April 17, 2009

Review of Bruce Springsteen Concert (updated after a night's sleep!)

I re-wrote some of this today!

I recently met with a reporter and web-editor of my local newspaper. The topic of the upcoming Springsteen concert came up and I jokingly said I would love to be a music reporter, paid to attend concerts and write about them! In reality, I would not want that job. Music reporters are also known as "music critics" and my reviews are from the heart, not from an analytical approach of what I thought was "right or wrong" with the performance.

A lot of people prefer the traditional concert review, and there are plenty of them out there to choose from. I read the one by my local reporter, Ben Wener and felt it was written with a cocky attitude and some of the statements he made clearly show that he doesn't know what he's talking about. I'll be giving him my opinion on that later.

So, if you like the standard music critic review this one may not be for you. But, if you'd like to hear about my experience with Bruce tonight, read on.

First of all, we were LATE to the concert because we got lost. I don't know how it happened, we've been to LA Sports Arena so many times, but one wrong turn and we were in Brentwood cruising in OJ's old neighborhood.

Being late to the show was horrible, we had never been late to any concert before so it started the night off with a bad feeling. I missed a few songs I would have loved to hear including Badlands, Candy's Room, No Surrender and Outlaw Pete.

Our seats were good and there was no one sitting on either side of us so we had plenty of room to move to the music. It was odd sitting on the right side of the stage (Patti's side) because for 90% of the Springsteen concerts we've attended (20 total) we always sat on the left (Clarence's side). So that also added to the feeling of the night being different from most.

The guy in front of us was wearing sexy smelling cologne which teased me all night - reminding me that I was there alone, but wishing that for once, I had a man at my side. Someone to look over at and smile when something fun happened on stage, or to hold hands with during "The Wrestler" or to kiss at the end of "Lonesome Day". I normally am not focused at all on myself when I'm at a concert, I am completely engaged in the music, the show, the energy. But tonight was different, I wasn't completely absorbed in it, a lot of "me" was surfacing and frankly, I didn't like that feeling.

If I had to choose one word to describe the show it would be: Personal. I've watched Bruce since the early 80's. Never missed a show. I was there at the beginning of his career, for his huge jump to fame in '85, for his "Lucky Town/Human Touch Days", for the reuniting of The E Street Band, to the long awaited Magic Tour all leading up to tonight.

I sensed from Bruce a very personal connection with the audience, even more so than is typical for him. He invited us in close, we were part of the show. They had the lights up often so we could see each other, not just the stage. They also had a long video screen behind the stage an occasionally panned the audience so we could see the faces (covered in joy) of the folks in the front rows.

Bruce literally got in the crowd a few times, he leaned back and let them hold him up, he stood at the edge of the stage fans reaching up and touching him, he invited several people to sing into the mic (including a very cute little boy, about 8 or 9). He collected about 10 signs that people had written song requests on. (They played a few: "Proud Mary" and "Growing Up"). He didn't seem to visit the back of the stage as often as usual, but when he did he was just inches away from the audience! Literally face to face with them.

He always gives the show every ounce of his energy, but tonight he gave even more than that, you could feel it. There was a sense hope that was missing during the Magic Tour. Tonight he reminded us of the economic difficulty that was touching most of the US, but didn't allow it to keep the fun songs from rolling out.

Considering he had a new album out, he played very little from it. He gave us all of our favorites, the crowd pleasers, the ones we all go wild for because that's what we want. Sure, its nice to have surprised (there were a few of those too) but when old friends get together they want to relive the good times, and that's what a Springsteen concert feels like. He also slowed it down a few times and did a very mellow version of ThunderRoad, which I loved.

As I watched him I couldn't help but wonder if he was thinking "How much longer will I be able to do this?". He shows no signs of slowing down (although his voice was a bit hoarse toward the end which concerned me). He is in incredible shape for a 59 year old man (i.e. muscular, fit, limber, strong, energetic). But looking around at his band, at his audience - we're all getting old! I got the feeling Bruce knew that he wouldn't tour again in awhile. When he said "We love you and we'll see you soon" there was a pensive look in his eye I'd never seen before.

