Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Mohegan Sun Arena, May 17, 2014

When the house lights went down Saturday night, I had a lot of hopes for the evening. I was waiting for that moment when Steve walked back on stage again, I was waiting for the first notes of the first song, I was waiting for the crowd to settle in and the gaggle of teenage boys next to me to stop poking me with their elbows. I was not at all expecting to hear the first notes of the alternate “Racing” and was pretty sure that I was wrong and that I was going to feel pretty dumb once Bruce started singing — except that, yes, Bruce was starting the Saturday night penultimate show of the tour at a casino by playing the alternate version of “Racing In The Street” from The Promise. Which is an interesting choice to say the least, but interesting from the perspectives of tone and intent: it’s brighter, not as solemn as the album cut, but it’s obscure as all fuck to the casual fan and could run the risk of falling over flat and then it’s a flurry of gathering signs or “Hungry Heart” to try to win them back.

And then I forgot about “Clampdown.” I know, right? I forgot about “Clampdown.” To be honest I was kinda worried about seeing it live, it’s been difficult for them to get it down, and please do not try to tell me that the raggedness is its charm and that the Clash wouldn’t have sung a polished version, because that just shows me that you do not know what you are talking about. “Clampdown” ALWAYS delivered, and this is exactly one of the songs where you have to nail it, you have to hit it hard, or it doesn’t work. Morello sings the song like someone who’s been singing it his entire life and Bruce is singing his interpretation of it and there have been some, shall we say, mixed results. And I wasn’t sure I liked the horns or the tone, it was just too bright and cheery for a song that’s about social justice and inequality and prejudice–which is of course why it is perfect for the E Street Band.

But then the first notes hit and it was like Pavlov just rang a bell: “WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO NOW??” and all bets were off, I took off my glasses and stuffed my notebook into my purse and threw myself into that song like there was no tomorrow. I mean, I know the words to “Clampdown” like I know the words to “Born To Run”. I hung the words to the “Anger can be power” verse on every dorm room door I had in college. And it was tight and brilliant and worked, it really worked, and THEY ARE SINGING THIS IN A CASINO where the Republican Party of Connecticut is having their annual convention right next door, and it was all pretty fucking great. (Okay, maybe the end was a little rough and Bruce couldn’t quite figure out how to end it crisply and we were working in a few too many places, really, no complaints here. None.)

“Badlands” after is just about as great as a segue you can hope for, Bruce smashing the guitar against his chest for maximum distortion, and then against the mic stand, over and over again. Bruce audibles in “Ties That Bind” and yells “C’mon, Steve!” and the sub-sonic roar that arose from the crowd as he stepped to the mic was gorgeous and heart-rending and the very definition of homecoming. He kept it going by going into — of course! — “Two Hearts,” and the two of them played it up for all that it was worth, wrung every bit of fun and goodness and friendship out of every single moment, every single second. And the second-best thing was watching the smiles on everyone else’s faces, Roy and Garry and Nils and the horns and, well, everyone was glad Stevie was back. At the end of the song, Steve acts fatigued. “You do this every night?” he asked. “Every fuckin’ night?” “He’s a little out of shape,” Bruce magnanimously explained to us, before they brought it home.

I don’t remember what Bruce said next, exactly, that made me realize what the next song was going to be, but then when he started asking, “What does one plus one equal in math?” it was a lock, and we’re screaming THREE and he’s saying, “No, no, in MATH” and we yell TWO and then he says, “Okay, what does one plus one equal in rock and roll?” and we yell THREE! THREE! “Einstein didn’t know! Shakespeare didn’t know! Math isn’t math at all…it’s magic.” And beautifully, perfectly, the front of the house screams ‘GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING, THE CHURCH MOUSE IS SNORING..” along with Bruce. “Frankie Fell In Love!” It was wonderful and gorgeous and they totally nailed it.

