Reviews of shows I've been to (and maybe you have too!)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band @ Verizon Center (4/1/12)

The Stones have done it longer. Led Zeppelin did it louder. U2 does it with more spectacle. But no one gives a concert quite like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. For more than 3 hours, they (or more accurately, Bruce) rocked an April Fool’s Day crowd at the Verizon Center like an opening band singing for its supper. The famous Springsteen stage histrionics were all present: massive guitar solos, stage sprints, crowd surfing, and even a reprise of his famous Super Bowl camera crotch slide (this time joined by a 10 year old boy pulled from the crowd). Strangely, all of Bruce’s energy only served to push him further away from his always steady but never spectacular backing band. Clearly, the loss of Clarence Clemons has removed an element of cohesiveness that cannot be replaced (though his nephew did a decent job musically). However, that can’t explain Little Steven’s near invisibility or Nils Lofgren’s timid playing. Even Max Weinberg’s drums seemed muted.

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Not that any of this mattered to the crowd. Springsteen fans are perhaps the most dedicated crew of aficionados outside of Deadheads, and the ones surrounding us in the floor standing-room section knew every song after three notes and sang their hearts (and vocal cords) out. Springsteen’s modern canon dominated the beginning of the set list, with nearly half the songs coming from albums released since the E Street Band was reunited more than a decade ago. Born to Run was well-represented as always, but the personal highlight of the night was a tour premiere performance of “Adam Raised a Cain” (notwithstanding the idiot behind me yelling throughout the song).

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Springsteen’s rare ability to reduce grown, professional men to a slobbering heap of drunken yodelers cannot be matched (well maybe by Jimmy Buffett but no one has ever envisioned the themselves escaping Margaritaville). Somehow, their perceived dedication only reminded me of current state of rock concerts, in which getting to nostalgically sing along to your favorite song trumps the band’s actual performance. Watching these bozos wrap their sweaty arms around each other’s shoulders as they belted out off-key harmony vocals reminded me not of blue collar folks legitimately touched by Springsteen’s down-to-earth realism, but rather drunken frat boys singing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” at last call. This is through no fault of Springsteen’s, as demonstrated by the set list- he pulled out “American Skin (41 Shots)” (in honor of Trayvon Martin) and seemed reluctant to do “Dancing in the Dark.” To me, the most honest moment of the night was when Bruce relayed his love of Smokey Robinson and the entire Motown scene before making his way out to a platform at the center of the crowd (almost within touching distance for us) to lead the crowd through a medley of the Motown standards “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “634-5789.” Most definitely a preacher amongst his congregation.

Set List:

  1. We Take Care Of Our Own
  2. Wrecking Ball
  3. Night
  4. Death to My Hometown
  5. My City of Ruins
  6. Seaside Bar Song
  7. Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
  8. Jack of All Trades
  9. Trapped (Jimmy Cliff cover)
  10. Adam Raised a Cain
  11. Easy Money
  12. She’s the One
  13. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  14. The Promise
  15. Apollo Medley- The Way You Do the Things You Do/634-5789
  16. American Skin (41 Shots)
  17. Because the Night
  18. The Rising
  19. We Are Alive
  20. Thunder Road

Encore:

  1. Rocky Ground (With Michelle Moore)
  2. Out in the Street
  3. Born to Run
  4. Dancing in the Dark
  5. Land of Hope and Dreams
  6. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
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