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Gaslight Anthem “Get Hurt” Record Release Show, 315 Bowery, 8-7-14

When I walked out of the front door of CBGB’s on October 15, 2006, I physically didn’t look back. It was a very deliberate choice, a very specific intention, a very definite goodbye. When I walked down Bowery for the first time after the inception of the John Varvatos store in that space, I didn’t realize it was there and I saw it and I reacted instinctively, flashing two middle fingers as the only conceivable reaction. From then on I made sure to walk on the east side of the street and confine my gestures to something that wasn’t quite as confrontational as that first reaction.

I got nothing against the guy, personally; he pays a lot of my favorite artists to appear in his ads and it’s not his fault that Hilly Krystal was an awful businessman. But he’s turned my “sacred ground” (to steal a thought from Jesse Malin) into a store that sells $350 sneakers. I don’t care if he left the walls intact and some stickers in place, it’s a temple to the kind of capitalist fashionista bullshit that we were all fighting against to begin with, and I vowed I would never set foot inside the joint.

This was a promise I was successfully able to keep until last night, when Gaslight Anthem played a ‘secret’ invitation-only album release show in the space, and it was time to put up or shut up. They’re one of my favorites and I wasn’t going to be able to make it to any of the regular tour dates due to schedule conflicts. When the show was first announced there was no immediate way for the great unwashed to get inside, aside from two tickets given away on one of the fan forums. That made me hate everything about it a million times more, and solidified my reserve. But then the fan club sent an email offering tickets, and 15 minutes later I had an email in my inbox telling me I was in.

The Bowery now is completely unrecognizable from the days where I sat on the sidewalk outside CBGB between sets and talked to my friends and smoked cigarettes. Standing out front on that sidewalk again, waiting to get into a show, was somewhat surreal and at the same time, felt completely normal. There were less dudes trying to bum cigarettes off you (they never asked for change because they knew we didn’t have any) and more tourists posing out front and trying to walk inside despite the CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE EVENT sign. I wonder if they are posing for photos because of the clothes or because of the music. I decide I would rather not have the answer to that question.

What wasn’t SOP, however, were the rope lines and the bouncers and women in six-inch-heels holding iPads and handing out wristbands. I am watching the beautiful people being let in ahead of us and calculating the length of the stage, based on my knowledge of the width of the room; I’d never even peeked inside so I had no idea what it looked like. I had the presence of mind to ask a friend to tell me what the room was like now, because at some point in the previous day or two I had realized that every survival strategy I had for that venue was no longer going to be valid.

That was, of course, until the doors opened and I swear to god it was actually not all that different. Instead of weaving my way past the dude trying to talk his way into the show and the idiots hanging out at the bar and the clueless not being able to find their way by the light of the neon signs, I am weaving my way past EXACTLY THE SAME PEOPLE, except they’re all trying to pose nicely for photographers and get free drinks from the sponsored makeshift bar and none of them are standing at the front of the stage, but were instead hovering in the general vicinity, only to suddenly be surrounded by a bunch of punk kids moving forward with military precision. The first five rows were filled before they knew what hit them. Score one for the good guys.

I took a minute to get my bearings. I believe the walls are actually undoctored, but the floor is even (or at least more even) and you know how you always headed RIGHT when you came in so you wouldn’t be in that passageway to the dressing rooms and bathrooms and the continual walkway of people (I still have no idea where these people were ever going)? They set up the stage flush left so now the passageway to the back is on the right. The stage is enormous, lower, and all on one level, there’s no enormous permanent speaker columns to wedge yourself against, but I believe it’s in approximately the same place. There aren’t the weird angles, it’s a clothing store they moved stuff out of to have a show, but it’s still that one big long room that’s not as narrow because everything in it was ripped out and sold or stored or hoarded or in a museum somewhere. “Armagideon Time” comes over the PA just as four women in cocktail dresses and heels try to push their way up to the front and I begin to consider that deciding to come here was, perhaps, a grave error on my part. I am not sure I can get through this, standing here.

