The Wrecking Ball Wrap-Up

Born To Run, 10/9

Born To Run, 10/9

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Giants Stadium, October 2, 3, 8, 9, 2009

  • Number of tickets for Giants shows originally purchased 2:
  • Number of tickets ultimately purchased: 4

I was only going to the last night at Giants. Then, that task meant buying two tickets since that date kept changing. Then, of course, Darkness came up, and I couldn’t afford to miss it. Then I had so much fun that I wanted to see Born To Run instead of taking a chance I’d get it somewhere else this fall.

That said, I need to make this clear: I hate concerts at Giants Stadium. I do not find anything enjoyable about drinking beer and throwing beanbags in the parking lot, do not enjoy music outdoors, do not find it charming to watch a concert standing on a football field, do not want to pee in a portopotty. I am very glad that I did these four shows, but I am also very glad that they are over.

The Giants Stadium shows, beyond the albums, were interesting exercises. They were interesting because once you took setlist stalwarts out of their usual context, Bruce had to find another way to construct the show.

Let’s start with “Wrecking Ball”. I realize that Giants Stadium is an important venue to Bruce, but he’s probably the only person in the building that truly felt sentimental about its demise. Let’s get things straight: this is not a good place for anyone to see a concert, ANY concert. Even people who know how to do a big stadium spectacular – like U2 – it’s still miserable on a lot of levels. This was not the loss of a cherished local venue or historical theater. Even football fans could care less. Musically, the song was interesting, but lyrically, I’m not sure the words merited being put up on the screen. As I said about “American Land” all those months ago, if you have to put the lyrics up in order for the audience to understand the song, maybe you should pick a different one.

Every night started with five songs, two of which were interchangeable, three of which were set: “Wreckin’ Ball,” “Outlaw Pete,” and “Hungry Heart”. I am resigned to the status of “Outlaw Pete” and I would not mind it nearly as much if it wasn’t 9 minutes long. Plus, Bruce has the habit of ‘rewarding’ fans by playing something that lets them sing along after he plays something he believes is ‘challenging’. I love “Hungry Heart” so I don’t mind it, but I’m not sure we needed it every night. Bruce going out in the crowd was fine until everyone figured it out, and then it became uncomfortable and unpleasant as people kicked and pushed and shoved to try to get against the back barrier later in the stand.

The album sets were so incredibly well done. I have no quibble with them (or, at least, have already documented any quibbles). I have written about them extensively so I won’t go into them here. I will note that, surprisingly, hearing the album in order does not have the same impact after you see them a second time. My SO confirmed this about Born To Run (and he is a BTR guy) and I can confirm it about USA. The novelty definitely wears off. I will be irked in the extreme if he takes the easy way out for the MSG shows, unless he’s going to bring out different albums that have not already been played.

Bruce definitely needs to work on the transition out of the album. It is wonderful that he takes a moment to acknowledge the musicians and the moment, but you can’t go from “Jungleland” or “Darkness On The Edge of Town” into “Sunny Day”. The albums are not painful for the audience to listen to; I was struck all nights by how attentive most people were (with the exception of course of morons who felt the need to talk through “Meeting Across The River”/”Jungleland”). “Promised Land” is a better transitory song; “Tougher Than The Rest” on 10/9 was also a smoother segue, not to mention a pleasant surprise.

The request segment kind of veered out of control, I thought, mostly because no one knew where it was going to be, and a lot of people didn’t understand that there would be a clear signal as to when they should hold up their signs. As a result, signs were up every time Bruce walked near the front of the crowd, which meant that cameras were blocked, which meant that the people in, say, section 311 couldn’t see what was going on. (I’ll get to the subject of cameras later.) I personally feel that the request segment needs to move to the encore and just stay there. It gives Bruce the opportunity to create a smooth setlist from the end of the album to the end of the show, without having to revise it by calling audibles (which may or may not be successful) midstream. (It’s one thing if he’s inspired and calling an audible – don’t get me wrong, I don’t ever want that to stop.)

On the whole, I felt the requests chosen were great. “Be True” was a lovely surprise. “Jailhouse Rock” was inspired. “My Love Will Not Let You Down” should come back. Really, some great choices over the five nights. As a note: “Sunny Day” as a request number was an even bigger copout than “For You” is. But, if you pair the requests with whatever feel-good numbers Bruce feels he needs to play in the encore, you get a good mix of interesting songs for diehards and crowdpleasers for the rest of the audience.