One more time for “High Hopes,” which I love so much that I hope he finds a way to keep it in the set from time to time. “Raise Your Hand” was unexpected, and got all the signs up, except that I’m not sure he really wanted that to be a sign interlude more than he wanted something to get him to the back platform. And it’s shorter than, say, “Hungry Heart,” which caused Bruce to gesture to the band to keep vamping because the XL beer he bogarted along the back rail was taking him longer to finish and he wanted to finish the whole goddamn thing. (The teenage boys adjacent loved this display of machismo, while previously looking askance at the crowd’s enthusiasm for anything they didn’t know or understand, which seemed to stop right around “Darkness”. Really, you cannot make fun of me at a Bruce Springsteen concert because I am a wholehearted and unabashed dork, they were just too loud when they were doing it, which is what pissed me off.)

Signs were retrieved upon the semi-successful delivery of Mr. Springsteen’s ass to the center platform, and what looked like a paper plate with a fork on it turned into “Quarter To Three” at full blast. Apparently Steve and Bruce were having a great time during the beginning of the song, which I could not see because of the fuckwit at the center platform who continued to hold their enormous sign up despite the fact that the signs had been chosen AND WERE BEING PLAYED. But it was still “Quarter To Three” and any “Quarter To Three” is amazing for me. This would be saxophone solo #1 for Mr. Eddie Manion this evening.

The “Stayin’ Alive” sign was Bruce’s head on Travolta’s body with a row of disco lights around it. And the singers come down front and Curt Ramm is there with the trumpet, this amazing, deconstructed interpretation of the song. I didn’t expect to EVER see this and it was absolutely tremendous in its execution and performance. At dinner after the show I said that there are certain moments in E Street history where I feel that the performance is amazing — the cover of “Thrill On The Hill” by Hank Ballard for one, “Frankie” (the other one) for two — and “Stayin’ Alive” was one of those moments. Every person on that stage was on their A game at that moment.

“Hearts of Stone”? Hearts of fucking Stone? Are you kidding me? Are you KIDDING me? And phones come out and people are called and you hold your breath, you really just hold your breath and try to take it all in, the vocals and the emotion and the depth and the soul. The song finishes, someone plays a note, I say “Talk To Me” and am scorned, except that – YES! TALK TO ME! And although I wish sometimes Bruce would lay off the shtick and just play the song, it was short and sweet and genuine and didn’t take away from the actual song, and he’s pulling out his pockets to show they are empty on the “full week’s pay” line. People behind the stage, all the way up on the top level, were going crazy. This is a small, intimate arena and these people did not sit down, they were on their feet dancing all night, everywhere I could see.

The 12 string guitar came out and I was guessing and praying this would be “Seven Angels” (which I’d seen the soundcheck spoiler for) and I have to tell you that I did not see “The Price You Pay” coming. “Price You Pay” into “American Skin” into “Promised Land,” got us back into an arc, and also delivered three of the best performances of those songs you will see. (“Promised Land” after “American Skin” remains one of those all-time genius, I-am-not-fucking-around segues, like “The Wall” into BITUSA.) They had sound problems during “Prove It” that were so bad that at first I was not sure what song they were playing (no piano, Max too high in the mix) and then “Jesse James” came out next (but at least it wasn’t Pay Me My Money Down, which was the second enormous sign at the platform that drove me bonkers with its size and I prayed he didn’t see). But it worked into “Shackled,” and Cindy was fabulous, like she always is, Bruce encouraging her to keep going again, and again, and again.

I was a little worried that the earlier festivities might mean they would omit “Ghost of Tom Joad,” but it was there and it worked and it was absolutely the best version of this version the song I’ve ever seen; the emotion was high but in check, the solos were phenomenal, the vocals were tight and crisp and striking, you wish for it to go on forever, you wish for missing friends to be here to see this. If this one of the last times I see Tom Morello sing this with Bruce, this was a good one to go out on. I love Tom and I am glad to have a new guitar foil for Bruce, but this was never going to be forever and we knew that going in.