Jesse Malin comes on and sings songs about Arturo Vega and covers “Rock and Roll Radio” and reminds us we are standing on holy ground. I am not sure that most of the audience realize this; I am not sure how much I care that they do. The space between the flimsy rope line and the stage is so full of photographers they literally cannot move; someone next to me asks them if they are going to be there for all of Gaslight and are told “yes”. Literally there is such a wall of photographers that the band comment later that they cannot see any actual audience. (Luckily, most of them had to file so they did leave after a few songs; the view then was blocked by special people with special wristbands taking their special photos with their iPhones, comparing the photos THEY JUST TOOK of THE THING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM with each other, and generally pissing off everyone who spent four hours lined up in front of the club.

This was the actual first live performance of the band this year and the first performance of the new songs, all of which were played, and played well. Brian Fallon has (allegedly) quit smoking, or is trying to; I could hear it in his vocals, which were clear and strong if a bit held back—the tour hasn’t started and this was, after all, a showcase. Unfortunately there was a little bit of that feeling to the entire show; it had less cohesion and flow than a regular concert, which was unfortunate. The new material is well-rehearsed and they are comfortable with it; the only mistake all night was due to technical problems (Benny Horowitz not being able to hear Brian in his in-ear monitors). There’s nothing I hate more than seeing the first show of a tour and the band still learning the material and the flow ruined by mistake after mistake. Alex Rosamilia is (finally!) playing keyboards onstage, which is very necessary for some of the new songs; I didn’t see him sing once, which made me sad because his live harmonies are some of my favorite parts of the show.

The ghosts of the club would manifest themselves when Fallon introduced an “old” song, and the familiar chords of “The 59 Sound” rattled out of the speakers. I was hopeful that the mosh pit might be subdued, but once the band hit the chorus, all bets were off. The rope line became a fire hazard, the moms in the crowd went to the back, and security finally paid attention and waded into the crowd to try to protect the photographers, most of whom gave up and left at the end of the song. This was quite honestly some of the most worthless security I have ever seen; they were watching the band, not watching the crowd, so they didn’t catch the start of the mosh. Their approach to crowd control was to wade into the front and push the front row back, not realizing that 1) we didn’t start it and 2) that won’t help. They were clearly used to working fashion events and not rock and roll ones.

I’ve only heard the new record three times since it doesn’t come out until next week, but my favorites are also likely the ones to not survive on tour: “Red Violins” and “Dark Places” require quiet and attention from the crowd, and also care as to setlist placement in order to flourish. I wasn’t a fan of the single “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” when I first heard it, but like it in the album context just fine and love it live; it is very Gaslight. SImilarly, “Stay Vicious” is less Soundgardian and more Jersey live and sounds bigger, richer. I am strongly pro-Get Hurt so far; I think it’s a stronger and more consistent album than Handwritten although I don’t hear any blockbusters on it. I think it’s a step in the right direction and definitely a positive one for a band who almost broke up a year ago.

At the show’s conclusion—no pretense, even, of an encore—I peeled myself off of the floor and began to wend my way towards the front. Even that had similarities to the past, that long progress towards the door; it was just better lit and less of an obstacle course. But it didn’t feel the same; it wasn’t the same energy, it felt sad and empty and I knew that my initial instinct to avoid the place at all costs was right on. Brian mentioned early on that everyone in the band had played at CBGB, just not together, and that it was neat that they got to do it now and that people who never got to see a show at CBGB’s can come to the room now and see one. Except that it’s not CBGB’s and it’s not anywhere in a million fucking years like seeing a show at CBGB. I am grateful to the fan club for the entrance, but I know I will not be back here again. I guess it’s better that it’s a non-chain store with cool, expensive clothes (I stress ‘expensive’ because expensive is the only way to afford that rising rent) that has rock events than another bank or GNC, but not by all that much.

n.b.: The header of this website is a photo I took the last night of CBGB from pretty much the same place I stood last night, looking back from the stage towards the door.

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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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Review: Neil Young at Carnegie Hall

Another Billboard piece up today. Will also have something in the magazine this week (but only 150 words, don’t get too excited).

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Stand Up For Heroes 2013

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I was thrilled to be able to attend last night (invitation from a colleague) and filed my report over at Backstreets.

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Concert Review: Arcade Fire as the Reflektors, 299 Meserole Street, 19 October 2013

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This was, quite simply, a fantastic show. The performance was tight but still full of life and energy. The band was in excellent spirits. And most importantly, the songs are not only ready to play live, they are so much better in person than they were on SNL or that 30-minute aftershow. I walked out thinking, “Wow, now I am excited for the album” as well as, “Wow, that TV special did not do them any favors.” The difference, at least to me, was night and day. There is a depth and a intricacy to the new songs that just did not come across in the compression of television sound, but is very much there live, even in a concrete warehouse with absolutely zero acoustics. (Disclaimer: I was right next to the speaker stacks so I cannot speak to how it sounded if you were back at the bar or the soundboard.)

