Springsteen concert

When I first heard “Born to Run” some 15 years ago, I was sold on Springsteen’s songs immediately. Since then many of his songs have been more or less permanently engraved into my brain. I always want to go to his legendary live concerts. I want to be there for the three hours non-stop marathon and the “Bruuuce” calls which sound to inconspicuous ears like “boo”. Back in August when I found out he’ll be in Toronto, I told myself I am going no matter what. (as it turned out, I almost couldn’t make but that is another story entirely.) 

So there I was, on Oct 15 2007 to be precise, I went to my first Springsteen concert.

“Is there anybody out there alive?” 

I got there with about ten minutes to spare but ACC (Air Canada Center) was only sparsely filled. I found my seat. I opted for the reserved seats rather than the ground level general admission because I figured at my age I’ll not be able to stand for three hours without passing out. The concert did not get on for another 45 minutes. That gave me an opportunity to watch the crowd trickle in. I saw bulging, sagging mid-sections and balding heads. This is certainly not the rock concerts I had been to in the past where body surfing began before the first beer was poured. I surveyed the row I was seated and with the exception of a youngish looking guy who came with his dad I was the youngest. I even saw a couple of guys in suits that looked like Bay Street traders. If you were here hoping to bag a couple of nubile groupies, I think you are a week late, should have gone to the Van Halen concert a week ago.

Finally without any formal announcement, with carnival-like calliope music in the background and a clown-faced canvas raised the concert began. (This is the magic tour so carnival-magic, got that?) Bruce shouted, “Is there anybody out there alive?” and was echoed by an avalanche of “yeah” from his almost twenty thousands faithful. 

It was just amazing to see Clarence, Bittan, Feferici, Lofgren, Tallent, Weinbery, Van Zandt, Mrs S and new addition Soozie Tyrell, all there on stage. It was like seeing old friends.
He started with the new single “Radio Nowhere” and right off the bet you can feel the energy. The way he sung every word as if it was to be his last, vein bulged, eyes widened and souls awakened. 
I was a bit disappointed when I heard “For You”. When I first hear this song it took me by storm. Indeed life was a long emergency but this live version seemed to have lost a bit of the edge, too polished for my liking. Maybe the crowd was looking to relive past glory which I think is sad. In fact I think if people some in to get that “retro” feel they would be disappointed. I felt that Springsteen moved on. It is not that he packed his past away but past is the past and there are new issues on the horizon.

Clemons still gave the spiritual undertone for the songs. Weinberg and Tallant were driving and powerful. Nilgren and Van Zandt seemed to take a little longer to warmed up, but once they got into “Candy’s room”, they are on. Federici was particularly poignant in several intros. Bitten is greying faster but remained as good as ever on his thrills even though his role in the new songs seemed a bit less.

I did not hear the ttile track from Magic before the concert and when I heard it for the first time it was indeed magical from the violin into to duet with Patti. As he put it this way when he introduced the song “this is not a song about magic but about tricks and its consequences” that is the message “Trust none of what you hear, and less of what you see”.

I must say although Patti was great on stage but certainty the crowd was not here for her. During “Town Called Heartbreak” from her solo album, scores of people took the opportunity to have a bathroom break.

For me one of the high point of the show was “Reason to believe”. This was given a bluesy touch and seemed to epitomize the message, the Gospel according to Bruce, so to speak. Don’t give up living even if life does not turn out to be right. Just don’t give up. There are reasons to believe. There is a Promise Land. Just keep being alive. For the same reason I was quite distracted and annoyed by people dancing thru even the sad numbers. It seems they are here just to relive the Glory Days and miss the message of the songs. Just like Reagan using “Born in USA” in exactly the opposite way the song meant. I was glad that this was not on the playlist tonight otherwise I’ll have to endured people grapping a slogan and missing the boat.

Somthing I also found interetsing was that on a musical level I am into his “Rising” material. However, on an emotional level, being Canadian, I seems to come in at a lower scale when it come to the 9/11 songs. I suppose that is just the Canadian-American difference. We empathize with the Americans but we are really not Americans.

The last song of the set before the encore was “Badland”. Well, I have never heard it his loud, not even full blast with headphones. Seriously, it was so loud I cannot hear myself. It was exhilarating fun.  

I also noticed Springsteen changed guitar after many songs particularly towards the later part of the show. I assumed he was getting them retuned. I think that showed his musicianship in getting that precise sound he wanted.

I must say I was somewhat disappointed after the concert. I know I was not alone, quite a few left not waiting for a second encore. I was expecting another three hours marathon and some mountain top ecstasy experiences. I missed “the tie that bind”, “point blank”, “the river” and “prove it all night” .

Two days after the concert, my head was still ringing with the guitar chords. I relented somewhat on my disappointment. I was not there for the retro reminiscing of glory days. I was not there for another shot of the additive euphoric high. I was there for the music of the Boss. Timeless rendition of the “alive” experience, a voice that expresses what we felt but cannot put it into words and music. Something for us to carry through the day; something after a hard earn day, reasons to believe. Something that carried me thru some hard days in the past and I just confirmed that it will continue to do so for years to some. Thanks Bruce for giving us this straight up. 

Here is the play list from Springsteen site (http://www.brucespringsteen.net/live/index.html):
(do check out the site ‘cause you’ll also find Springsteen’s handwritten list for each concert, way cool)
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
For You
Reason To Believe
Candy’s Room
She’s The One
Livin’ In The Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Incident On 57th Street
Darlington County
Devil’s Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
American Land


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