Patti was not there. He didn't mention her, but he probably did at the beginning of the evening when we were still stuck somewhere in LA trying to figure out where we made a wrong turn. (NOTE: I will NOT be addressing the assinine rumors going around).

Something else unusual - there were three people on stage that I had never seen before...a male and female backup singer and a new guy playing the accordion. Its been a year since Danny died and I think that contributed to the feeling of the night - the band was missing a special member.

On the flip side of that...we also had the thrilling privilege of having Jay Weinberg show up to play a few sets. (He'll be sitting in for his dad on a few shows). Seeing Jay up there was one of the highlights for me. He's the same age as my son, 18! And he's playing drums for the E Street Band!! At one point the camera was on Jay's face (he didn't realize it) and he was watching Bruce for a cue. He mouthed the words "Born to Run?" to confirm the next song. It was cute (you had to be there). So we all knew BTR was coming before the first note was played.

Another treat, Mike Ness from Social Distortion showed up and did a song with Bruce - don't ask me which one, I have no idea but it was cool (have to admit I would have rather seen Tom Morrello again, but he played the night before).

Nils is my favorite member of the band, he's so talented and such a sweet man. It was great to watch him tonight, he has so much fun. And Max is like a machine on the drums...so much power and precision and his timing is perfect. I also enjoyed seeing Clarence, he always looks so classy - tonight he had his nails painted a shiny gold to match his sax.

All in all, the show was GREAT. We rocked out, danced, yelled "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce" and danced some more. There's simply no such thing as a "bad" Springsteen show.

If I had to choose a highlight it would be "The Wrestler". The lights were down except for a soft circle around Bruce and the mic. He stood there for a minute or so before be began the song (I secretly think he was channeling Mickey Rourke). He sang it with such passion, such meaning. It was perfect.

So, other than a bit of bittersweet longing and personal introspection it was another superb evening with my special friend, Bruce.

Very tired now. Goodnight.

----------------
Now playing: Bruce Springsteen - Outlaw Pete

16 comments:

Sherylbies said...

I was there from 4pm on and in the front row for the entire show. He never mentioned Patti.

Rick S. Pulito said...

Layla,
Thank you for the very touching recollection of Bruce's show. It seems that all of us who have known Bruce through the years have special moments and expectations when we get to see him perform. My first show was in 1976, and I will never forget it. I suspect it is the same for all of us.
Certain songs trigger memories, emotions, joy or sadness, contentment or loss, across the range of sensibilities. That is what makes a visit with Bruce so meaningful. There is the music on one level, and then there is the meaning on another, and then, even deeper, the resevoir of feelings that emote and bubble up.
I will come back periodically to check up on you.
Thanks again. Hope you have a fabulous day.
Rick

Starrlight said...

Oh see I would take Mike over Tom any day of the week. I ADORE Mike Ness.

Sounds like it was a great show even if it did start off a bit rushed for you guys=)

Bond said...

See now, I think sometimes reviewers need to be more personal when doing a review.

I felt like I was standing next to you Barbara. I could smell the cologne...see Clarence's nails...feel the overall aura of the evening.

You might be hitting the nail on the head with your assessment of Bruce and realizing the ride is coming close to an end...

d.edlen said...

Telling stories is what people want. Too many reviews claim to critique the music and the performance, do it dry and cynically. Readers would LOVE your reviews. Maybe shortened a bit, but with that heart and soul you'd put in.

Don't sell yourself short. Sell yourself! You'd be great.

Peace.

tad said...

Layla:
Yr review was Xcellent. Felt like I was there, & that's what counts. I was a newspaper reporter & editor 4 20 yrs -- take the "I"'s out of yr review but leave yr impressions in & U've got a very good "newspaper" review. The key is keeping the heart but leaving yr personal self out (unless absolutely required; U'r not the "star" of the story) -- not always EZ, but can B done & still get the good stuff across. As U did.
Congrats. Njoy. U've earned it.
-- TAD.

drewzepmeister said...

Barb, first of all, I'm GLAD that you had a great time at the concert! And second, you gave an excellent review! It gave me the chills... It was up close and personal-straight from your heart. Made me wish I was there:)

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Sheryl, he did mention her the night before. She was home with the kids.

