burnin’ love: springsteen in mansfield, 8-22-09
This show ended up being a great representation of what this tour is right now. Old songs, newer songs (even if we’re ignoring the last two albums, even if the last one should probably be ignored), The River coming to the forefront, good covers, great requests. To be fair, when the evening started, I wasn’t sure this show was going to be all that and a bag of chips, even with the “Jackson Cage” opener. Because what I saw happen was a tremendous opener… that far too many people didn’t recognize. Audience reaction went from ecstatic to flat. I’m not talking about in the pit (although everyone around us was chatting up a storm) – I’m talking out in the crowd and further up the hill. Bruce is constantly checking the audience’s temperature and if you look at what was originally on the setlist compared to what we got – I think he panicked and switched gears.
By the time we were at the complete sonic train wreck that “Johnny 99” has become, I started to despair just slightly. I started to despair not just because a song that was gorgeous and powerful in its stillness has now become a world music mishmash, not just because the people around me were dancing jigs to a song about capital punishment, not just because of the “woo-woo” audience participation bit (I’m sorry, did I miss the train in this song? I’m not sure where the train is, and yes, I refuse to do it), but because of that interlude at the end where Steve and Bruce ham it up and mimic a car engine starting (at least that’s what it sounds like. Which doesn’t make sense because cars don’t go ‘woo-woo’, trains do). Don’t get me wrong – it’s classic E Street theater in some ways, but in other ways I started to feel like I was in Branson. Or in Vegas. And I was annoyed that audiences need to be constantly amused or they won’t pay attention (hello, woman who chatted all the way through “Point Blank,” but yet shouted every word to “For You” in my ear), I was annoyed that Bruce can’t just go out there and play a fucking rock and roll show without what seems like constant shtick in order to cater to the lowest common denominator, I was standing there thinking, I don’t know that I can go see any more of these if this is how it’s going to be. I mean – just play the song. If you can’t play the song because you’re sick of it then PICK ANOTHER SONG.
But with the aforementioned “Point Blank,” the show turned a corner. Because it was there, because he played it straight, because it was a Saturday night audience who just wanted to hear “Pink Cadillac” or whatever song they loved and remembered and could dance to, and he still gave us “Point Blank,” and then later “If I Should Fall Behind”. Because – despite ignoring my WHITE RIOT sign (and he was standing right in front of me – I only wrote it as a joke, to be honest) – the request slot gave us “Burning Love” (even if it then gave us “For You”. I used to love that song but do not get the fanaticism over it, and hate that he pulls it out of the audience time and time again because it’s something they can play, instead of really challenging themselves). Yes, there were still U-turns, when “Sunny Day” came out because he loved the little girl on our side of the stage who handed him the “Real Man” sign (but sang “Waiting on a summer’s day” – which could be legit, she could actually know the song, but I somehow think her request sign wasn’t really written by her), adding BITUSA at the very end of the show because it was still 10 minutes to curfew and he had room for one more song.
The band was rested and played well. Clarence seemed in good energy – the throne is gone, and he had just a small stool to sit on and rest, which he didn’t use most of the time. I wish Patti would come back just so Garry wasn’t relegated to the back of the stage. Jay Weinberg cut his hair, which won’t end the ridiculous Dave Grohl comparisons but at least cleaned up his act. Watching Max standing side stage right in front of us was like being in a time warp, because how can Max Weinberg be standing there if the E Street Band are onstage? Bruce still needs to conduct Jay, and Jay is still playing too fast and over-filling the songs too much for my liking. (No, I still don’t like him in the E Street Band, and unlike some people in the fan base, I understand that Bruce will not come to my house and give me a medal for liking Jay Weinberg. If he actually DID play like Dave Grohl there wouldn’t be a problem because Dave Grohl is a fucking awesome drummer.)
Best moment in the show: someone took a blow-up doll, put a blue dress on it, and a red wig and devil horns, and, well, you get it. It was too far away during the request interlude, but someone got it closer to the stage and it came on at the encore, whereupon Bruce proceeded to fix the doll’s dress (proclaiming a ‘wardrobe malfunction’) and then told us that “Steve’s got a collection of these at home”. He praised the fan’s creativity and then rewarded us all with the Medley. I could complain about the lengths some people are going to with signs, but most of the time that’s because the actual request is lame (like the woman behind us in line who had a sign for “Promised Land,” and who looked dismayed when we explained that he played it almost all the time. (I later overheard her taking her husband to task because he was supposed to have researched what Bruce was playing. “You were supposed to check!” “Well, I researched *my* signs…”)
- Thank you for finally getting a video screen worthy of a stadium. In a shed it was too much, but it will be fabulous in a blimp nest.
- Great Woods is a highly overrated venue. I do not get why people are so enamored of it, especially now that there is no lawn to speak of.
- New GA rules seemed to work well, except for the small matter of the venue forgetting to mark tickets once the lottery was over. The pit was ridiculously, dangerously overcrowded, and–
- The pit in the sheds is not the same as the one in the arenas. The back of the pit will be slanted and not comfortable to stand on. Keep this in mind.
- Please god don’t play these godforsaken places ever again, Bruce.
All in all, it was worth the drive and worth the heat. If this pace keeps steady – with the various soundcheck reports – the shows could get very interesting this fall.
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