“Radio Nowhere” is always great, and the crowd — who were not lost or distracted, but still there, hanging on every note — loves it. “The Rising” sounded fresh and crisp, and going into “Light of Day” was outstanding. The intro solo was muscular and powerful, Bruce pulling everything he could out of the guitar. Getting rid of the “Land of 1,000 Dances” makes the song stronger and I love the interlude of Nils and Max interplay.

“I’ll Work For Your Love,” acoustic, as the first song of the encore dissolves me in an instant puddle of tears, because that song in that spot is about us. The band comes back on and Bruce waves them off gently, talking about how a good song just needs a guy and a guitar to sing it, telling the story about how the next song is what he thinks is one of his best songs, talked about writing it in a beauty parlor at night on an out of tune piano, shared some thoughts on the history of hair care (“You used to have to dry your hair by sitting under these things the size of Pepsi machines! And you couldn’t talk to anyone why you did it!”) before explaining, “I was trying to invent a superhero whose sneakers I could fill,” and giving us “Growin’ Up.” There were by my count at least six signs in the pit requesting this song because the sign holder had just graduated high school / college / grad school, and I was glad for them that they got this, in this version, where he sang and then asked us to sing, and the entire arena fairly vibrated with the lyrics being sung back to him.

House lights, and BTR / DITD / 10th / Shout. I was glad that the hijinks for “Dancing” were capped to one special dance where Bruce got into the pit to dance with someone who needs crutches, and there were no karaoke, ‘can I dance with the lighting rigger’ ridiculous requests. We knew there would be at least one more because when Kevin came out to bring him the electric guitar before BTR, he definitely told him what he wanted after that, and while I expected “Thunder Road” I did not expect “If I Should Fall Behind,” another bittersweet song that in this place again spoke to us in the crowd. And then “Thunder Road,” the crowd singing loud and proud and full of love and emotion to meet Bruce’s.

And that was it; the night was done. It felt like a minute; it felt like six hours; it felt like forever. It was amazing and unpredictable and perfect, it was strong and Bruce drove the show with a clarity and vision that never faltered. It is a fine way to end the 2014 Springsteen Touring Season. I loved this band, I loved the horns, I loved the backing singers, I love them and will miss them next time out, whenever that will be.

P.S. To answer the questions, no, I am not there tonight, I have a commitment that could not be avoided.

P.P.S. LET THE RECORD REFLECT my previous acknowledgement of the greatness of “Seven Angels,” however.

P.P.P.S. I also filed a report on this show for brucespringsteen.net.


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10 Other Clash* Songs Bruce Springsteen Should Cover

You might think that I am lying if I tell you that I have had actual fantasies about Bruce playing “Clampdown” prior to it happening (it involved a guest appearance by Mick Jones [who, I have it on good authority, was at Hyde Park for the London Calling show] and not Tom Morello, but a girl CAN’T BE TOO PICKY). That said, I would like to present the other 10 Clash (or Joe Strummer) songs Mr. Springsteen (or his proxy in these matters, Mr. Morello) should consider playing. I tried to pick things that I thought the E Street Band could successfully play and would fit with the current show.

10. SOMEBODY GOT MURDERED: Before Joe Strummer left us, he was slated to do a “Storytellers” for VH1 and Bruce was going to appear as a guest. What song was he going to do? “Somebody Got Murdered”–which is more of a Mick song than a Joe song but I find it my duty to remind the world of this fact at least once a month. (HELLO THERE.) It’s got the same kinds of characters that Bruce has written about, who make choices they might not expect and then have to live with the consequences. There’s a version of this in Bruce’s head that I bet wouldn’t sound out of place on side 4 of The River.

9. BANK ROBBER: Put the lyrics against an acoustic guitar and this could go on Nebraska. Another character in a dead-end job, really. Bruce could sing the heck out of this. Put a twang on it, even.