Night two, the band seemed to be ready to dispense with surprises or unnecessary theatrics; there was no fake stage, no false intro, just an intro from a masked James Murphy, poking his head through the curtain and then the dramatic reveal as the band began to play and the curtain came down on the performance of “Reflektor.” (Curtains are awesome things and I wish more bands would take the trouble to bring that back; there’s a mystery and a magic and an elegance that the reveal of a curtain coming down brings that’s much different than just lights on.)

The stage is white and where it’s not white, there’s a mirror or other reflective surface. The accents are red and ultraviolet and blue and silver. There were triangular beaded curtains as a backdrop behind the platforms where the new percussionists were located. Will Butler sported red suede shoes; Regine was adorned in silver beaded fringe; Win was rocking a gold lamé jacket and some kind of amazing black tie-dye/camouflage combo. I respected that Win kept his jacket on all night, heat be damned–it was so hot that by the end of the 12-song set, there was condensation dripping from the pipes on the ceiling closest to the stage–while Richard Reed Parry ditched his jacket after the first song. (Win did jettison the mask meant to replicate his Stipe-ian raccoon eyes after song one, however.)

Every single song was stronger, richer, more interesting than it was on TV. “Reflektor” was greeted like it was an old familiar friend. I loved “Joan of Arc”. “Normal Person” was a steam roller. “We Exist” was a total dance party–when the first group of 100 or so fans was let in, they held the rest of the crowd back while a choreographer taught us some dance moves. (It was a fun idea and I would’ve totally been into it during the show had it not been jam packed like sardines in a schvitz; some people tried but mostly the concept failed in this setting.) The crowd screamed en masse during Regine’s “Sprawl” ribbon dance. And finally, Win suggested that if you hadn’t unbuttoned your top button yet, now might be the time, a minor white riot broke out during “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)”.

On the negative side: the show was too short for the ticket price (but two songs longer than the previous night, with an actual encore). The comment Win made from the stage about scalpers–well, that could have been solved if they’d made the tickets will-call only, but that would have required playing an actual venue with staffing and infrastructure. It’s a cool idea to have a show at a warehouse space in Bushwick, but when you have to truck in a massive generator, security, and have no bathrooms (porta-johns only), running water or ventilation, I have to start to question how cool it ultimately is for the people who actually attended it. Like, I dig the gesture and the intention but think the execution was only about 2/3 of the way there. I’m ultimately very glad I was there and they definitely tried to make it as cool of an experience as you can when your band is already arena-sized. I am looking forward to seeing how they take this show onto a big stage.

More photos here.

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Concert Review: The Replacements, RiotFest Toronto, August 25 2013

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There has been excitement and there has been anxiety and there has been sheer fucking joy leading up to this first Replacements show since 1991. I walked through the gates of RiotFest and had a moment. I had another one when I purchased an official t-shirt. It was one of those I can’t believe this is actually happening but it is actually fucking happening moments that just well up and take your breath away.

I didn’t know what to expect when the boys finally walked out on that stage. Would I burst into tears? Would it fall flat? Did it possibly stand a chance of meeting my expectations?

The answer to the last question was a hearty FUCK YEAH, said with as much volume and emphasis as you can muster. The pre-show tape cut out and the four walked on stage, Paul and Tommy nattily dressed in button-down shirts and jackets, and after some patter – I was not going to take dictation today – they careened straight into that cascading volcanic eruption that is the intro to “Takin’ A Ride,” and it was sheer utter bliss. It was sizzling. It was perfect. It was tumbling down the hill into another dimension. It was another time and yet it was very much RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson are on that stage and they are playing that song.

Go through that all over again with “I’m In Trouble.” If you had asked me what two songs they would come out and open with it would NOT have been either of those, not by a long shot; I would have also placed long odds on them even showing up in the setlist. Those were the types of songs people would give them shit for not playing back in the day. So, here you go, motherfuckers, these goddamn songs, and we are here and we are TAKING NO PRISONERS.

