I was happily off the clock last weekend at the Springsteen show in Brooklyn, until Bruce opened with “Purple Rain.” By the time the show hit “Backstreets” I had an idea of what I thought I wanted to say, and woke up Sunday morning and basically let the piece write itself. My debut for NPR Music.
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Bruce was in an excellent, jovial mood. He played to the back often and even acknowledged the fans up on the Chase Bridge seats in the rafters. The crowd also was engaged and energetic and the overall crowd energy was a million times better than the first Garden gig. They were loud. They sang in all the right places. The joint bounced from “Meet Me In The City.” You remember why you love seeing Springsteen at the Garden on nights like this.
I went on record on Twitter during the show stating that Saturday night in Pittsburgh was one of the strongest tour openers in years, and an overall fantastic performance, especially of The River. I stand by that now, even later. I literally do not have enough superlatives to apply to what was a first-night-of-the-tour performance, or in fact any performance. When great bands rehearse, it only helps them, and this was so clearly visible on Saturday. It also takes pressure off of Bruce, because he’s less worried about leading the band, and that lets him apply his energies towards the performance.
Salon: Springsteen worked slow for a reason: New “Ties That Bind” box set chronicles the fascinating and frustrating road to “The River” and also “Trouble in the heartland,” indeed: See Bruce Springsteen get political on the day after Reagan’s election in this amazing concert film
Vulture: Tracklisting the Single-Album Version of Bruce Springsteen’s The River/The Ties That Bind That Could’ve, Should’ve Been – in which I try my hand at sequencing a single-album version of TTTB.
Around 8:55pm, when there was still no sign of the E Street Band, one hour after ticket time, I said something like, “This had better be the best setlist in the world tonight.” It was hot, crowded, it had started to pour unexpectedly right around 5pm, and it was time for the show to start.
Who could have known what the second night in Paris was going to be like? There was a setlist, apparently, which got tossed to the wayside rapidly, as Bruce called audible after audible, hitting the right notes, putting together a collection of songs that worked, that wasn’t just a jukebox or a greatest hits machine, that wasn’t pandering to the crowd (a crowd which, by the way, did not need pandering to. They were eating out of his hand from the first note). There was amazing energy on the floor, in the pit, in the very top rows of the venue, people standing up with their arms up in the air for almost every song. I was standing about 8 rows back from the barrier between Stevie and Patti (closer to Stevie) and was surrounded by Germans, Parisians, and a whole host of Scandinavians. The dude who looked like trouble, wearing the faux biker colors and Las Vegas baseball cap, turned out to be the dude jumping up and down excited for “Easy Money” and who knew “Seven Nights To Rock” by heart. You were happy for the 20-something German girls who had a “Glory Days” sign. You held a water bottle for the guy from Norway trying to take a picture of Bruce at the piano with his iphone.
In 30 million years, I honestly never expected it. Everyone was blah blah blah Mick Jagger, blah blah blah Bob Dylan, blah blah blah. We knew how early the Bruce setlist had leaked out the previous day and so stayed far, far away from the internet. Seeing Bruce with U2 was on the bucket list, but we didn’t know how it would ever actually come to pass.