Concert review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO, 11-17-12
I suppose there are set openers less cliched than coming out and starting with “Kansas City” when you are, in fact, in Kansas City, but there aren’t many. It was cliched — Bruce even admitted as much when the lights came up — but it was also one of the finest musical performances by the Wrecking Ball-era E Street Band I have yet to witness. They were rehearsing it as the GA line was brought onto the concourse and I was a little sad to have the surprise ruined, but what they did in rehearsal (which was intense and extensive) was nothing compared to the sheer pure power of the performance when the lights went up on that stage. It was brash and flamboyant and grandiose and tremendous and had every single person in the arena standing up and singing at the top of their lungs. The flavor of the horn arrangement felt more New Orleans than KC, truth be told, but it didn’t matter, because it was absolutely magnificent. My favorite moment had to be when the horns came down front and took their solos, and then in the last verse, the ‘HEY HEY HEY HEY’s, Eddie Manion being the first one at the mic, shouting the words, just like a bluesman. You felt the tradition of the music from this city in this moment, you felt the tradition extending down through the E Street Band, you felt how many years of history and musicianship were on that stage at that moment.
[Kansas City. We're in Kansas City, even if there is nothing of note at 12th Street and Vine any more, it's an empty field and a fake street sign. I was so sad the first time I saw that.]
This was supposed to be the makeup show, and it felt like the makeup show, with “Kansas City” and then the trio of “Prove It,” “Candy’s Room” and “She’s The One” (with “Not Fade Away” intro). When your first thought at the opening notes of “Hungry Heart” are, “Good, I can take a break now,” you know you’re in a good show. It did, however, feel like the band were tired in spots: Nils messed up the “Incident” intro (after Bruce chiding him for fucking it up the last time he played it); “Raise Your Hand” was sloppy and felt anemic; the intro to “The Rising” extended past the normal cue because it seemed like Bruce was catching his breath, and many of the performances (like “Cover Me,” or “Downbound Train,” for example) lacked some of the oomph of other more recent shows.
But, “Because The Night” straight in from the end of “Incident” was masterful; Bruce looked impressed when Steve took the solo. I was impressed with Steve tonight, I enjoyed his active role in “Fire,” I appreciated that he has to pick up the slack now that Bruce’s main onstage foil is no longer with us and acts like he knows that he has to pick up the slack. “Incident” remains a treasure. “E Street Shuffle” was the Shore shout-out, and this is the place where I approve of the Everett Bradley timbale/conga/general percussion solo interval.
No one was expecting “Light of Day” at the end of “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” and I think that got thrown in there because he needed to bring the energy back up and wanted something they could rocket through solidly. They did. It killed. The audience loves it. You can’t talk through it. They don’t get up and go get beer during it, like they did during “Shackled and Drawn” (of all things, but I guess it was because it was the first thing they didn’t recognize after the BITUSA run). “My Beautiful Reward” was solemn and immense and made the woman next to me cry so hard that Bruce’s security went and got her a tissue. And “Santa” seems back for good between here and Mexico City, even though I would trade it for “Merry Christmas, Baby” with the horns any day of the week.
I am not happy with the downward trend of losing Wrecking Ball songs. I continue to miss “Rocky Ground.” I am already wondering how this set will be readjusted for 2013. I look forward to finding out.
P.S. After years of failing miserably tonight I finally hit the lottery — the number was 54, I was 117, so I got a rail spot, albeit far to the side (there was a huge stretch of prime rail already occupied as we entered the floor, which accounts for why I was so far over). I can definitively report that Bruce has no interest in “Ain’t Good Enough For You” as he stood right in front of me and gave the same “no way” look of utter disinterest that he did in Prague (the last time I was in front and had nothing between me and the sign and Bruce). I fear we are not ever going to get anything live from The Promise short of the occasional “Talk To Me,” ever, despite occasional outings here and there and the fact that horn charts and arrangements exist.
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Also see: Shameless Brucebait, the Midwest Report