“Favorite Thing” was one that we thought would be here, and then “Hangin’ Downtown” and and and it’s GOOD! They are GREAT! They are loose and polished and rehearsed and happy and smiling and having fun. Paul looks fantastic and confident and all I could think was, this is what I have been waiting for you to do! This is all I have been waiting for! Yes! FINALLY! It’s not like they’ve suddenly turned into some session band or something, but they are loose and happy and nervous but they are up there and owning that fucking stage. Which is all I had ever hoped for. Paul looked happy and confident and comfortable and ready to go be Paul Westerberg for a while.

“Color Me Impressed” was where I finally lost it, Paul whistling through the intro with dogged deliberation. It’s not that this was my favorite song or the one I was waiting to hear, it was just the moment I think where my feet finally touched the ground again.

Tommy walks over to Paul and says something. Paul cracks up. Tommy opens his mouth and points at it. I think, wait, no way, but – yes! “Tommy Got His Tonsils Out,” impossibly, improbably, into this Hendrix jam at the end. “Kiss Me On The Bus” complete with handclaps from various audience members.

It was an odd crowd. There were the people totally losing it and then there were the people watching intently and I’m not sure they were there because they remembered it or if they were there because they thought they needed to see it. But there were enough euphoric looks and dancing bodies and out-loud singsongs to make it seem like home.

Paul makes reference to how they could play some more old stuff but they could always skip “Androgynous,” which is met with loud howls of protest from the crowd. This one fell apart more than a little, but both the crowd and then Tommy got Paul’s vocals back on track. “Achin’ To Be” was delicate, lovely–and then the indie rock national anthem (or at least that’s what I used to call it), “I Will Dare” – which was another fuckup, this time saved by the awesome effort of Dave Minehan. He knew the lyrics and he pulled off Peter Buck’s solo as sharp and crisp as the day he recorded it.

I cannot say enough good things about Dave Minehan and Josh Freese. Minehan “did a very solid Bob,” to quote Gorman Bechard afterwards. But it was more than that; Minehan had the parts down so well they were second nature, but he did that with heart and energy and boundless enthusiasm. There could not have been a better available guitar player for this role. And Freese was seamless, bringing equal energy and quality of performance to his role. No, it wasn’t Bob and it’s not Chris, but whatever they did to fit in with Paul and Tommy, it worked in spades.

“Love You Till Friday” segued neatly into “Maybelline,” “Merry-Go-Round” was a chance to catch your breath, “Wake Up,” was prefaced with a story that went something like, “It didn’t make it onto the record, and then the label told us you can’t do that, so we quit”. “Borstal Breakout” represented the first full fledged cover entry, into a picture-perfect, emotional “Little Mascara.” I think it was emotional for Paul and for the crowd or maybe it was emotional for one because of the other.

“Left of the Dial” was on my list of things I needed to hear, and another moment of awe and beauty and sadness and being filled up with every emotion you could possibly feel in one moment. And a moment where I feel all the years because this is a concept that you can’t even explain right now, much less in a few years. Paul looked pleased with himself when it was done.

“Instant happiness, puppies, rainbows” is what I wrote around the entry for “Alex Chilton.” Here I am on a Sunday night watching the Replacements and we’re all singing and clapping along, no hesitancy on Paul’s part, just singing the heck out of it, imbuing it with extra heart.

There was just so much heart. There was so much earnestness. They were silly and irreverent but yet they were all very very very sincerely glad to be on that stage and playing, it was so obvious and bright that it shone to outer space. There was no irony on that stage. It was very real, and very sincere, and very welcomed.

“Swinging Party” went out to Slim, “Can’t Hardly Wait” was everything you remembered it was, and then “Bastards of Young” caused the dust cloud to rise over the mosh pit again (I have so much dust coating my skin and I was on the other side of the field from the damn thing) and in this case, I was glad and happy and proud to see it. (I realize I would have probably felt differently if I was anywhere near it, and I do wish that in 2013 there was a better way to react to this music than slamming into everyone around you.)

That was the end of the set proper. I was going to protest that they JUST GOT HERE and then looked at my notes and my phone and realized it had been over an hour — which is still too short, but it wasn’t the 20 minutes that my brain was trying to tell me.

Paul walks out in a hockey jersey and by the boos I manage to deduce that this was a rival team (it was explained to me that it was like walking out in a Red Sox jersey at a Yankees game). This somehow led into “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy, and there is party of me that wonders if he planned to do the whole song or if he just planned to do a verse, but somehow he gets himself and the band through the whole thing, before mumbling something like, “Paul, what have you been doing for 20 years,” as though he himself wasn’t entirely too sure.

