Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, jobing.com Arena, Glendale, AZ, 12-6-12
I thought the show was going to open with one of those numbers where Bruce walks onstage solo with an acoustic guitar, and was later perplexed when only Max, Roy and Bruce walked onstage – only to be followed a few moments later by the rest of the band. The perplexity did not end when the band kicked into a mostly-acoustic version of “Surprise, Surprise,” for reasons that still escape me: did they drive through Surprise, Arizona? Did someone meet up with Bruce at the hotel and make a request? Was this Stevie’s fault? It wasn’t exactly how I thought Bruce would kick off what I hoped would be a barn-burner of a last US show of the Wrecking Ball tour.
He then made up for it with the next sprint, and it was a high-energy one: “No Surrender,” “I’m A Rocker,” “Hungry Heart,” complete with crowd surf. I have never been dead center before for a crowd surf since the very first time Bruce went into the crowd, and didn’t realize that the rush of people who are propelling him from the back platform basically run into the people already there, creating a sardine-can effect. It was all good fun as Bruce passed over my head, and although there were many, many tall people keeping him high up in the air, I was able to genuinely help propel him forward. I love the trust and the fun and the unpredictability of it but sometimes I wish for just a little less spectacle.
We had barely caught our breath before he stepped to the front in the silver spotlight for what would be a short, sharp, 78-ish “Prove It,” not quite full fledged and searing enough for me to bestow it with the full description, but close enough. “Trapped” had one of the loudest crowds I have been in for some time. “Lost In The Flood” was wonderful as always, even as a woman behind me complained that he “always” did it because she’d heard it three times already. I myself happen have an above-average LITF attendance at something like 16 performances, but you would never hear me complain about its presence in a show. The solos in this one are always interesting, never the same; these days he is playing with a drive and a muscle and a loud yet contained roar. At the end, the very end, he extended his left hand out sideways to direct the band, just a sliver of light in the darkness, as they brought the song to a close. Please, let me see that 16 more times.
In “My City of Ruins,” Bruce noted his history with Phoenix, how he used to come here when a tour ended and “get a room at the Holiday Inn by the airport… this is when Phoenix was a town — nothing but a big town!” Of course this is the place where he used to sell tickets even when he didn’t sell tickets in many other places, where he played his first arena, where the “Rosalita” video was filmed. (We drove over to the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum earlier in the day so I could take a photograph; that video on television was a huge, huge thing to me, as I’m sure it was to many of you.) I also noted the upturn of optimism in the telling of the Asbury Park story: “We’ll be back, so come visit!”
At some point during the roll call, as Bruce was singing “it’s all right,” the crowd picked it up and sang it back, even when Bruce stopped singing, as the spotlights came up on the organ and stage right corner, they sang it back with warmth and affection. For every person for whom it was their first show, there were plenty of people from all over the world who made sure to make it to Arizona tonight.
The signs came up. I don’t know what the problem was, except that there were an awful lot of signs for things that were not songs. There were signs about dancing and playing guitar and singing and a new ridiculous trend of not one song on each side of a sign but a list of songs someone wants Bruce to hear. I had a new sign for tonight, and while he definitely saw it, he showed no desire to call for it.
Noting that there were many people in the crowd who had been following the tour: “There are fans, and there are stalkers — you’re past that,” he noted that someone had asked for the song yesterday and led the band into a clearly rehearsed version of “Be True.” While it wasn’t on my sign, it might as well have been; it’s probably my second favorite song. Ed Manion pulled out a beautiful, warm sax solo at the end.
Not happy with the first batch of signs, Bruce looked out into the crowd and called out “bring that electrified one up here,” as a sign illuminated with Christmas lights for “Light of Day” was propped against the mic stand. Max got to see the sign and started the song just fine, but I noted Garry having to walk over and look at the sign a few moments late.r He didn’t seem too phased by it; I would imagine not much phases him by now. It is very, very good to have this one back in the setlist.
Surprisingly, the Apollo Medley reappeared, but then not surprisingly, as Bruce dedicated it to Sam Moore, who lives in the area and who I had hoped might show up. After another foray to the back platform, as he returned to the stage, he found Sam sitting on the side of the stage, and Bruce sat with him and riffed on lines from 634-5789 back and forth. Sam is not looking like he is in the best of health, which probably precluded an onstage visit, but he still has the voice of an angel and I was just so happy to hear him.
“Thunder Road” continues to hit me when I least expect it; tonight it was the horns at the end, that moment after Jake plays the first line and then the rest of them come in. I was thinking, we will never hear “Thunder Road” the way we are used to hearing it because Clarence is gone, just like I’ll never have my mom’s candied sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving again because she is also no longer with us and I never got to ask her for the recipe. Like Bruce says earlier in the show, this is for your ghosts too.
Another shout-out to folks who “traveled a long way,” and Bruce heads for the piano. I love the little ritual of Roy nodding and the occasional handshake when he vacates the piano bench. I was not expecting “Incident”; I feel greedy I have had three “Incidents” this tour; I feel overwhelmed that I have had multiple solo piano “Incidents”. I loved that the crowd stood there and let him sing it, only joining in at the end. Okay, there were a few idiotic bozos who had to woof during the end, but for the most part, everyone let it just be magic.
I felt bad that Roy had to dance with someone tonight; not that he had to dance with her, but that she seemed to take the dancing so incredibly serious. (The dancer had a sign saying that she was a teacher and Bruce said something about this highly educated woman was dancing with the only member of the band to hold a diploma.) “Santa,” and Bruce asks for a hat, only to be pelted by dozens, duly handed out to the rest of the band.
I headed back towards the back platform for Tenth, something I’ve never done and don’t usually do, but that was exactly why I did it, I wanted to be back there with Bruce this time, this last official US time this year. There was Clarence’s son up there, watching the video tribute. There was Bruce up there, watching the video. He cries, you know, when he’s up there. There are actual tears streaming out of his eyes, it wasn’t sweat, you don’t have to be that close to see it. I don’t know how anyone could be tired of this or wish it to be retired; how could you have a heart and wish that? I cried; I still cry; I will cry for as long as I have tears left. I will mourn. I will be sad. I will be glad I have my memories.
And then it was over. It felt lighter, more celebratory, I wasn’t wishing for more (although I always want more, who am I kidding). But there will be more shows; there are more shows; I am going to see the band on Wednesday, even. We have them. We still have them. We are lucky.
Also see Reports from the Road on brucespringsteen.net