My “journey” as a Springsteen fan started out in the oddest of ways. Of course, I was always somewhat familiar with him but I never went to one of his concerts. In 2003, I got two tickets to a show at Giants Stadium as a part of a bizarre rent agreement and off I went to New Jersey. That show was everything you hear about Bruce shows: it was like a religious revival, fitting because of it being in his home state. Some observations from last night’s show in Boston:
This show is part of River Tour 2015 in conjunction with the release of The Ties That Bind, a River collection with some new songs like “Meet Me in the City”, a great song that I can’t figure out how it got left off the album.
The 1980-81 River Tour is my favorite Springsteen tour for bootlegs, at least with the entire band. The 2005 solo Devils and Dust Tour was also incredible because it had Bruce doing a lot of different things (playing piano, pump organ, etc.) and because quiet was demanded which led to some PRISTINE bootlegs. But the River Tour had so many classic shows: 12/31/1980 at Nassau Coliseum is my favorite show of all time, 12/09/1980 from Philadelphia is a powerfully emotional show in the aftermath of the murder of John Lennon, and 08/20/1981 is a show from Los Angeles that was also a Vietnam veterans benefit that showed Bruce’s emotional side as he nearly broke down singing The River.
After starting with “Meet Me in the City”, all 20 songs on the River album are played in order. This is a nice idea, but is not the greatest album to try this with because the way the songs were set up is more conducive to listening in the car or at home and not live because there are stretches where things get a bit slow. On the plus side, it provides people with a chance to plan proper bathroom breaks. My wife insisted on a beer so I went during “Independence Day” and we dealt with a doozy of a guy next to us early in the show.
There was a group of three people, a husband and wife and this other guy who was very amped up. Way too amped up. Chatting my wife and I up about Bruce, yelling “Bruuuuuuuce” for no reason before the show, and asking us if he could smoke marijuana. I went into my “smile and nod politely” mode with this joker. The marijuana thing is just hilarious; I don’t care but we were sitting on the Promenade level which is effectively the hockey press box, not in the seating bowl. There is one row circling the arena and I love this area: easy bathroom access coupled with the unintentional comedy of 50-somethings dancing awkwardly. I figured that the guy would wait until a few songs in to fire up his joint: oh no…he does it 15 seconds into the first song when the house lights are still up! The smoke blows right across my face and before I know it some security guy is over and inspecting the guy. He was escorted out of there about nine songs into the show.
“Two Hearts” is a pretty underrated song in the catalog if you ask me. I love the vamping of Little Steven with Bruce and it comes out huge in that song. Patti Scialfa is not allowed in on this: no girls allowed! This became something of a running joke for the wife and I: how you would be reminded Patti is still there. I predicted she would over-vamp on the “Out in the Street” outro, which didn’t happen but you can often hear her distinct above and beyond the band. Her hair reminded me a bit of Peg Bundy from Married With Children so I kept joking “Al, I wanna sing now!” in the Peg voice.
Since this has evolved into a wrestling blog, I can tie into that briefly. It turns out that WWF announcer Kal Rudman has a connection to Springsteen dating to the late 1970s. Rudman was a man about town in Philadelphia who did color on Philly Spectrum house shows in his own imitable way with his somewhat creep manner. Rudman apparently recommended that Bruce focus more songs on women to expand his fan base, which is credited with leading to songs like “Hungry Heart”. This is hilarious since the song is about a guy fleeing a woman, but whatever.
Back to the show, it seemed there were some issues with the sound. “I’m a Rocker” seemed a bit garbled and the lyrics could barely be heard. “Fade Away” was a rare song to hear before this tour, but there is an outstanding version from the Devils and Dust Tour. I’ve seen many shows with the E Street Band but never heard “Ramrod” until this show, which is slowed down a bit from the album.
Once the album ended, the “wild card” section of the show began. At every show, Bruce will go into a song where I am foggy in trying to remember what it is, usually because I haven’t heard it in a long time. This happened when I was very close to the stage in Kansas City in 2008 when he went into “Ricky Wants a Man Of Her Own” since he had literally never played the song before in concert. But it made sense that he would play “Roulette” since that was cut from The River album and ended up on 1998’s Tracks compilation. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get an extended solo from Little Steven on “Prove It All Night” but Nils Lofgren delivered the mail on “Because the Night”. The man has had hip replacement so he doesn’t do flips on a trampoline anymore, but does a more horizontal spin. His ground game is very much on point. “Human Touch” is a nice representative from the 1992/93 era, not a period with a lot of songs you hear nowadays.
Final encore started with “Badlands”, definitely a top 5 song for me in the live experience. The fist pumps and all. It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive. House lights come up for “Born to Run” and I get a nice view of people on the floor. Some dude in a pink hat is getting security to dance with him, while another guy in an Oxford shirt is so intoxicated that he nearly face plants on the floor several times. “Rosalita” is also a huge highlight not only for the song, but to find my friend Diane to see her fabulous dancing to that number. They close with “Shout” but with an hour drive home, the wife and I successfully hit the exits to beat the crowd. This doesn’t violate my New Year’s resolution to listen to more Isley Brothers because this is just one of their songs and not actually them.
Apparently Peter Wolf joined them on stage and I missed it. So I’m even more glad I missed it, because I am not a fan. Guy hasn’t been relevant in over 20 years and he is just awful to look at. He makes Alice Cooper look like a frickin’ bodybuilder. But this is still a solid show, 3 1/2 stars out of 5.