“I.O.U.” was the last number, kick-punched through the night air, before the band simply put down their instruments and walked off stage. There were some half-hearted waves but no coordinated bows (which I had been hoping for). With that unceremonious end, the house lights came on and we were left to slowly unpeel ourselves from the barrier and try to find the power of speech again.

For weeks now, months even, since the announcement, I have had to deal with endless grumpy “Well unless Bob has risen from the dead, this isn’t the Replacements” and yet tonight on that stage, it certainly felt exactly like I remembered it, the essential soul of the entire operation, the levity and the camaraderie and the heart and the vulnerability and the just plain having fun and fucking around part of it. It was all of that and it was more than that and it was just plain old coming home.

Welcome back.

==

POST-SCRIPT: In my humble opinion there is no way this is put together for just the three RiotFest shows. There is lighting. There are about 20 different t-shirts. There are fancy laminates for the crew, utilizing the Facebook middle finger that’s on the “Hate Us On Facebook” shirt. Will there be new songs? Will there be a record? Gotta think this is where this is going because I don’t know that they’ll want this to be a total nostalgia fest. Maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

But go see this, if you can. You will want to see it.

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Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Estadio El Molinon, Gijon, Spain, 27 June 2013

For those interested in my position tonight #brucegijon

I reviewed this show for brucespringsteen.net.

Springsteen in Spain is hot and loud and smoky and bouncy and pretty much everything you know about from the Barcelona DVD. The fans started the queue on the Wednesday the week before the show, and by the time we arrived on Sunday night I was just happy to be under 200. (By comparison, I arrived at the Dublin queue at 4pm the day before the show and got number 163.)

Most of the queue was Spanish. The roll calls were in Spanish. I learned my number by watching the people ahead of me and recognizing things like forty or fifty, and by the last day was an old hand at replying “Acqi!” to “ciento ochenta y seis” and could tell when the line leader was skipping numbers because of no-shows. There were some very kind Spanish twitter friends who were happy to translate the announcements that were more complicated than “Next roll call at 5pm.”

The day of the show we all showed up at 10am, were loaded into a set of barriers, and sat on the tarmac until they loaded us into the venue at 6pm. After three days of freezing and wishing I had brought more long sleeve shirts, we roasted out there. The stadium is in a residential area, and there is, miracle of miracles, a grocery store. We would go there in the morning after 10am check-in to buy breakfast and lunch, and on show day it provided a continual supply of cold water.

I love that first moment when you walk into the venue after being on line all day; El Molinon is not exactly San Siro but it was still impressive to walk through the gate and onto the pitch and carefully walk as quickly as possible on the terraplas to the front. Ticket time was 9 p.m., and everyone sat down for quite a while, until there was a mad rush for the stage, and then we stood in cramped, hot quarters until Bruce took the stage at some point around 9:20pm. He looked good and rested, and like he had a new haircut.

The main topic of conversation since I joined the queue had been whether or not Gijon would be an album show. Besides the handful of folks nursing the usual River full album show delusion — there was an enormous sign in the front corner for it, even — mostly people just didn’t want a BITUSA show. I did not think that this would be an album show and was of the opinion that since this was the only show in Spain this year, that he would treat it as a show for all of his fans, and not a show for a small town in the north of Spain that needed the greatest hits.

The reality was, probably not surprisingly, somewhere in the middle.

There’s a saying in our house about these kinds of shows: “Live by the signs, die by the signs.” If Bruce picks the right signs and plays the songs at the right time, it can be great or it can fall flat on its face. Tonight I thought he was doing a good job picking signs, and not just because, for the first time, Bruce saw my sign, specifically asked for it, and held it up saying, “We’ll play that one later.”

(It was my sign for “Rocky Ground” that I carried all over Scandinavia, with the slightly obnoxious comment at the bottom” “Such a good song, remember it? Maybe play it!” I would learn later that “Rocky Ground” had been on the printed setlist to open the encore. Still, given that my previous attempts at sign requests have been 3,497,208 to 0 [or at least it feels like it], I am still feeling fairly triumphant, although I am also feeling like I am getting out of the sign request business.)

But I digress.