8. STAY FREE: Yes yes yes another Mick song, but this tale of childhood friendship wouldn’t be out of place next to “Bobby Jean” (which I have a soft spot for). It’s a straight ahead rockin’ ballad with plenty of emotion, and lots of backing vocal potential.

7. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: “This is a public service announcement….with GUITAR!” There are so many possible segues, including “Seeds,” “Long Walk Home,” “Badlands,” “Promised Land”…the list goes on and on. Plus I think the syncopation would be easy to manage. It’s just loud and raucous but so was “Highway To Hell.”

6. DEATH OR GLORY: Another song of dead-end lives and bad choices by characters who seem doomed to repeat the past. But this is the verse:

‘n every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock ‘n’ roll
Grabs the mike to tell us he’ll die before he’s sold
But I believe in this-and it’s been tested by research
He who fucks nuns will later join the church

Not all that far from “nuns run bald through Vatican halls,” really. AND killer riffs to boot.

5. BRAND NEW CADILLAC: Not much I’m going to have to explain here. It’s Joe’s rockabilly fantasy in the middle of London Calling. Play this into Cadillac Ranch! Into Pink Cadillac! CADILLAC TRILOGY!!!!

4. COMPLETE CONTROL: A dude who had to take his manager to court just to have the right to record with who he wanted to is going to resonate with this story of the Clash fighting with their record label BIG TIME. Plus it’s loud and boisterous and has great guitar riffs (has one of the best opening riffs of all time) and is a total rock and roll shouter.

3. GARAGELAND: “We’re a garage band/ahh ahh ahh/we come from garage land” OH COME ON, what could be simpler?

2. BEFORE I GROW TOO OLD (SILVER AND GOLD): Cheating because this is from Joe’s last solo album, but Joe WROTE THIS SONG FOR JOHNNY CASH.

1. ARMS ALOFT IN ABERDEEN: Another one from Streetcore, this is a great rocker that tells a story of being on the road and playing in front of an audience. Pearl Jam have covered it too, for the same reasons that Bruce loves songs like “Travelin’ Band” and “Rockin’ All Over The World” (besides John Fogerty), and I’ve tried to lobby Brian Fallon for Gaslight Anthem to cover this too.

I could quite seriously justify at least another 20 songs and anyone who loves the Clash and Bruce would have their own list.


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Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Charlotte, NC, April 19, 2014

Back in the day, I used to have my circuit of Greenwich Village, the route I would take as a teenager to visit the various record stores. Each of them had their strengths and weaknesses, some had the bootleg records in the main section, others you had to ask behind the counter specifically, which I guess was to protect them from getting busted. Some would let you listen first, others wouldn’t, and it was at one of the latter that I picked up a bootleg that had “The Iceman” on it. It wasn’t labeled, had no cover art, and I took a big chance with my 15-year-old babysitting money when the guy behind the counter told me that it was amazing and that “any real Springsteen fan” had to have it. “Iceman” was on there, along with “Rendezvous” and “Taxi Cab” and in those pre-internet years, it was like owning some kind of Holy Grail. At some point, between moves and roommates the record got lost (or borrowed) and I’d forgotten all about it until Tracks came out and suddenly those long-lost songs were there again. It was like running into old friends you’d lost touch with.

So, when Bruce came out last night and out of absolutely nowhere–it wasn’t even in soundcheck spoiler reports–starts playing “The Iceman”–I was absolutely immersed into that sense of deja vu, taken back to the imaginary Springsteen concerts I’d attend in my teenage mind. It was spectacular, and immense, and pretty much perfect. The stage was dark, tiny pin spotlights on Bruce and Roy, hazy light on the singers and Charlie. It took a lot of guts to come out and hit a Saturday night crowd with a song 90% of them wouldn’t even know, especially one that required as much attention and tension as that one. There were deep breaths. There were quiet fist bumps. There were a lot of “Holy @#$%!” But mostly, it was just reveling in the magnificent performance of that particular song.