Rick, thanks for stopping by your comments meant a lot to me. I've re-written it since, hope you take a sec to read the changes :)

Starr, I don't really know SD as well as I know RAM but Mike was hot on the guitar.

Vinnie, thank you friend, your comment meant a lot to me.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

Daniel, thank you! I like that saying, "don't sell yourself short, self yourself".

Tad, wow, thank you. You were an editor for 20 years? That must have been an interesting job, where did you work? I have the "I's" in cause its my blog...therefore it sort of it about me, but I get your point and think its good advise.

Hi Drew, thank you...It was a good night. I wish you could have been there too.

tad said...

Layla:
Please, leave the "I"'s in, it's yr blog, it's sposta B about U, I'm OK w/ that, & I do it. I just meant yr not that far away from writing a newspaper-style review -- the idea w/ a newspaper review is 2 get the flavor & atmosphere of an event across, w/o yrself getting in the way, sorta. But reporters get in the way ALL THE TIME....
U don't wanta get me started about my "career" -- 20 yrs writing & editing newspapers 4 the Air Force & 4 dailys & weeklys in Wyo. & Wash., including THE SMALLEST daily newspaper in the world (I think). It WAS intresting, even fun at times, & I wrote LOTSA stuff I'm really proud of, but I burned out just after my 40th birthday, & it WASN'T worth the price I paid -- lost my marriage, my kids, my dream house, almost Dstroyed my health. Things R MUCH better now, bn retired from it 4 7 yrs. But if I could do it again I wouldn't sell myself so cheap. Journalism's a career 4 young people w/ LOTSA NRG, no family & no social life. & it will eat U up.
-- TAD.

Anonymous said...

Layla,
What a great review! I enjoyed hearing your passion and insights. Even though I personally don't care for Mr. Springsteen's music, as I read your words I gained great admiration for him as a person and as a professional.

Your blog is a gift to the rock and roll world because of what you bring to your fellow fans. I'm glad that you are beginning to gain some recognition for the good work that you do.

Fred said...

Oh, how jealous I am. It sounds like an absolutely terrific show.

Betty C. said...

I love this type of "review." I first saw Bruce in the late 70s, and saw all of his shows that I possible could through the 70s and 80s. Now I'm thinking I may never see him again in concert, and that makes me sad. He came to Paris for one or two shows last year, and I considered going up, but they sold out very quickly. Now I wish I had been on top of things more - I probably could have gotten a ticket if I had really been keeping up on things.

Thanks for sharing your impressions of the show.

Guitarman5150 said...

I like the way you spoke about Bruce. I've never been a big fan of his, but I can apreciate where you are comming from.

I realized the other day all of the musicans and guitarists I love are over 50! So I'm getting old and SO ARE THEY!!

I remember the last time I saw Hagar in 2004 with Van Halen he was incredible, (Ed left something to be desired, being drunk the whole time) but the same thought crossed my mind Sam is 61. How much longer will Sam go on? He shows no sign of slowing down. He's got Chickenfoot going on now and a few years ago he put out "Cosmic Universal Fashion" so I'm quite happy. I know sometimes it takes him YEARS between albums and sometimes I think they are shit, but Cosmic was worth the wait and from what I've heard off Chickenfoot it seems like it's gonna be worth the wait too.

So even though thoughts cross your mind I wouldn't count the old guys of rock out just yet. I mean Dave got back with Van Halen what 2 years ago? Who saw that comming? It still pisses me off what they did to Mike but who saw Dave back with them? I sure didn't!

TaylorSwift said...

One of my long standing dreams was to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts live. . I know all the words of his songs by heart …well he is performing this year. Next weekend I’m going to visit my sister and we will attend his
Bruce
concert; someone recommended me Ticketsinventory.com to get cheap tix.So I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying the concert.

TaylorSwift said...

One of my long standing dreams was to attend Bruce Springsteen concerts live. . I know all the words of his songs by heart …well he is performing this year. Next weekend I’m going to visit my sister and we will attend his
Bruce
concert; someone recommended me Ticketsinventory.com to get cheap tix.
http://www.ticketsinventory.com/concert/bruce-springsteen-tickets/

So I'll be analyzing as well as enjoying the concert.

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