Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bruce Sprinsteen and the E Street Band - Charlotte, NC

[Guest Review - Dentist]
B+ - April 27, 2008, Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina

I will readily admit that I am no Springsteen uber-fan. I can’t name all the albums or rattle off lyrics to obscure b-sides and if pressed, probably couldn’t even tell you all the names of the members of the E-Street Band (gasp!). What I do know, however, is that Bruce is an American institution and every time I hear his voice, something resounds within me that lets me know I’m listening to greatness. He can pull off blue collar/work-a-day and melancholy/introspection both with equal perfection. Click below for more on the BOSS.

Political musings aside, I, like many others, hear myself in the words of the songs and feel that certain degree of shared experience and empathy. And other than an aging Bob Dylan and Neil Young, he is one of the few remaining singer/songwriter/storytellers of the last half a century that is still relevant.
I had opportunities to see Bruce in the past, but sadly this was my first time to see him live (with or without his E-Street Band). So, the air was pregnant with anticipation when my chance finally came. Bruce and the E-Street Band came out onto the stage under the cover of darkness as the two large video screens on either side of the stage played a video montage to Danny Federici, the band’s keyboardist who had died just ten days earlier after losing a three year battle to melanoma, while Bruce sang “Souls of the Departed”. It would set the tone for the evening in a show that featured songs culled from 1973’s “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” to 2007’s “Magic” (it must be an arduous task to come up with an appropriate setlist, given the voluminous canon from which to choose, that doesn’t bore the band or the fans).

Highlights were “Livin’ in the Future”, “Girls in Their Summer Clothes”, “Devil’s Arcade”, and “Badlands”, all of which sounded brilliant. I was particularly struck with how tight and polished the band sounded and the sheer musicianship they all possessed. Bruce worked the stage and the crowd with a methodical prowess of a man on a mission, Max played drums like a man possessed, Little Steven wailed on guitar and Clarence proved that a sax does, in fact, belong in a rock-n-roll band.

The band played song after song after song, going directly from one right into the next, making them the rightful heirs to the “hardest working man in showbusiness” moniker held by Mr. James Brown all those years. Bruce did manage to tell a couple of really neat stories, mostly about Federici, including one involving some marijuana in the front seat of a car that was being towed and ended with him being incarcerated. The other crowd-pleasing moment came when a little girl held up a sign that read “I like you better than Hannah Montana” written on it. Bruce grabbed the sign and with a chuckle said, “My aspirations have been realized. We can all go home now!” It was a hilarious event, especially given the age of the person holding the sign and in light of the recent Vanity Fair photo debacle. The highlight of the evening was hearing “Thunder Road” as a part of the encore, a song that perhaps more than any other in the Springsteen repertoire resonates with me musically and lyrically (I love the “It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win” bit).

Negatives were few but bear mentioning here: 1) No Patti. Enough said. 2) The acoustics at the Time Warner Arena were terrible. As is the case with many arenas, the sound often comes through too heavy on the bass and the voices sometimes get lost. 3) I have never realized how many “whoo-hoo’s” and “sha-na-na’s” are attached to the choruses of Springsteen songs. In addition, in many ways, my experience suffered because as I mentioned before I have been more or less a casual fan and didn’t feel like I could fully enjoy the show like some of the “inner circle” aficionados.

That being said, Bruce Springsteen is one of those musical talents that you want to be able to tell your children and grandchildren someday “Yeah, I saw Bruce Springsteen and he was amazing!” Thankfully, I can now say that and I came away with a greater appreciation of the songwriting ability, showmanship, physical stamina and vocal range of Springsteen and his “house rockin’, pants droppin’, earth shockin’, hard rockin’, booty shakin’, love makin’, heart breakin’, soul cryin’, death defyin’ legendary E Street Band”. My only hope is that he stays around long enough for me to see him perform live again.


Lawyer said...

Nice review. I saw this brood on their last go round a few years back, at Reunion Arena, with my bride and mom. That's right, my mom. I enjoyed only about 10% of the concert, and don't go for the big saxophone (my musical cryptonite). I wish he would do more subdued tours and play The River and the good stuff, not Dancing in the Dark.

Dentist said...

I was on the very top row stage center with my dad and a couple of drunk chicks rubbing on him the whole time. He feigned disgust, but I wasn't buying that.

priest said...

nice review, dentite. i saw them on the rising tour, where i had floor "seats" (it was standing room only). the best memories of that show were 1) how tight the band sounds. The best I've ever heard in this area 2) The extended version of "Kansas City" (I was in KC to see the show), which heavily featured Danni Federici, making his loss more poignant for me. But, I have to agree with lawyer, I need about 1/5th the sax they blare into every song. And he didn't play Thunder Road or The River, my two favs. Still, I really enjoyed the show.
PS Look for a Josh Ritter concert review early next week.

Doctor said...

Where's the one-on-one interview for DLP?