Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bruce Springsteen - July 25, 1992

My first live Bruce experience came during his Human Touch/Lucky Town world tour. In the early 90s, Bruce had taken hiatus from the E-Street band and embarked on a solo career, releasing two separate albums and then went on a long supporting tour.

I had heard incredible things about Springsteen in concert, so when the opportunity arrived to see him live, I was all over it. I attended the show at the Brendan Byrne Arena with my good friend Dave and his parents. His folks were well versed in the ways of Springsteen’s live shows, and they told me to strap in for a great night of entertainment, because Bruce always delivered the goods.

There was no opening act, as is usual for Springsteen. He was set to deliver a long night of music and no opening band was required. Bruce would come out on fire from the first song and warm up the crowd himself.

Looking at the ticket now, many years later, I still can’t fathom the fact that I paid less than $30 to sit in section 112. Inflation sucks!

No, this is not my ticket - I couldn't scan mine

Since he was supporting two records that the E-Street band did not play on, the concert started off with some new songs. Better Days was the opening number, and the New Jersey crowd was into it from the opening notes. Bruce sang with passion and energy and the band he had assembled for this tour, while no E-Street band, did an incredible job of backing him up. Better Days led into Local Hero, which led into Lucky Town. It was a solid three pack to launch the night.

Darkness followed and the crowd roared for the classic hit. By this early point of the night, I was already mesmerized and glad that I had come. Springsteen was only getting started; there was still a long evening ahead of us.

One of the great things about a Springsteen concert is his marathon shows. 3 hours is the norm for his performance, and some shows have been known to go over 4 hours. This was one of those nights, a Saturday night in New Jersey, Springsteen was so happy to be home and he was bringing all he had for the hometown fans that adored him so.

I was not a self professed Springsteen fanatic when I attended this concert. I had grown up on the two “Born” records, Born To Run and Born In The USA, and I owned a copy of Tunnel of Love, Darkness On The Edge Of Town as well as the new records, but that was about the extent of my collection. After this night, things were going to change and Bruce was about to be launched into the stratosphere of Ryo’s favorite bands.

Seeing this master perform live and the level of energy, emotion, and dedication that he brought to the stage for his fans, I was practically forced to move him up to my top 5 all time favorite bands. Whether it be the energetic live version of 57 Channels, that was played with a passion and a purpose, the demands he made (and received) from the crowd during a rousing version of Badlands, or the brilliance and drama that showed while singing The River, this man delivered. He gave his all and made sure that the fans were getting their money’s worth.

After a brilliant version of Roll of the Dice, the band announced a short break, but they were gonna be back to rock the rest of our night. I’d never heard of a band taking an intermission during a show before, so this appeared odd. Dave’s father told us that Bruce must be getting old, he never took a break in the past. Dave’s parents were having a great time as were Dave and I. Springsteen really was everything I’d ever heard and then some.

The second half of the night kicked off with the rarely played (albeit new at the time) All or Norhing at All. This may be the only tour that Springsteen played this song, and it was (and still is) one of my favorite songs on Human Touch. I would love to see him dust this one off for a current tour, but I won’t hold my breath.

Springsteen took to the stage and immediately began his demands. “I want everyone to get up off their asses! Stand up!” He demanded that we bring the energy for a Saturday night in New Jersey. He then launched into All or Nothing at All and I sang every word as loud as I could. This was amazing! The second half of the concert was a smooth blend of new songs and old favorites. Brilliant Disguise and Tougher Than the Rest sounded incredible with Bruce putting his soul into each song. Born in the USA followed and of course the arena erupted into a sea of yells and cheers. Bruce delivered a rocking version of this classic that made everyone happy.

Light of Day was the highlight of the night for me. Bruce and the band played a rousing rendition that seemed like it would never end. He had the crowd in his palm at that point and it was the highlight of the 92/93 tour. His ability to work the crowd over and make them react was nothing short of genius. Bruce would look left and the left side of the house would scream. He’d pause. Bruce would like right and the right side of the house would scream. He’d pause. The applause would build, louder and louder, and louder until the house was about to explode. Then he’d launch into the chorus for a final run at the song. Brilliant.

More classics would follow as Bruce trotted out Glory Days, Working on the Highway, and Bobby Jean. Hungry Heart was next and the entire audience sang the first verse while Bruce held the microphone up in the air. There is nothing like the spine tingling experience of hearing the entire audience sing a song word for word. Bruce then re-sang the first verse and delivered Hungry Heart to the appreciative fans.

The encore was incredible. A soft version of Thunder Road with just Bruce and Roy (Bittain, long time E-Street member on the piano), while quite different from the studio version that I loved, was amazing. The entire band would step out next for Born to Run and the house went wild. This was, after all, the official New Jersey state song. I sang my throat hoarse on this one and by the time this song was over, I was almost spent. However, being 19, I would be quick to recover.

I don’t recall anything about the last song (My Beautiful Reward), as I didn’t know it that well and wasn’t a big fan of it. I appreciate it now, but back then, I wanted to close out with a rocker. Born to Run would have made for the perfect ending in my opinion.

Dave, his parents, and I left the show happy that evening. I was a newly converted soldier into the Bruce Springsteen fan base army, and I would begin my mission to seek out all of his recorded works and own them, one cassette (or vinyl album, or CD) at a time. This was my first Bruce experience, but it was far from my last. Now that I knew what the man could do in concert, I would want to see it again (and again, and again).

Better Days
Local Hero
Lucky Town
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Open All Night
If I Should Fall Behind
57 Channels
The River
Living Proof
My Hometown
Leap of Faith
Man’s Job
Roll of the Dice
(Intermission Break)
All or Nothing at All
99 and a Half Won’t Do
Real Man
Cover Me
Brilliant Disguise
Tougher Than the Rest
Souls of the Departed
Born in the USA
Light of Day
Glory Days
Working on the Highway
Bobby Jean
Hungry Heart
Thunder Road
Born to Run
My Beautiful Reward

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