Do You Like Good Music? On “Sweet Soul Music” & “Shake” in Kilkenny
There are rules in my house about sign requests: that we don’t bring signs for cover songs, that we don’t bring signs that request items, that a sign should be for one song only, that it should be a size that will not block the people behind us. We have tried hard over the years to think of signs that will get picked or would get played or that Bruce would find amusing and therefore would get played.
In this house, we love soul music. Sam Moore is responsible for us having met in the first place. Otis Redding was an early shared interest. We had hoped to adopt two cats a few years ago and were going to name them Sam & Dave–they were already gone, so we came home with a tuxedo cat that we promptly named Jackie Wilson. We didn’t grow up with this music it but we found it at a young and impressionable age and it stuck with us, hard.
Years ago I was in favor of a “Shake” sign after it started showing up again at the various private benefits Bruce used to play for his children’s school. Glenn would tell me that it was a waste and that he would never play it. I would agree and not make the sign.
When deciding what to do for the last shows in Kilkenny, I decided to pick the song I would want to hear if this was the last time I was going to see the E Street Band. I am lucky in that I have seen pretty much everything I could ever have wanted to see. But “Sweet Soul Music” is a relative rarity for me and to me it is one of the most important covers the band has ever done because it represents the ethos of the band. Bruce could have skipped the whole “We are a rock and soul band” intro at the beginning of the tour and played “Sweet Soul Music” instead. Although I got to hear a version at the MSG River show (and had heard earlier versions in 81 and 88 as part of the Detroit Medley), I wanted to hear it with the singers and the full horn section. Instead of just relying on neon cardboard and sturdy black marker, I got creative. I researched. I borrowed the color printer at the office. I had multiple signs in different sizes.
At Saturday’s show, I was amazed that the Italian guy behind me had a sign for “Sweet Soul Music” and that during “Out In The Street,” as the camera followed Bruce down the walkway, there were two if not three more signs for the song. I don’t think I’d ever seen one, let alone five signs at one show.
So when he came back to the center mic carrying not only “Sweet Soul Music” but also “Shake,” I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I waited for Bruce to stop talking about stumping the band (because if they are stumped by songs they used to play regularly then we have a larger problem, and we are all smarter than that and he should know it) and to start playing the song so I could stand there and let the glorious horns and rnb guitar wash over me.
First, I will tell you that I guarantee no one had more fun during those two songs than Glenn and I did. We danced. We shook our asses, HARD. We sang along. We cued the horns and the beats and jumped and waved our hands in the air. We sweated. We beamed. Everyone around us thought we were completely mental (except for the other guy with the “Sweet Soul Music” sign, but even then I think he may have had second thoughts at having engaged us in conversation).
You don’t have to take my word for it because the videos are online: both versions were awful. They are even worse than they sounded standing there hearing them. They were sloppy and missed the cues and the mics on the horns weren’t turned up for the right parts. I mean, I know these songs–maybe not as well as, say, Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen and Garry Tallent, he of the massive 78 record collection, know these songs–but I KNOW THESE SONGS so I know when they are not played well. Part of it also was also that the sound mix in Kilkenny was not that great and they hadn’t soundchecked these songs most likely, so the sound people were kind of at a loss. If the singers were singing backup, I couldn’t hear them.
But, I got to hear my song, I got to dance to my songs with my fella, and that’s pretty damn good. And as for the rest of the show? While I wish he had played something else and was disappointed in the energy and sloppiness and uninspired setlist, it was still Bruce Springsteen on a Saturday night and I was three deep off the center platform. In no universe does that suck.
What were you doing?