Saturday night, I saw Bruce Springsteen and the Heart-stopping, Booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, Pants-dropping, etc., Legendary E Street Band at Gillette Stadium. I had asked my brother to go as a birthday present to him and because I wasn't sure who else I could go with who would appreciate the band's talents. See, he saw Bruce at the same venue (well, in its former life) twenty years ago, in 1988, on what I believe was the Tunnel of Love Tour (TOL was released in 1987. Not necessarily a high point in The Boss' career, but coming off of the success of Born in the U.S.A., there's only one place to go.) Anyway, so he told me it was an interesting way to circle around again, 20 years later. Plus, I don't think he gets out much anymore, so it was definitely a good thing. The one drawback for him: he does not own Magic, and only heard Radio Nowhere the night before the show. Some fan. Hopefully he'll go buy it now and even use my link so we can all be happy.
Nevertheless, I was slightly nervous we wouldn't see a show at all. Lightning and torrential downpours delayed the start by a little over an hour. However, it did not dampen the spirits of the crowd (even Bruce mentioned that "a little rain agrees with us.") This was a really "up" crowd, perhaps the most I've seen since Fenway 5 years ago, and I've seen Bruce 4 times in those last five years. Yeah, I'm a little nuts.
I don't want to just do a review of the show itself, but there were personal certainly high points. I've read online that Bruce fans across the country, with the exception of maybe Jersey, are slightly jealous of us Bostonians (or Foxboro-ans) because a lot of his shows are viewed as warm-ups for us. This is because when he was a nobody in the 70's, he played to appreciative and loyal fans on the local club scene, possibly because we were the only ones who would have him. While I've never seen a show in a different city (and I don't know if I could tell the difference), but the energy at Bruce shows is way beyond any concert I've ever seen. He certainly seems to be enjoying himself out there, and after over 30 years, it may be difficult not to phone it in some nights. I definitely have days where I don't feel like working.
How do they do it? Especially tour after tour, night after night? Some of these songs have literally been played on every E Street tour for the last 30 years (If you went to a show and didn't hear "Born to Run," wouldn't you feel a little funny?) The key may be a little variety in the middle. Springsteen amuses himself between E Street albums with his solo stuff (Devils & Dust and the Seeger Sessions tour over the last few years), throwing commercial success out the window and satisfying his creative hunger a bit. And on this tour, instead of showing their age (as was the case when I saw Duran Duran earlier this summer) the band is taking advantage of their experience by taking requests; fans in the pit area are encouraged to bring signs asking for their long-lost faves. Saturday night, I think he played five requests, including "Little Latin Lupe Lu, " originally by the Righteous Brothers and covered by many, including Bruce ages ago. Weird one, but at least it wasn't, "PLAY AIN'T GOT YOU!"
In all, the requests were kind of a mixed bag; I could probably go the rest of my life without hearing "Hungry Heart" ever again, and "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd St?" is a little too far back for my tastes, but for the encore, Bruce grabbed a few more signs, saying, "We have here the rarely played and even more rarely requested..." and he turned the sign around to reveal "I'm Goin' Down." This song is one of my guilty pleasures. While I see the hokey factor, if you look closer, you can understand that it is about a poor young dude who is in a failing relationship that he can do nothing to save. The girl is just bored with him. It's hopeless. He's goin' down. The funny thing was that Mark and I had a discussion earlier in the day about what a silly song it is, and I tried to explain the sadness of it, and after hearing it live, he was forced to re-think his stance. the requests ended with a birthday present for someone: "Jungleland," which was just awesome.
Not to get too gushy, but here's the clincher. After going way passed curfew for Foxboro, Bruce played the Seeger Sessions' "American Land." After reviewing setlists for months, it seemed to be his closer, except in Jersey, but that's expected. The band all came together and took a bow, and the roar was amazing. Bruce encouraged us to get even louder, and louder, and loude, and we did. He yelled, "Boston, Rhode Island, Connecticut, wherever the fuck we are!" And then he played "one more fairy tale from Jersey:" Rosalita. Yet another song I had assured Mark he would not play, having already played "Mary's Place," the nouveau "Rosalita." The boy was psyched.
I know performers have to make it seem like every city is their favorite and that the fans are special everywhere, but I believe in my heart of hearts that "Rosalita" was not on the original setlist. It was a small reward for sitting on wet seats in wet clothes for over an hour to see him and still being incredibly loud and appreciative for the almost three hour set. And what a reward it was. As Bruce might say, "A Beautiful Reward." People need a Reason to Believe, and I will always believe that he did it just for us, and in this, I cannot be jaded.
How many Bruce songs can I quote in one paragraph?