I thought the opener was perfect: “My Love” for the diehards in the pit, “Out In The Street” for the fans in the stands. The “Better Days” sign came from a kid who had to be maybe 13 or 14 and at the front of the queue. I’m never going to complain about “Ain’t Good Enough For You” or a Creedence cover, but I just didn’t understand what it was doing in that part of the set. Jake’s solo in “Travelin’ Band” was fantastic and Roy played some seriously evil piano in his solo.

I was a little disappointed that he skipped “We Take Care Of Our Own” in favor of “Death To My Hometown.” Frankly, DTMH feels kind of stale right now and I can’t think of why he insists on keeping it in there except that maybe he feels like he needs a spectacle with everyone in the band down front in that point of the set.

ON THAT NOTE:

Where, I ask, is the anti-Everett Bradley movement? You don’t like Patti because she changes the dynamic – for fuck’s sake, there is way too much EVERYTHING going on in that corner of the stage. The people who like Everett probably loved Jay Weinberg because he “energized” the band but yet think it’s blasphemous for people to be excited about Tom Morello working with Bruce.

END RANT

The “Jack of All Trades” into “The River” into “Atlantic City” was an absolutely magnificent thematic arc. I would have been seriously disappointed had he not played ‘Jack’ in Spain of all places, and it was a magnificent version tonight that commanded the audience. “The River” in Europe is always going to be a moment, the harmonica and 12-string echoing through the stands, the crowd singing their hearts out. And “Atlantic City” was absolutely magnificent. Bruce called for quiet, shhhing the crowd just before the last verse, which was delivered with a different phrasing, calling your attention to the actions of the song’s main character.

I also thought of James Gandofini during the “Tonight I met this guy/and I’m gonna do a little favor for him”. (There was a sign tonight requesting “Don’t Stop Believin’” for both Gandolfini and Max’s mom. There were a lot of signs tonight, so much so that even though I was in prime position for the centre mic photo, there is no way you would find me.)

I am happy to report that the horns are still dancing their hearts out. I would love to know who is the main choreographer for these little routines. I want to know when they practice. Also, Curt Ramm is sporting a fashionable new newsboy cap.

Bruce switches guitars, yells at Steve (who is still on the mandolin finishing “Atlantic City”) to get himself a guitar, and out of nowhere (well, not really, I guess, when there was a sign for PLEASE PLAY THE ENTIRE RIVER ALBUM that was quite literally as tall as Bruce) we got “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).” And I know, we needed hijinks after that three song arc of despair and depression, and it was vintage Bruce-and-Stevie at the center mic. This was the start of the show for the people in the stands, your “Darlington” and your “Because the Night” and your “She’s The One”. The latter was exceptional by the machine-gun pose with which Bruce began the song and the decidedly Link Wray-esque solo at the end.

Time for more signs. This was where mine was requested and taken and commented on, along with the incredibly annoying Fender-shaped sign for “Rosie” which got in every photo I tried to take all night because its own held it up during every song. I was not sure how I would feel about “Rosalita” in this point in the set and I am still on the fence here simply because my own personal setlist muscle memory makes it mean one thing in my brain, but this was joyous and raucous and Steve went all out, donning someone’s cowboy hat and then someone’s American flag sunglasses, and Jake came down too, and there was a minor white riot at the center platform. It was everything “Rosalita” should be. I think it worked energetically, but am not 100% sure on that.

You would think that “Drive All Night” after “Sunny Day” would be the trainwreck-iest of all trainwreck segues and you would probably be right, except that it was such a magnificent version of “Drive All Night” and the audience was so happy to hear it–there were signs for it everywhere, including two huge banners hanging off the top deck of the stadium–that it worked. There was chatter and murmuring (which is much less annoying when you can’t understand what they’re saying) but then at some point it stopped and the crowd was about as silent as a crowd in a football stadium is ever going to be. Jake’s solo was magnificent, sharper, a slightly brighter tone I think, and Bruce’s vocals were rich and smoky. Steve’s harmonies were spot on; Soozie joined at one point and was not needed and actually detracted in my opinion.

“The Rising” and “Badlands” let everybody jump up and down again, the songs that they wanted to hear, even in the stands, and then Steve points at a sign and goes over to Bruce and is rather insistent. “Light of Day” was a little shaky here, for all of the signs I saw requesting it I do not think many people knew it. The kid next to me who went fucking nuts over “Sunny Day” looked totally bored during LOD. Steve requested the song and then lived up to his end of the bargain with a razor-sharp solo.

