Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What Time is It??

The answer to that question posed in Milwaukee last night was...."BOSS TIME"!

Bruce and the E-Street Band rampaged the Bradley Center last night and more than lived up to their reputation as one of the finest live rock and roll bands.

The last time I saw Bruce, he was supporting The Seeger Sessions disc singing traditional folk to a crowd that mostly wanted to hear "Thunder Road". That tour missed the mark because of Bruce's horrible decision to play that music in basketball stadiums. It was a rare opportunely to witness Bruce perform something special which was unfortunately lost on an arena crowd who didn't know Pete Seeger from Bob Seger.

That was certainly not a problem last night as Bruce and the E-Street band delivered the anthem rock his fans have come to love. I hadn't seen Bruce with the E-Streeters since 1999, but at that show I thought there were moments when Bruce seemed bored singing those songs again. There certainly was no boredom to be found last night as Springsteen was as loose as when I first saw him long ago in 1984. Bruce seemed engaged and energized all night long and the crowd responded in kind. No one can rock a stadium like Bruce, even if he may not be able to play to the back row like he once could. My only complaint is the same one I've had of the band since the mid-80's; that the music tends to sound so busy at times that it's impossible to pick out an nuance anymore. This is more a fault of stadium shows in general then of Bruce or the band.

I am enough of a Bruce geek to follow the setlists on a current tour, and I can say that we got special one last night. Opening with 1984's "No Surrender" into the new instant classic "Radio Nowhere", Bruce had the crowd eating out of his hand.

There were many "holy shit" moments for me, but the clear highlight was Bruce treating us to the rarely played album cut "Streets of Fire". As I watched Bruce shred two guitar solos during that tune, I felt like I was at the Roxy Theater back in 1978.

After a couple tracks from the new CD, Bruce did a totally reworked Tom Waits meets ZZ Top version of the "Nebraska" cut "Reason to Believe; complete with harmonica and Bruce singing through a bullet mic. Next, Bruce shocked the die-hards by playing the oldest song of the night; 1973's "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City". This one featured a fiery guitar dual between Bruce and his long time foil, "Little" Steven Van Zant that proved that Van Zant hasn't lost his great soloing ability.

But this was no nostalgia show. Lest we forget Bruce is trying to sell a new CD, and the tracks played from the new disc sounded much better than the studio versions to my ears. I am of the opinion that Bruce's current producer makes dirty sounding discs that end of giving me a headache with their "kitchen sink" sound. Live, the "Magic" tracks were allowed to breath and it seemed to give new life to tracks like "Long Walk Home" and "Last to Die".

You can certainly tell that the current shitty state of our country is on Bruce's mind, but these songs were always followed by songs of hope. "Reason to Believe" followed the paranoia of "Magic", "The Promised Land" followed the "this can't be happening" theme of "Living in the Future", "The Rising" followed the shattered-soldier epic "Devils Arcade", and the new hopeful classic "Long Walk Home" followed the anti-war anthem "Last to Die". One of my favorite things about Springsteen is how each setlist tries to tell a tale, and I thought this was done masterfully last night.

The final "Holy Shit" moment for me was Bruce bringing out his old friend and bass player Richard Davis. Davis was the bass player on Van Morrison's masterpiece "Astral Weeks", and he played on the album versions of a few Bruce classics including the chilling "Meeting Across the River". That song was played last night with just Bruce, Davis, and the masterful pianist Roy Bittan on stage.

And just like on the Born to Run album, Bruce's epic "Jungleland" followed which brought chills to anyone in the crowd with a soul.

As Bruce has done on every show of the tour, he ended by playing the Pete Seeger inspired "American Land". The song is a Irish-style rave-up about the hopes and dreams of those coming to the Unites States. It was a perfect ending on this St. Patrick's night, and one came away with the feeling that our country can again be the beckon of hope that Springsteen has always sang about. Mission Accomplished Boss!

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band-Bradley Center-Milwaukee, WI
No Surrender
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Streets of Fire
Gypsy Biker
Reason to Believe
It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City
Prove It All Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Cadillac Ranch
My Hometown
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Loose Ends
Meeting Across the River (with Richard Davis)
Born to Run
American Land

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