Other notes:

  • Roy Bittan coming out first every single night with a shit-eating grin on his face, tons of energy. I am glad to see E Street enjoying themselves.
  • I loved the book promos for Clarence probably more than most people in the audience did. I filmed them just so I could send the links to several editors and agents. (I hear the book is terrible, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.)
  • I did NOT know about the fireworks before I got there on night two, and you know what? I loved it. It was over-the-top, it was excessive, it was so non-Springsteen – but they were cool and they were fun and I’m glad he loosened up enough to let it happen. For the last nights of Giants Stadium, they were perfectly appropriate.
  • I felt that the TPL/Last To Die/Long Walk Home segue worked better, and felt fresher, than the TPL->Rising material segue. I understand why he feels he needs to play the Rising material in Jersey, but it is so tired that it needs a rest.
  • As much as I hate a stadium show, I have to say that the GA procedure was the most well-run I have seen in a long time. Yes, it took forever to actually get into the stadium, but with the exception of Saturday’s show, where there were already 106 people in line by 8am, the procedure was about as fair as it was going to be, and prevented the usual scam artists from wreaking havoc. The fact that you could still get into the back of the front pit at 7pm was fine with me. It meant that people didn’t need to take days off work just to get a decent vantage point.
  • Bring Curt Ramm to play trumpet on BTR absolves a great many sins. Putting a real horn section together for the Thursday night BTR was a once in a lifetime opportunity. However, it makes you think – if Bruce thinks it’s a good idea to take two backup singers on the road for the whole tour, why on earth not pay horn players as well? You’d certainly get more use out of the horns.
  • I appreciated that Bruce has finally gotten some stadium-worthy video screens. However, they have a long way to go with the concept of graphics and design and art, and I’ll give you a hint: it’s not putting fans on the video screen, or sending a camera into the pit to film people dancing. We started calling it the “douchebag camera” because that was what people acted like when the camera was on them. U2 does not do that, and I only mention them because IMHO they are the unchallenged masters at how to run a big stadium video setup. And when you don’t put cameras on people, you don’t get strippers flashing.
  • “Kitty’s Back” both times it was played were fantastic examples of Bruce figuring out how to take material that a lot of people just do not know, and making it stadium-friendly. It helped that the addition of the second horn made it easy to keep the improv sections tight, which kept the song focused, which meant that people didn’t get bored and start wandering around looking for a soft pretzel. He got 50k people to sing the call-and-response for “Kitty’s Back” without turning it into “Mary’s Place”. And not that I want to start rating things, but the 10/3 performance was the best “Kitty’s Back” I have seen since Danny’s last show.
  • I am sad to report that New Jersey Springsteen audiences are still rude and inconsiderate. I have never had so many people talk through a show than in Jersey, and the number of friends and special guests in the NJ crowd just multiplies the inconsiderate factor. More than twice I have had to ask people to please not talk during an important song. I do not care if you work for the band, know the band, or your brother is a roadie – it does not give you the right to talk through the show. If you want to do that, go to the E Street Lounge or the VIP area or the back of the field where you can’t ruin it for someone else.
  • “Sandy” for Danny, with Roy on the accordion, and with Charlie not onstage, was a moment we all needed. Or at least it was needed for the people who care about who is in the E Street Band.
  • On that note, I am grateful that Max is on hiatus until the end of the tour and I will not have to see Jay Weinberg except on Born To Run. He is simply not up to the task and it seems that Bruce realized this.*
  • I do not dislike “Jersey Girl” and I do not think the performances were bad, but I have to say that this was the first time I ever felt like the song was dated. I also do not think we needed it twice, and it was definitely the wrong way to end the last show. Given that we all saw him toss the harmonica back to Kevin before he started it, we know it was supposed to be “Thunder Road,” which, in my humble opinion, would have been the right way to close out the building.
  • Instead, my biggest non-musical memory from these shows (taking Bruce diving into the crowd on top of us on 10/9 out of the equation) will be dancing at the back of the field to “Twist and Shout” on night 4. Every night, we started making our way out of the pit during the last break in Rosie – it’s a big field, and if you get caught in the bottleneck leaving the field, you will be there for exponentially longer than you would if you just hustle to the back and wait to see if he plays something else. On Friday, of course, that something was “Twist and Shout”. No one wanted to run all the way back to the pit, so we just stood at the back and danced the twist on the field. I also appreciated getting that vantage point; you could certainly hear just fine back there, and see pretty well, and there was probably something to be said about hanging out in the back of the field with your friends and drinking beer with the E Street Band as your backdrop. I guess this is the attraction of the stadium show, but I still feel that it puts most fans at a disadvantage if you are there to actually watch and listen to the show.

I felt worse walking out of Giants Stadium after the last Rising show than I did walking out on 10/9. Maybe it’s because I know there are still shows ahead; maybe I was just exhausted and ready for the shows to be over with; maybe I am very ready for this tour to be over with. I am interested to see what, if anything, happens in the arenas over the next month and a half.

I have TONS of photos and videos from all four nights in my Flickr feed.

*I would appreciate it if the Jay Weinberg fanclub would just take it to BTX. I’m not changing your mind, you’re not changing mine, and I’m not debating it on a web site I own and maintain. Thanks.