna fucking kill me.”

A certain sense of something surrounds the E Street Band these days — not complacency necessarily , but an expectation of sheer reliability, a pretty decent bet against disappointment. It’s like a meal at the Cheesecake Factory or watching a Braves game. E Street shows in the past few years have been good, even great, but also, at times, workmanlike. And I think, truly, that Bruce fears slipping into that hazy zone of complacency. Hence, the silverware.

As such, this piece should have probably been about finding new ways to enliven one’s catalog or legacy. It should have probably used the word “reinvention” a lot and been filled with lively clichés about Neil Young. But for all this wearying talk of meanings and metaphors and the usual Springsteenian subtext of a blue-collar rock n’ roll Joe trying to save the world, I also cannot remember having had this good a time at a show. If Bruce sneaks into your town this summer, check it out. It doesn’t seem much like a Springsteen show, and that may be the best thing about it.


Live review: Both sides of Ben Harper in Jacksonville

Florida Times-Union — Ben Harper is the missing link between human and mix tape, a shuffle button that can walk. His set is the jam-band counterpart of the menu at the Cheesecake Factory: nearly every style is readily available (as long as you don’t feel like anything too weird), and if you think you can trump it, you just haven’t turned enough pages. Feeling like reggae? Try the “Steal My Kisses/Pressure Drop” medley, wash it down with a crisp Red Stripe. A little wah-wah funk? Might I suggest the “Excuse Me Mr.” Some sensitive-guy singer-songwriter stuff? Ah, the “Another Lonely Day” is excellent tonight. A review of Harper’s sold-out show at the Florida Theatre.


Live review: This thing, called Queen + Paul Rodgers, I just can’t handle it

At worst, Queen + Paul Rodgers comes off as an adequate cover band, one made only a little less creepy by the participation of two original members. At best, it comes off as a marginally more- than-adequate cover band. This is Queen like I’m Lou Rawls. A review of the band’s sparsely attended Arena gig.


Live review: Keith, country’s Urban legend in Jacksonville

Florida Times-Union — I drive a Honda mini-SUV, couldn’t pick Tony Stewart out of a crowd of two and never once had anyone find my tractor sexy, and I’m still about twice as country as the fantastically popular Keith Urban.

Only the music business’ obsessive need to fragment itself puts Urban anywhere within miles of country; bizarrely, his meat-and-potatoes rock n’ roll no longer has much of a place on rock radio, MTV or VH-1.

The only safe harbor for a guy of his constitution – equal parts Seger, Garth and the Goo Goo Dolls – is the land of Music Row, where the word “rock” does not automatically conjure up thoughts of Nickelback.

But country is in desperate need of a personality and star-power transfusion, and Urban provides it to remarkable degree. Here’s an Australian dude who woos Nicole Kidman, whose shows possibly boast country’s lowest hat-to-section ratio, who covers Tom Petty and who arrives on stage to a friggin’ Jesus Jones song.

Supporters say those are the sounds of country’s long-standing walls being torn down. But a more cynical sort might say they’re the sounds of maximum crossover appeal, and that Urban is just merging marketable styles from all decades, authenticity be damned (watch how often the word “covers” appears in this review). iPods play Jesus Jones next to George Jones, so why can’t he? Somewhere, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash do loop-de-loops in their graves, while somewhere slightly warmer, accountants do them in corner offices.

Urban’s sound is pure comfort food, musical fuzzy slippers, a sonic Super Target. His titles go like this: Days Go By, Better Life, These Are The Days, But For The Grace Of God. His riffs soar where eagles dare. He’s obsessed with the images generally attached to conservativized country — blue jeans, blacktop, sunshine, ol’ buddies at the corner bar – but, as usual, they prove little more than stock art (when Urban sings Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’, you get the sense his emotional investment ends after the first verse, the one about the girl who’s crazy ‘bout Elvis, before all the bad stuff happens). He’s Bon Jovi with an occasional banjo and, somehow, fewer emotional gray areas; he sees a million faces, and gently rocks them all.

But all that said, Urban proves a performer of irrational likeability. Sure, Urban strains for the maximum potential audience (look at ya with the Sweet Home Alabama cover, ya big lug), plays crowd-yelling games and congratulates himself on his extended set times (Keith, I like you, but lots of bands play two hours, buddy). But his easy charisma, anthem-ready voice and above-average guitar chops make him an unfailingly engaging fella, even when he’s indulging in plodding monster ballads like Rainin’ on Sunday, his cover of Garth Brooks’ cover of Billy Joel’s You May Be Right, or You’ll Think of Me, a massive hit about breakups that clones much of Bruce Springsteen’s One Step Up. The end result is often potent but strangely detached. The place is packed and jumping when the lights go down, but plenty of folks scoot by encore time to beat traffic.

This is country in 2006 – pure, easy accessibility.

One of country’s biggest superstars never wears a hat, spins Prince on the P.A., covers Brooks and Dunn and grants himself a solid Eddie Van Halen-sized guitar solo 15 minutes four songs in. Lays down on the floor and everything. The ladies text dreamy notes to their friends, the guys nod appreciatively. Urban’s out to take mass appeal to new heights, and it’s working.


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