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the spirit of st. louis

Posted on 25 August 2008 by Caryn Rose (1)

I know it’s going to be hard to believe, but the remarkable thing about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in St. Louis Saturday night wasn’t the covers – and the covers admittedly were fucking MINDBLOWING. But the astonishing thing was the intensity that were brought to chestnuts or even your everyday Magic songs. Bruce standing back against the drumkit, undulating feedback out of the guitar at the start of “Adam,” which was a performance that would stand against the best of them, then or now. I got irked that “Backstreets” got pulled out of the sign request pile, thinking that it was too early and tooo much of a trainwreck to put right after “Mountain of Love” (OMFG, “Mountain of Love” – more on that later), but the band delivered a performance of epic depth, darkness (sorry) and thunder.

“Gypsy Biker” came back. “She’s The One” gave us a little “Not Fade Away”. “Cover Me” descended out of the sign pile and out of a clear blue sky (and when you don’t hear it every fucking night and there aren’t 12 layers of really bad distortion and synth all over it, it’s an awesome fucking song).

The lingering memory, erm, nightmare that is “Girls In Their Summer Clothes” got erased by “Jungleland” and then BOOM! HOUSE LIGHTS! HOLY CRAP DETROIT MEDLEY! The audience was not appreciative but not quite apeshit, and this is when I start to wonder about lost context and history, that the internet has made it so easy to get ahold of things that I wonder if it makes people take things for granted or not dig. I mean, how can you be a Springsteen fan and not appreciate the Detroit Medley? Maybe it was just the St. Louis crowd, which seemed attentive and appreciative from my vantage point (first row back of second pit barrier, no we did not make the lottery), but not super-enthusiastic. I’ve seen shows in the Midwest before so I don’t think it’s cultural, but it was strange.

Major nitpick: Bruce gets into the appropriate emotional space for “Adam,” and then goes into “Spirit,” which is adjacent if not kin from a emotional perspective, and then he ruins it by bringing up a 9 year old whose parents have taught him the party trick of saying “all night” at the right intervals. THE SONG IS ABOUT PURE RAW LUST. You don’t bring a child up for this. Seriously, dude.

Let’s talk about the covers: “And Then She Kissed Me” was a holdover from a sign in Nashville that Bruce clearly liked enough to soundcheck and get into presentable shape to play. “Mountain Of Love” was also rehearsed and maybe there was an early sign, but OH MY GOD, Mountain Of Love. I’ve had this random MP3 since I started downloading Bruce stuff off the internet. I love it because it shows their roots, it showcases why I love this band so insanely. Unfortunately, if you went past the first few rows in any direction, it was totally, completely lost on the audience.

“Drive All Night.” I saw the sign in enough time to get the phone out and dial one of my best Bruce girlfriends, and the phone was generously held for me by the boyfriend, who did well enough to leave me alone completely during this song. To the audience’s credit, everyone shut the fuck up and let us enjoy the song and the moment. And I will lose my title as Darkness Whore #1 (a very long story from a very long time ago in internet years) if I say that it was not the be and and end all moment of the show in St. Louis, It was beautiful and aching and utterly gorgeous, and I doubt that any performance of “Drive All Night” could every live up to any woman’s expectation.

Finally, “Little Queenie.” I wanted this. To be honest, I would have taken any Chuck Berry song, and until the setlists started taking steroids, I was fully prepared to bring a sign to STL reading CHUCK FUCKING BERRY to make sure he got the point and did the right thing. Once things started going crazy earlier in the tour, I knew it was a given, and then I wanted it as an opener. To be precise, I wanted it as an opener WITH Chuck Berry. I mean, really, I wanted “Nadine,” but “Little Queenie” was more realistic. And the sign came onstage, and got brought back out for the encore, and aside from the prompter clearly not working on the verses, it was still “Little Queenie,” and I am dancing with the boyfriend on the floor of a Bruce Springsteen show IN ST. LOUIS to “Little Queenie,” and my heart is racing and my mind is almost ready to explode. It couldn’t have been more perfect. Really and truly.

And then, one more, one more for Sophie. I don’t know who Sophie is, except that she loves Bruce Springsteen so much that her friends made a sign informing the entire world that she loved Bruce Springsteen (and then brought an arrow that one of them used to clearly indicate which one of their number was, in fact, Sophie), and Bruce liked the sign, and said hi to Sophie on several occasions. And, for Sophie we got one more, we got “Twist and Shout.” And we are dancing again, we are doing the twist on the floor, crammed at the front of the second barricade, with the guy from LA and the girls from Pennsylvania and the other girls across the river from Illinois (one of whom was seeing Bruce for the first time) and especially woman in the rhinestone peace sign shirt who looked like she had seen god during Mountain of Love and was equally ecstatic at this moment. If she had been standing closer to me, she would have been my new best friend.

He played three hours and 12 minutes, and even with going on at the unconscionable hour of 8:47pm (and for the equally unconscionable reason that he was allegedly waiting for St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to get to the show, because the 1pm game ran late due to a rain delay), it was still worth every fucking second of every moment of waiting in the heat and the rain and the wind and the driving and the insanity of spending what amounted to EIGHT HOURS ON MY FEET for a rock concert.

Thank god we had sidestage lowers for Kansas City. Which, of course, is another story (and the .net takes precedence, so watch for that there in a day or two, and then I can follow up here).

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