Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, CenturyLink Center, Omaha, 11-15-12
One, two, three: “Reason To Believe,” finally back in the set; then “Johnny 99,” and you think, HMMMMM. And then “Atlantic City,” which is dark if you think of it that way, the way I do, the images of the wrecked boardwalk in my head, but if you’re the people next to us, who have never seen Bruce before, you’re just excited because you’re getting to hear your favorite song. I am kind of standing there and wondering and thinking, what is going on, trying to guess at what, exactly, Bruce is thinking, that he wouldn’t, he couldn’t–would he?
No, he wouldn’t; here’s “Hungry Heart” and it’s not just “Hungry Heart,” he’s out at the platform and then he is going to beg to crowdsurf back, despite it being a large pit and not very full (411 bands handed out; everyone got in). The effort was impressive; he was propelled back to the platform in no time at all. I chalked it up to Midwestern industriousness. But it opened curtains and let some sunlight into the room.
“My City of Ruins” has become this living organism, this absolute stone cold spiritual; it is carrying Danny and Clarence and Asbury Park past and future and right now, and then Bruce decided that it needed to include everyone else the rest of us are carrying. It is such a huge and powerful moment, when he walks over stage right and just stands there, holds the silence, sees if he can get the audience to hold the silence. I am always rooting for the audience to go with it, to let that moment be that moment; Omaha was over in a flash, falling back into shouts of “Clarence” and “Big Man” from all sides. The horns in MCOR remain one of the best moments in the show.
Tonight it was “Bus Stop” instead of “Spirit,” which I appreciated, with an introduction which brought us back to Asbury Park and its past as this shore town that somehow was “a big city on the beach” because of its inclusiveness. I do not, however, think that there needs to be an Everett Bradley solo in this song. I would rather have had a Garry Tallent bass solo than that.
“Sherry Darling” was good and fine and came out of the sign gathering, although there were just too many signs for it tonight;
I am irked to know that it replaced “Stolen Car” (it wasn’t; I misunderstood someone else’s rant after the show). Someone tossed Santa hats onstage and were properly rebuked that it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. “Lost In The Flood” was a goosebump moment, the end especially, Bruce conducting the band raining thunder down on all sides, he himself channeling the forces of nature with the bottom tuning peg on the guitar, back and forth, sounding like a car revving the motor, racing, racing, racing, and then peeling the corner, burning rubber, pulling away.
He comes out after that carrying an unfamiliar yet beautiful black Gretsch and although I don’t know what is going on, I know it’s going to be good. “State Trooper” was stunning; it was everything “State Trooper” should be; vivid, haunting, dark. It reminded me so much of those moments in the BITUSA shows where he had to get the crowd to stop and be there with him for a minute, to give them enough so that they would allow those quieter moments. There was some lovely distortion at the end courtesy a Bigsby tremolo and I found the whole thing slightly Jack White-esque. (This is not a bad thing.)
“Trapped” was another sign requested granted, and the crowd ate it up. It is interesting sometimes to see how this song fares with an audience; some of them just eat it up and know it, other people are all, “yeah, great, rocking song, I don’t know it, arms in the air, oh, look, sax solo.” I remember when you heard this coming out of every car that drove by the summer it came out; I will always remember it that way.
I am not a fan of the big band version of “Open All Night.” I’ve watched it, I’ve listened to it, and all my cranky self wants is for a straight electric band version without any frills or nonsense. I have not, however, actually been in the crowd and witnessed it live before. I still want a nice straight electric E Street version of “Open All Night” but I had so much fun watching Bruce have so much fun with this number, with this E Street Band. The horns loved it, Bruce jitterbugged and vamped and went crazy, we tried to swing dance in the middle of the pit unsuccessfully, and I think the big band “Open All Night” works better than the zydeco “Johnny 99,” although I do love the addition of the horns to that, so all is forgiven, ultimately.
I would have loved to have seen “Shackled and Drawn” in the #4 spot tonight instead of “Hungry Heart.” It would have fit and had a higher place in the set instead of the boogie-fest that was “Open All Night” and “Sunny Day.” “Raise Your Hand” was a gimme to the crowd, it gave Bruce another reason to go to the back platform (because without “Darlington” or “Highway” there weren’t a lot of other opportunities).
I was in favor of “Highway Patrolman,” and loved the light band arrangement that helped fill things in; the singers were an especially lovely touch. “Backstreets” next was a big wow and a big fuck yeah but it was also – goddamn, how incredibly dark this whole show has been. They have all been dark to some extent lately, in their own different ways; this was post-hurricane dark, this was light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel dark, this was dark but hopeful. All of which makes sense and is right and fitting and true.
“Rocky Ground” was audibled and was supposed to be there in the encore, and for reasons that escape me completely he keeps tossing this one out. And then, after chiding the audience earlier that it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet, up came the “Did Santa come to Omaha?” sign and the Santa hat and then suddenly Bruce realized that this was going to be a problem, trying to ho ho ho, and — “Big Man! We need you!”, he cried out.
Clearly this had not been thought about or rehearsed or soundchecked (although Ed Manion had no problem pulling off the horn solo); what hadn’t been worked out was who was going to do Clarence’s lines in the song, which are not trivial, and he hadn’t thought about it once before tonight. It was beautiful and sad in the same way “City of Ruins” is still sad and the way that the video for “Tenth” still makes me cry and the way that I do Clarence’s dance from the No Nukes version of “Thunder Road” almost every time I see “Thunder Road” these days (do you know, that video made everyone in my high school decide that Clarence was gay, and would tell me that with gusto every time I walked down the hall and forgot to hide the side of the notebook that I’d written BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND on; it is odd what we remember and when we remember it). The fact that Bruce hadn’t thought about it until now is beautiful, and it is why I would like to punch anyone who thinks that Bruce needs to cut “Tenth” from the setlist; we are still missing Clarence, it is a very big hole, and it will remain that way for some time yet.
Another report from me (for a larger audience) on brucespringsteen.net