And then, lights back up, and I finally get to hear “High Hopes” and “Just Like Fire Would,” I finally get to see Tom Morello as part of the E Street Band. Those songs are fabulous exemplars of this version of the E Street Band as a well-oiled machine. There wasn’t a missed note, there wasn’t a slip, it was hard and driving and absolutely perfect. I love the intro of “High Hopes,” how it’s been deconstructed a little from the album, I love that bridge before the last refrain, Morello playing a riff straight out of Achtung Baby and then Bruce stepping to the mic to count down: “1! 2! 3! 4!” before the last instrumental refrain.

“Cadillac Ranch,” up next was absolutely and perfectly well-placed, “woods of Caroline” and all, and complete with cheesy choreographed moves at the front of the stage. All that was missing was that giant cowboy hat with HOBOKEN on it.

And then Bruce pulls a sign for “Louie Louie” out of the crowd and the little bubble of perfection dissolved.

I realize the E Street Band is the world’s greatest bar band and I will defend to the death their ability to be able to play anything on a dime. I like the opportunity for chaos and unpredictability. But I don’t like covers in a set four songs in. I like covers in the encore. I like covers later in the set. That said, the actual setlist as originally written was not all that exciting either, and I’m guessing that Bruce was hoping for the signs to liberate him. The problem was that the signs right down front were too complicated (“Incident”) or didn’t fit the emotional arc (the GIGANTIC “For You” sign that blocked my view of the center platform nonstop all evening, thanks ever so much). So we get “Louie Louie” and then “Mustang Sally” (I should note that the sign was basically the logo of the bar near Madison Square Garden that shares the same name), notable for the horn section and how Eddie Manion conducted the horns through the initial verse or two before, as usual, the professionals that they are, they snapped right into place. The background singers were having a great time, Charlie got a solo, and the crowd ate it up–even the security guard near us was singing along to “Mustang Sally.” And it was that great opportunity to watch Bruce be a band leader. But I would’ve traded it all for “Frankie Fell In Love.”

“Badlands” was the right call, and got us back on track (or so I hoped) and “No Surrender” for the teenage girls in the front was great. Bruce had to go into the side section to get a sign for “Out In The Street” (which had been on the setlist anyway), and then “Hungry Heart” and Bruce’s security rushes into the pit to make sure he can actually crowdsurf. (It was pretty touch and go there for a while, and my comment on the video I took was, “This isn’t going to end well.”) He gathered what seemed like every sign in the pit during the crowdsurf, and that’s what got us “From Small Things..,” dedicated “to the lady from Mahwah.”

It might seem impossible to be frustrated by the choice of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” next, and Bruce had a good time and did a fantastic Van Morrison imitation. My problem is that I’d take any Springsteen original just about any day over a cover song, especially when there’s a new album Bruce has told us repeatedly that he’s proud of, but is still under-represented in the set, and on a day when he’s released four additional brand new songs. (“American Beauty” was soundchecked, too.)

I was grateful for “Racing In The Street” in more ways than one. It was beautiful, just beautiful. Roy’s playing on this song never disappoints, and tonight his solo was warm, complex and melodical. “Jack of All Trades” was surprising, and the Morello solo was outstanding. This was the stretch where Morello really got to shine, “Wrecking Ball” and “Death To My Hometown,” watching Tom and Bruce sharing the mic for the last verse. It was odd to get used to seeing him up there, and seeing Nils on the other side of the stage, but I enjoyed the opportunities to watch Nils and Garry interact throughout the show.

Also of note was the shirt Bruce was wearing tonight, army green with red epaulets on the shoulder. My first comment was, “Did he lose his luggage and had to borrow something from Tommy?” I love Morello and I love that Bruce is inspired by him, and I’m happy to have him in the band, but my god the punk rock deities must roll over in their grave every night when he puts on an acoustic guitar for the intro to “Sunny Day,” which is both quite possibly the funniest and the most horrifying thing ever.