Instead of turning around and picking up the bright green sign reading ROCKY GROUND, Bruce ran out to the stage right platform and picked up a sign and ran back. “Radio Nowhere?” He must have thought that he had lost the crowd during “Light of Day” and wasn’t going to take a chance with “Rocky Ground”.

So then you have your run o’ hits, BITUSA, Born To Run, “Seven Nights To Rock,” complete with Bruce’s butt playing piano and guitar, and then “Dancing In The Dark.” Bruce pulled a girl up to dance, and then pulled a second girl up and put an acoustic guitar on her. Now, she didn’t know how to play guitar, but I was struck tonight that there is something so empowering and kind of radical that he continues to do this: it’s not just a woman dancing and looking pretty, here’s a chance for you to stand with the guys and perform. It is actually pretty feminist and I dig it a lot. (Maybe in 10 years girls won’t sing “Sunny Day” but will come up and play a solo on something instead. Or hell, rhythm guitar, even. I WOULD LIKE THAT A LOT MORE.)

“Tenth Avenue,” and once again I dislike the lack of band introductions. This is just wrong. This is something that Bruce has always done and there is no reason to stop now except for the fact that there are too many people in the band, but that is a subject for another day, and a sign to me that he is ready to stop this tour and go do something new. (More on this later.) (CORRECTION: Bruce did introduce the band during Twist and Shout but I missed it because I was making my way away from hair-pulling children)

“Twist and Shout” is fun and it’s greatand who doesn’t love it but there is no reason the E Street Band could not play any one of a long list of other wonderful covers that the audience would know just as well and enjoy just as much.

On the other hand, to be at the back of the pit (where we had retreated after a child whose parents kept putting on their shoulders using me as a cantilever pulled my hair hard at the beginning of “Twist and Shout”) with a bunch of Spanish people when Bruce Springsteen starts playing “Shout!” is probably one of the most fun things I have ever done. Everyone, even people who had been standing still and probably thinking about beating an early retreat to the exit, were suddenly jumping and dancing and singing along.

And then, at the end, my first exposure of this acoustic “Thunder Road” to end the set. It is intimate and special and beautiful and heartbreaking and is the first moment in this show where I feel like there is a bit of goodbye and farewell in here.

Was it a perfect show? No. Was it a good show with some great moments? Yes, absolutely. Am I glad I saw a show in Spain? 100 times yes.

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Concert Review: The Rolling Stones, live in Philadelphia, 6-18-13

keef mick ronnie

keef mick ronnie

It had been a few years, me and Charlie and Keef and Ronnie and Mick. Sure, I saw them at 12-12-12, but the last time before that was 2002. I wouldn’t have even been here were it not for those magical $85 tickets, the Stones hating the scalpers so much they were doing everything they could to keep them out and get us in. The $85 tickets entitle you to a random envelope with two tickets in it; we had horrible seats in the very upper level at the side of the stage, but they were $85 (and that’s including fees!). Just when I was resigned that at least they were side stage, but worried I wouldn’t be able to stand and dance, at 8:50 a gentleman appeared at our section with a stack of tickets and we were magically upgraded downstairs to the first level. Where there was plenty of room to dance, and no one sat down for any reason except to catch their breath.

The stage is magnificent, elegant, practical, without any of the bombast of previous tours. The lineup too is without bombast (with the exception of Chuck Leavell; I will get to that later). The boys and Darryl and Lisa and Bernard and Bobby Keys and another sax player. No big horn section or additional vocalists. It was more than enough.

The show opens with a short film featuring fans of the band, famous and not, talking about what the Stones mean to them–this is a 50th Anniversary tour, after all–and it was beautiful and irreverent and silly and serious. And then there they are, that moment when you realize you are in the same room as the Rolling Stones.

I kind of questioned “Get Off Of My Cloud” as an opener and don’t think the boys quite found the right pace for it, and did not think the set reached true liftoff until “Gimme Shelter” and Lisa Fisher blasting things open vocally and energetically. “Wild Horses” also felt a little flat and I was not looking forward to Brad Paisley’s “special guest” appearance, especially once I realized the fix was in on the web vote — but he brought an emotional dimension to “Dead Flowers” I felt was missing from the song that preceded it.

