Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Greensboro Coliseum, 3-19-12
What a difference a day, and two songs, can make.
The intro music was “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and once again, the “Star Time” intro took us into “We Take Care Of Our Own,” which is already rock-solid and will just be a battle-axe by the time the middle of the tour rolls around. Bruce is trying to play with “Wrecking Ball” a little, trying to emphasize things here or slow things down there, but there’s just so much going on that it’s tough to do that.
“Badlands” is “Badlands” and it’s always going to be there, it’s for the people who don’t know the record or just bought the record and it’s for us, too, it truly is if we know how to let it. “Death To My Hometown” was enlivened tonight by horns one could actually hear. This was the song tonight during which I started to fret that everyone was just working too hard all the time, too hard to play and sing their best, too hard to turn and clap and engage the audience, Bruce whirling Townshend-esque in the bridge, trying to cue the crowd when to add a “HEY!” When is too much not enough and when is it just the E Street Band?
The Greensboro audience was fabulous, everyone on their feet all the way up to the top row, even if the behind-stage was not sold everyone who was there cared about being there. That said, the intro to “My City of Ruins” turned into an exodus, which sucked some of the energy out of the room. I note tonight that Bruce specifically references that the E Street Band is here to bring a “joyful noise”. I am sure that is a reference to the Big Man’s early affiliation and not just a random choice of phrase.
Glenn said tonight that the entire introduction and roll call would work better if Bruce didn’t need to keep saying ‘roll call’ and I don’t think he’s wrong, but I am still struggling with this particular bit of business within “My City of Ruins”. That said, Charlotte responded marvelously once the band got into the song, because they know how to go to church down here. Hands were not in the air ironically. There was gravity and weight and respect being paid.
You think you will not get choked up again at the “If we’re here, and you’re here, then they’re here” line again, but you still will.
As much as I like “Shuffle” I am still not sold on it in this particular place in the set. I mean, there’s nothing not to love about it and it’s played as well and as tightly as you’ve ever heard it, it’s not meandering around and getting lost the way, say, “KItty’s Back” can do sometimes. Bruce yells out “More horns” at one point and I feel validated that, well, it’s not just me.
Personal to the idiots with the Clarence heads on sticks: if Bruce wanted to acknowledge you he would have done so already because it is hard to miss you.
“Jack of All Trades” is the song for which some people sit and some people leave and others are at least quiet and not yelling nonsense, except at the “If I had a gun” line, which is reminding me of people’s reaction to “Last To Die” back when that still made a setlist. I am not sure that if you were actually listening to the lyrics of the song you would cheer at that line.
Our MVP of the night, Mr. Nils Lofgren, turned it up to 11 on “Seeds,” becoming a whirling dervish of guitar noise, battling it out with Bruce at the front of the stage. Not enough horns, again! They will work this out, I am certain; there is just a lot of noise coming from that stage, but that said, I still feel like the sound is better overall than it has been on previous tours, but I haven’t been in the back yet.
Still a work in progress is how I would describe “Easy Money,” which I like and think will be great but I am not sure how much this was rehearsed or even discussed prior to the show as tonight Stevie was beckoned down, while Bruce was down front and Mr. Van Zandt was laughing with the Missus. Then Patti came down front and that seemed to work better tonight, although this time Bruce was the one who started to laugh at the “You’re looking’ real fine honey” line, which he attempted to deliver with meaning to his wife two inches away. Then they went to separate ends of the stage before coming back together and again, I’m not sure how well this was practiced or rehearsed, but it’s still a great song and they will figure it out eventually.
I can make it to the ladies’ room and back well before the small child is pulled out of the crowd on “Sunny Day.” I can find something redeeming in “Dancing In The Dark” as long as the child participating is actually enthusiastic, but just can’t get through this lengthy waste of space in the setlist. I am all in favor of the crowd participation numbers but shake it up – try “Hungry Heart,” try – what’s the Motown medley supposed to be if not the song to get the audience singing along?
Tonight Bruce did not attempt to tightrope walk along any railings, but instead sensibly headed to the platform between the back of the pit and the front of the pit and stood there at the end of the medley, before once again hurling himself into the crowd. And tonight at least the pit was full enough that he could actually be propelled forward at a reasonable rate. (I am not going to mention the crowd surfing every night because it is an every night thing and has become an every night thing; I was right there the first night he did it back at Giants! )
The intro to “Shackled and Drawn” has some people in my party singing the first few lines of “Magic Bus” but that’s not fair because we love the song and it is coming into its own slowly but surely. The vocals are taking up the right amount of room, rich and expansive. Cindy’s exhortation at the end gave me goosebumps.
Goosebumps were the right thing to have at the beginning of “Because the Night,” that old favorite and welcome addition to the setlist for this tour. Nils turned it up to 11 on this one, quite literally, playing as well as I’ve ever seen him play this particular number.
“The Rising” was on its own tonight, taking us into “Thunder Road.” The sax solo on this number was one of the moments of struggle for me last night, and I think it’s too early in the tour to talk about this as I’m still working it out — but I did appreciate that tonight, the entire horn section came down, Jake took the first line of the solo, and then the entire section played the rest of it. That felt right and better to me, without compromising the emotional integrity of the song.
The opening numbers of the encore were once again magnificent, even if Bruce is a little talkier than I think he needs to be, I appreciate that he will not need to talk that much when Michelle Moore is not present, and am quite happy for her to get her props. I feared that the people around us, who were concerned about their beer and their popcorn, would talk through the quieter numbers, that last night in the pit was going to be one of my last true communal moments with “Rocky Ground,” but fear not, and thank you, Greensboro–like I said earlier, they know how to go to church here. Another goosebump-inducing moment was at the end of Michele’s rap, which she executes with relaxed style and grace. It is such a wonderful piece of music to watch unfold live.
The crowd roared back to life with the opening notes of “Land of Hope And Dreams,” which they are still figuring out, but this is a slightly more advanced sonic experiment than, say, “Easy Money,” and to the average concert-goer it will just seem part of the song, it is close enough to the record to not seem that different, Bruce climbing up on the drum riser at the end to look Max in the eye as he thunders through the drum rolls.
And then – “1! 2!” and houselights, and “Born To Run,” and I am not sorry it is back in the set and I am not sorry I get to sing one of the greatest songs in the history of rock and roll night after night. It has never felt tired to me. “Dancing In The Dark” can sound tired, but tonight it didn’t, and just when I thought I was going to get a little break and catch up with my notes during “American Land” I see commotion onstage that feels like an audible to me, and the boyfriend says “Rosie” and before I can argue Bruce hits the opening notes and I suddenly realize that my goodness, it is so good to hear “Rosalita” again. Greensboro singing it back, with feeling.
The hi-hat, the piano chords, Bruce getting water and then jumping on the piano, and the E Street Horns are watching him like a hawk (because he forgot to cue them last night), and I am not sure that he didn’t forget or wait too long to cue them tonight, because the audience was singing the intro so loud that Bruce just wanted them to continue, and they did, and they did, and they did, and then the horns finally came in and I think I will never hear a version of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” in which the horns are mixed to my liking but in my house there are long drawn-out discussions of the various Stax-Volt horn arrangements on a regular basis so I realize I am not normal nor typical.
That ends the night, the band at the front of the stage for the final bows, Bruce thumping his fist over his heart repeatedly, the band lingering to wave and blow kisses and take their time leaving the stage, Bruce coming out one more time to acknowledge the crowd.
There is promise and there is hope and there is so much yet still to come on this tour. It is only going to get better.
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