Morello started bouncing on his toes at the opening notes of “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” “Shackled and Drawn” is starting to feel a little worn around the edges but tonight Bruce spruced it up by letting Cindy have an extended interlude, exhorting the crowd, getting everyone up on their feet and their hands in the air. I worried we wouldn’t get “Ghost of Tom Joad” tonight, but did we ever: it was dark, deep, and incredibly fierce. “Light of Day” would be another prime selection in the right direction, Bruce opening by bashing his guitar against the mic stand for feedback, peering out at the crowd, waiting for response.

He began the encore by talking about the covers he’d played earlier, but didn’t get to finish the thought–instead, Bruce plucked another sign from the crowd, “DARKNESS (for Spanish Fans)”. This prompted a comment about all the fans from abroad who were in the crowd. Now, I love going to Europe and have a lot of European fans I count as friends, several who were here tonight. But I also enjoyed that this comment was met by a “USA! USA!” chant from the crowd.

Bruce then began to speak movingly and very personally about his life as a young musician in the 60’s, how that he never even knew anyone who was in the music business, that when he signed his record contract, neither he nor any member of the E Street Band had even been on an airplane. (He’s told that story several times recently, because he’s trying to make a point about how distant the world in New Jersey could be even from New York City.) This transitioned into his remembrances of the Cichon brothers, and “what they meant to our neighborhood, to our town, to that thing inside of you that felt that the best should get their shot.” He then dedicated it “to our veterans…this is a short prayer for my country.”

The pairing of “The Wall” and “Born In The USA”–especially the version of BITUSA that was played Saturday night–is one of the most pointed and most directly bitingly political that I think I’ve ever seen, and definitely one of the most direct I’ve ever heard. “The Wall” live has so much more life and spirit than it does on record, and the transition into BITUSA is a double-whammy the likes of which few others can execute. Morello got the solo in this one, too, and it was just as dark and intense. It was just breathtaking, especially the interaction between Tom and Bruce in that number particularly.

And then–“1, 2” and houselights and we’re back in party time, the usual encore territory. I still wish “Dancing” would go, I’m still happy that “10th” is around, and “Shout” down South was an absolute delight. Quite seriously, they were dancing in the very last rows of the very upper level.

The band left the stage and the pump organ came to the front, as Bruce sat there and spoke, going back to his refrain of “The older you get, the more it means,” and thanking the audience for “your support and faith in our music and our work. You have given us great joy,” before magically capturing a crowd that probably wanted to beat the traffic and get home to pay the babysitter with a beautiful, expansive “Dream Baby Dream.”

“The E Street Band loves you,” one of my favorite slogans ever in the history of life, and with a wave, the evening ended. Not perfect, but pretty damn close, and that’s more than good enough.

I also wrote the Notes From The Road on brucespringsteen.net.


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Bruce Springsteen Opens the US Tour With A Van Halen Cover

Kevin Buell, Springsteen’s guitar tech, comes out dressed as a referee and holds up a basketball for a tip off between Bruce and Nils.(The latter wins despite being shorter, because although Bruce is undeniably in better shape, Nils is the better athlete.) But instead of “Badlands” or “We Take Care Of Our Own,” what do we hear instead?

“Jump.” By Van Halen.

Yeah, that just happened.

I blame Morello, but not in a serious ‘blame’ way, but it is likely given that he was the one who asked if there was an intersection between AC/DC and the E Street Band.

It was cold and it was the first show after some time off, and although we know they have rehearsed some, it was cold and wet and miserable. It was the type of weather not friendly to reeds or guitar strings or throats. It was hard for the crowd, and Bruce had to work the crowd hard. It took a toll, you could see it by the end of the night. There’s nothing more that Bruce Springsteen relishes than working an audience who might be a little subdued for whatever reason, but it was hard, hard work tonight for everyone.

We have been hired here tonight to bring the spirit to Dallas. We have been hired here tonight – in a light monsoon- to bring the spirit to Dallas.

