Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The High Priest

Having decided late last week with a few friends to see Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium last night, there wasn't much time to anticipate the pleasure. I had seen Springsteen years ago in Houston, when he was on a solo acoustic tour to promote The Ghost of Tom Joad. The intimacy of that show with a superstar like that made it something special, but I've always wanted to have the full E Street Band experience.

Overshadowing the concert was the transportation on either end. Getting to Giants Stadium from New York, when one doesn't have a car . . . there are people who have gone through less to escape undetected from fascist countries. But even given the torturous journeys, and the seats a mile from the stage that made it more like watching a concert on TV, Bruce did his best to make it a memorable night. The man is remarkable. He is 58 years old, and at the end of the three-hour set I'm sure I was more exhausted than he was. This is not a guy going through the motions to retain rock star status -- he was bounding all over the place, and has the physique of a 26-year-old Olympic cyclist. I'm convinced he's done something insane, like had a shark-blood transfusion.

The night was a little overlong. It's amazing that Shark Man has the energy to get through a 26-song marathon without a break, but with a bit of pruning the event would have been better and no less impressive as a feat of endurance. Crowd participation is a big part of the band's agenda, and there were times -- when a song was newer, or the crowd was flagging -- when the singalongs were much quieter than they should have been. But when they were full-throated -- as on the regular-set-closing "Badlands" -- they were something to hear. Other highlights (for me) were "No Surrender," "The Rising," and "Long Walk Home," a song off the latest album that was lifted by a passionate closing vocal from Steve Van Zandt. I was very disappointed not to hear "Bobby Jean," which he's been playing a lot on this tour.

The encore was the one misplayed part of the night. On the plus side, it included "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run," which sent everyone into a frenzy. On the negative side, it began with the dull "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" and ended with an extended "Twist and Shout" that sounded more like something from a Bar Mitzvah. All in all, I left with more love for Bruce, even though I'd still vastly prefer a set list from 1984.

If you're worried about his staying power as he approaches his 60s, fear not: some of the most charming sights on the big screens were several young girls, no older than 11, belting out every word. Put another way:

Early in the show, one of us mentioned that drummer Max Weinberg better not have a heart attack. I asked, "What about Bruce?" Another of us answered, "Bruce will never die."


Blogger Johannes said...

Shark blood, eh?
Excuse me, I have to go to Chinatown.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Miles said...

when it comes to a good rock show, john, there is no such thing as "little overlong."

12:52 PM  

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