Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band - May 23, 2009

“Incident On 57th Street.” It was the only song that I wanted to hear heading to the IZOD center in New Jersey on my way to see Bruce Springsteen in concert for the 14th time in my life. Up until that point it was one of the only Bruce songs that I had managed to miss seeing live. It seemed every time Bruce came to the area, Philadelphia would get to hear “Incident” while New Jersey got some other rarities. It got so bad, that at one point, I was contemplating heading down to Philly to see Springsteen live, just so I could hear him perform the song.

There is something special about seeing Bruce Springsteen in an arena setting compared to a stadium setting. While the stadium shows are great, gigantic celebrations filled with rowdy, raucous, rockers; the arena shows are more subtle. There’s an intimacy in the arena shows that can’t be captured in the larger stadium venue.

The intimacy was apparent that warm May evening, when Cathy and I went to witness the greatness of the Boss. From the opening notes of “Badlands” followed by the intense, crowd pleasing, “Spirit In The Night,” we knew it was going to be an amazing night in New Jersey. From the start of the night, Springsteen and company were in fantastic form. This was my first time hearing songs from the recently released Working On A Dream. The live versions did not disappoint. “Outlaw Pete,” “Working On A Dream,” and “Kingdom Of Days,” all sounded better in concert and provided a much deeper appreciation of Springsteen’s craftsmanship.

What makes Springsteen so great and so different from a lot of other performers is his willingness to play just about anything from his vast catalog. Springsteen does not shy away from the music he has created, and any given night, could bring a plethora of surprises. It’s one of the things that make seeing the E-Street band in concert such a tremendous treat.

Although they were a little bit older and a little bit larger since the first time I had seen them, and even though they were without founding member “Phantom” Dan Federici on the organ (he had passed away earlier that year), the E-Street Band was still one of the greatest rock acts to see live in concert. While the members of the band may have aged, their music was ageless. The lyrics to songs like “Thunder Road” still spoke to me with the same power they did when I first heard them as a young, confused, teenage boy from New Jersey.

After a rousing rendition of “The Promised Land,” my one wish came true. For ten years I had been waiting to hear “Incident On 57th Street” Live and finally, Bruce Springsteen heard my plea (or I got lucky) and performed one of the greatest ballads ever written. “Incident” is up there with “Jungleland” in terms of complexity, depth, and beauty. It’s a rare, slow-crafted, gorgeous song that takes time to appreciate. It did not become one of my favorite Springsteen songs until many years after I had been a fan. However, once I was hooked, “Incident” shot up my personal charts. Hearing it live for the first time was a dream come true.

Of course Bruce’s voice was not going to be able to recreate 1975 when the song was played live at almost every concert. He wouldn’t even be able to channel 80s Bruce where the song got an occasional dusting off for a rare performance. None of that mattered though, because he was still playing it live. It was yet another moment in my life where music transcended me into the heavens and showed me how great life can be. A ten year conquest had finally come to an end, and no, it was not bitter sweet, it was pure satisfaction.

And that moment only marked the halfway point of the evening. Like most Springsteen concerts, that night at the IZOD was a marathon event, with the band pacing the event with deliberate moments of speed filled rockers, followed by mid-tempo beats, and slow and loving ballads. Over the years, Springsteen has learned to pace a show like no other performer before him. Seeing him in concert is seeing a living work of art at the peak of perfection.

Known to happen at a lot of concerts that I attend, there is one particular song that strikes me hard. It is usually a newer song that I had not given much attention to and hits me just right during the course of the concert. On that night, it was “Kingdom Of Days,” that caught my eardrums with joy. After hearing the live version of the song, it immediately rose up my personal favorites charts to become a song that I had to spend more time with.

And from there, the greatness continued. “Lonesome Day,” “The Rising,” and “Born To Run” closed out the main set in style. The encores were packed with superb songs like “Kitty’s Back” and “Glory Days.” The E-Street’s version of “Kitty’s Back” featured Nils, Bruce, and Little Steven just wailing away on the guitar, trading turns for solos. Mix in the horns by Clarence and the piano and organ solos and it was a jam band lover’s dream. I think that Bruce and the band could rival The Dead if they really tried to be the world’s greatest jam band. Instead, they’ve chosen blue collar rock, which has also made them massively successful.

The biggest surprise came on the very last song of the evening. Bruce decided to take a stab on a cover version of “Mony,Mony.” Why he would choose to end the night on a cover song, I will never know. It struck me as odd and very un-Springsteen-like, but who are we to question The Boss? I expected to hear one more song post “Mony,” but it was not to be. The house lights came on and we started fleeing for the exit. It was another fantastic concert event with the one, the only, E---Street---Band!

Spirit In The Night
Outlaw Pete
Something In The Night
Out In The Street
Working On A Dream
Johnny 99
The Ghost Of Tom Joad
Good Lovin’
E Street Shuffle
Cover Me
Thunder Road
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Incident On 57th Street
Kingdom Of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born To Run
First Encore
Hard Times
Kitty’s Back
Land Of Hopes And Dreams
Second Encore
American Land
Glory Days
Mony Mony

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