Bruce walked on railings. Bruce leaned on the crowd, and then he jumped in shallowly at one point and had them surf him from one platform to the other. He brought people up onstage. “Dancing” became a selfie-fest to the point of absurdity, with Bruce declaring, “Selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie, selfie” at the very end, words I never thought I would hear onstage. (It was kind of adorable, though, how he made sure that the littlest dancers who couldn’t squirm their way into the selfie-fest still got their own. Just kind of.)

Nils is in Stevie’s spot and has not quite settled in yet, as there were cues that he did not quite make due to the fact that he was playing guitar. Garry Talent took one of them prominently, and with a big grin on his face, during “No Surrender.”

It wasn’t quite a Born In The USA show but almost, short of that big band BITUSA that would have fit right in. They are still firing on all cylinders even if they are a tiny bit rusty; they will shake that off quickly.

And Patti was back tonight; who knows if she will be back for good, although I certainly expect her to be at Thursday’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance. Bruce was visibly pleased to have her up there with him, whispering conspicuously to her during the bows with the result being that she remained onstage during an acoustic “Thunder Road,” accenting the refrain. It was gorgeous.

See you Thursday.


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Springsteen – 10 of the Best, Part 2

I very much enjoyed the chance to contribute to the Guardian’s ongoing “10 of the Best” series on the subject of Mr. Bruce Springsteen. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the songs that didn’t make the cut and why (and more on some that did).

The parameters of the assignment were very specifically to go for deep cuts, no hit singles, nothing with ‘born’ in the title, and to not try to be definitive, but rather be personal. The tracks also had to be available on UK Spotify, which means that no I could not put up “Sugarland” or anything similar and had to accept the synth-heavy “Seeds” from 75/85, and why there is a heavy prevalence of “Tracks” material. (When you have a commercially available 66-song outtake retrospective that covers a massive portion of an artist’s career, the chances are good that those songs are going to dominate a ‘deep cuts’ list.)

It was harder to pick the songs than it was to write the piece. I understood the ‘be personal’ directive but I personally needed the list to get nodding assent from someone who views Springsteen the same way I do (from a more historical, critical perspective) but yet not be so obscure that the average fan would read it and not find it at all interesting or worth checking out. Given that I live with someone who is the former, it was an easy test; he agreed with half, and still thinks I’m wrong about “Thundercrack” (but understands why I felt it needed to be there) so I felt like I’d done a decent job.

You are still not going to agree with me, and that’s okay.

1) THE PROMISE: It was between “The Wish” and “The Promise” and I went with the first one because I feel like everyone knows about the latter; it already has its place in history. “The Wish” you’re only going to experience if you’re in Jersey or Adele is in attendance and like I said in the piece, I see “The Wish” as the counterpart to “The Promise.” Cut out of the paragraph about “The Wish” is how Bruce often introduces it by mentioning how singing about your mother is a tricky thing for someone in rock and roll, and that it’s easier for someone in country or rap to get away with it, often referencing Tupac’s “African Queen” as an example of the latter.

2) SEASIDE BAR SONG: I felt like I couldn’t have both “Seaside Bar Song” and “So Young And In Love” on the same list, no matter how much I love the track, and gave the edge to “So Young” despite the Bo Diddley mention in “Seaside.”

3) HELD UP WITHOUT A GUN: Putting this song on that list would be like bringing a sign to a show for “I’m A Rocker” more than once.

4) NONE BUT THE BRAVE: I really love the song and championed it a lot at the time it came out but couldn’t make a case for it to replace any of the 10 I already had.

5) JANIE DON’T YOU LOSE HEART: I was seriously obsessed with this song once upon a time but see #4, I couldn’t take out anything I already had on the list. Plus it really isn’t that obscure in my mind, despite the fact that I know that half the arena would take it as their cue to go get beer if it showed up in a setlist.

