Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA, 10-27-12
A Saturday night show in the Rust Belt should open with something like “Don’t Look Back” into “Candy’s Room” into “Ties That Bind,” you know? Those songs were in your face, a declaration, a statement of purpose. Pittsburgh is a flat out, die hard rock and roll town (or at least that’s how I think of it) and it was a loud and mostly enthusiastic crowd meeting the E Street Band front and center tonight. Bruce was pumped, and the band had good energy – Max tight and crisp, Nils loud and sharp, birthday boy Garry Tallent with his eyes closed and wrapped up in the music.
And Bruce? Bruce was feeling it early, bending the guitar not just from the neck but with his whole body, letting his pelvis move the body of the guitar in and out. I know, you’ll tell me, get your mind out of the gutter. It wasn’t sexual (because trust me I would tell you if it was) but it was deeply, deeply physical.”Streets of Fire” as the fourth song in demands strength, focus and attention and we had all of those things.
It is just so good to be back in the arenas, to have the audience on all four sides, to have the band closer together. It is less about spectacle and presentation and more about performance. I would say “and it is less distance to travel” except the new mid-floor platform has Bruce back and forth at least four times in the course of the show.
“City of Ruins” is the Temple of Soul of this show, it really is.The horns and the drum rolls and the E Street Choir remain cohesive, inspirational and just tremendous. It is easier to have that moment with the spotlights on the organ and the saxophone, and now, Bruce gets to go over and stand there, just stand there, and say, “Let it sit,” and have a fairly long moment of contemplation. It is a ballsy thing to do in a rock and roll show in a Saturday night.
There were some interesting signs tonight (big fan of the one reading THE BEST ASS IN ROCK AND ROLL, even if I’d have some differing opinions – it’s up there, to be sure, though) and way too many signs for “Jungleland” but the signs gave us the beautiful (although rough) moment of “Pretty Flamingo”. I don’t know if there was a delay in getting the words on the prompter or if someone needed the chords but it took a while to get into it, and even then, it limped along, to be totally honest. I am not sure the band was feeling it, or at least feeling it together. It didn’t matter because it was “Pretty Flamingo” and that song is always me sitting on the floor of my room as a teenager, listening to bootleg cassettes through headphones, and that song taking me to another place entirely.
It is good it was that magic, because around us we had the 20-ish fans loudly asking each other what this song was and what record it was on and why was he playing it, and on the other side of us were the two drugged out sisters who complained “WHAT IS THIS FUCKING SONG, WHY IS HE PLAYING IT”. But there was a small group of righteous diehards around us that knew it and were feeling it and could hang together and ignore it all.
The next sign had me jumping up and down and yelling and — FINALLY! — “Talk To Me”! Again a moment of confusion all around us while our core of a dozen or so random folks who gravitated together were singing and dancing and clapping and jumping up and down, to approving nods from Garry and Stevie. It was hard to miss us, because there was not a lot of enthusiasm for this song. I don’t get it.
There was a lot of enthusiasm for the “Adam Raised A Cain” / “Because The Night” / “She’s The One” segment, however, and again – Adam, and the guitar, and just physically trying to push as much NOISE out of the instrument as possible. My notes say “PELVIS” and Bruce was soloing with so much physicality. It was dark but it was energetic.
I had been a little worried, you know, what with the MLB commercials and all, and our utter need to fly across the room to hit the mute button every time they are on, what it was going to be like to hear “Land Of Hopes and Dreams” again. It is another one of those tremendous, spectacular moments that arose out of this tour, the horns soaring at their very best. I marveled tonight how the E Street Horns (MOST UNORIGINAL NAME EVER) have become part of the fiber of the band, become their own organism, unlike the E Street Choir (2nd most etc etc) — I blame Bruce for that on the one hand, and on the other give him a pass for managing this group each and every night. (But – BUT! We have four incredibly under-utilized backing singers and Michele Moore every night and yet “Rocky Ground” is still sadly MIA.)
“Racing In The Street” opened the encore as a dedication to “the people of Pitcairn, PA” (and I don’t know why, but if you do, could you leave a comment) and it was astounding. I have seen “Racing,” I have seen full album “Racing” and I have seen what I have thought were amazing performances of “Racing” but yet tonight topped them all. Roy’s work in the outro in a way matched Bruce’s style tonight, it was strong and expansive and fluid and powerful. Bruce stood there center stage, guitar aloft in one hand in that faint blue spotlight, and you shook your head at the wonder and beauty of it all.
There was the inevitable Joe Grushecky appearance for “Glory Days,” but I certainly did not expect – DID NOT EXPECT, NOT AT ALL – when Max hit the drumbeat and — “Well I’ve been out of the woods for six days and nights now…” and holy mother, “Light of Day!” “LIGHT OF DAY!” It sizzled, it scorched, it rocked, it boogied, it jived. It was fabulous and I do not, do not, understand why this is not in the setlist more often than it is (except that it did bemuse the crowd a little bit, but they got over it).
I would not mention “Dancing In The Dark” except that someone had a large CAN I DANCE WITH GARRY sign and Bruce sent him down to the edge of stage right and the owner of the sign got up and danced with him, and after he finished and was making his way back, Bruce stuck him at the center mic for that last “1234!”
And then, here we go, Bruce on the piano, Steve waving us on, Bruce cueing the horns and “Tenth Avenue” one more time. I had to drop back in order to see the video screens, and stood there fist aloft for the Phantom (images of Danny with Bruce and Clarence have been added to the montage) and it is still powerful, still moving, still special to be part of that with Bruce and with the audience every night. It has grown and changed and it is different every night, everyone reacts to it differently, especially Bruce. It is hard and brave and beautiful to watch it and be a part of it.