6) LOOSE ENDS / RESTLESS NIGHTS: I originally felt that I kind of had to have one or the other on a list like this and ultimately went with “Loose Ends” as it’s my personal preference, but ultimately decided that as much as I am a proud member of the Disc Two Of Tracks Fan Club and love when they show up in the live set, I couldn’t make a strong enough case for it to replace anything else on the list.

7) MY LOVE WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN: I kept fighting the inclusion of this one because a song that leads off “Live In New York City” did not exactly meet my definition of ‘deep cut’ but kept it on the list because I think it’s such an important song to the band especially right now. (And does that out of rhythm tambourine at the beginning of the track bug anyone else as much as it bugs me?)

8) LIGHT OF DAY: There is actually no argument I can make about the exclusion of “Light of Day” except that there was no way I was going to subject an innocent public to that 16 minute version of it from “Plugged” which is the only one commercially available.

9) ANYTHING FROM THE PROMISE: I tried, I really, really did, but “One Way Street” is not my jam despite the beauty of the horns and “City Of Night” did not hold up. “It’s A Shame” was a strong contender for a while but I just did not think it had the staying power or interest. I was not going to insult people by putting “Talk To Me” on there. I have a really mixed relationship with those songs.

10) FRANKIE: It was this one or “Thundercrack.” Couldn’t have both.

10a) TROUBLE RIVER: I love love love that ‘woo!’ (h/t Almost Famous) but picked Seven Angels instead. Those songs get a bad rap. I think it helps that I lived abroad during those years so I picked up less negativity about the post-E Street projects.

IN DEFENSE OF THUNDERCRACK: I bought my first bootleg (back when we bought them in the Village on vinyl and paid several weeks of babysitting money) so I could hear “Thundercrack.” I can’t tell you how I even knew about it, I must have read an article or a review somewhere that talked about it. Somewhere along the line that record disappeared and I never replaced it. I remember the day that “Tracks” arrived in the mail and it was the first song I listened to, out of those 66 songs, that was the first one. I think its place as Rosie’s predecesor is important and I truly feel that it is a slice of the Jersey Shore, and the fact that it just falls flat on its face when its played anywhere outside of the core market makes it that much more special. No, it’s not a rock and roll guitar screeching testosterone and teenage angst filled screamer, but it’s fun and silly and joyous and I have always cherished the good time rock and roll attitude that is part of Bruce’s general ethos.

SINCE SOMEONE ASKED: I have seen all of the songs in the Guardian list but one (“Seven Angels”).



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Springsteen – 10 of the Best

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The Guardian in the UK asked me to contribute to their ongoing series – deep cuts only AND they had to be available on UK Spotify. Trust me when I say that picking the songs was harder than writing the actual piece, and there were some restless nights (ahem) over what I had to cut out.


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Springsteen Covering “Royals” by Lorde

“I drive a Cadillac in my dreams” isn’t that far out of the man’s oeuvre, now, is it? Or songs about poor kids breaking out of their small town existence?

This cover is blowing my mind. All week we’ve been debating Crowded House and Split Enz (and this could happen now that Neil Finn is going to tonight’s show) but we also walked around saying, “There’s no way he’d do a ‘Royals’ cover” and yet, here it is.


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It’s a beautiful thing. Get yours here.




WNYC’s Soundcheck

Thanks to WNYC for inviting me on to discuss High Hopes! Click to listen on their site.


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Celebrate “High Hopes” at Springsteen Night 2014 at WORD Jersey City, January 14

Marc Dolan and I are at it again on Tuesday, January 14, at WORD’s new store in Jersey City. We’ll be joined this time by Kimberly Austin of Rock Book Show, who will be our charming moderator. She is a great interviewer and this will definitely take things up a notch.

There will be a raffle with prizes courtesy of our sponsor, Backstreets Magazine, including a copy of the new issue!

So if you’re moping that you didn’t get a spot on the Band Bench at Jimmy Fallon or if you couldn’t make it, come see us!


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