And then – “Emotional Rescue“! Unbelievable that this came out this tour. Unbelievable that they worked it out. Unbelievable that it stayed. I love this record–it is the great, underrated NYC Stones album as far as I’m concerned–and it worked! Mick sold the vocals, the rhythm was dead on.

“I WILL BE YOUR KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR,” I deadpanned at the end, right out loud, in a moment of not believing I actually get to do this. The 20 something guy in the row in front of me is shaking his ass; a lot of us are doing exactly that, old white guys dancing up and down the stairs, drunk girls a couple rows up, me to the best of my ability in front of my seat, banging my knees on the row in front of me. The woman my age behind me is holding her phone up to film it. It was a real Philly audience, singing when they should sing, dancing when they should dance, talking when they shouldn’t but not yelling at anyone to sit down and getting down when it counted.

The two “new” songs were moments of “Oh, wait, I know this, it’s actually not half bad,” and then “Honky Tonk Women” got the vehicle back on track, as far as I was concerned. The guitars were up high enough in the mix and it all sounded good and true and proper. All the action was back with Ronnie, Keith and Darryl, though, Darryl holding it down, taking us into the groove where Bobby Keys stepped in. It was not Bobby’s best night, and that made me sad; I have said goodbye to enough legendary sax players for my lifetime already.

The band intros followed “Honky Tonk;” Charlie getting applause from Keith, Ronnie doing the “I’m not worthy” bow. Keith’s intro led into the solo set, which was preceded by what can only be described as a victory lap. He got the center mic, he got the spotlight, he waved and mugged and gave us that Rasta salute. Philly cheered and yelled and applauded and it was as sad as it was wonderful. I do not know that I could go to multiple shows and watch that every night. It would remind me too much of my mortality as well as theirs.

It was more of a Ronnie night than a Keith night, and there were sound problems with the guitar mix especially–they would suddenly be ON, like when you’re standing down front and the monitor near you gets turned on–but Keith was in lovely voice and full of energy. “You Got The Silver” was received with surprising attention, and “Before They Make Me Run” had a boisterous sing-a-long in our section.

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And then, all of a sudden, it was the opening to “Rambler” and there was Mick Taylor. It was one of those, “Gosh, I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime,” goose-bumpy moments. I love that there is no grand intro, that they don’t make a big deal about it, he’s just there and he’s playing and I’m listening to it. I love that the guitars and Darryl all huddle back at Charlie, I loved watching them work in concert and enjoy working together. The sounds coming out of those guitars were big and in your face, and Mick managed his penchant for both mischief and malice in the right amounts: the song had depth and danger; it didn’t lose the “tourists” and it had the power that I am always looking for in that particular number. The stage was red, Mick was real, full-on Mick. He pulled his shirt up 1/3 of the way and there was an audible squeal from the pit. It was glorious. It was “Midnight Rambler,” you know? It was fucking Midnight fucking Rambler. It did itself proud.

“Miss You” was another decided ass shaker, heavy and solid. It went on too long but so many of the songs just do, you know, they always have; listen to “Tumbling Dice” on any ’73 bootleg and that horn line just will never end (and you had coked-up Jagger to contend with as well). Back in the day when I was going to more of these I would time some of the songs just to try to make a point, back when the mailing lists were full of suggestions on how to improve the setlist, and bemoaning the presence of the ‘warhorses’. This tour is a warhorse. There is no pretending it is not. Those are the songs people are paying $600 to hear; they are not interested in “Jiving Sister Fanny” (although they SHOULD be).

The audience loved “Start Me Up,” the aformentioned “Tumbling Dice” was, indeed, still too long, and in a slot where I was hoping for “Street Fighting Man,” dedicated to Taksim Square, we got “Brown Sugar.” As I have aged, I have been bothered by this song more and more, and live I could not forgive it either. But I let myself yeah-yeah-yeah-WOO the gazillion million times Mick needs to do it.

And then it was the backing track to “Sympathy,” which I was actually fine with until Chuck Leavell came in and got all show-offy and flamboyant instead of just HITTING THOSE CHORDS. Just hit them! They stand alone! They are there unadorned FOR A REASON! And then Mick is out wrapped in this crazy scary fur and there is just a little touch of malevolence, just a little, a hint, a shading, this is not a R rated “Sympathy” but it’s not G rated either, and the guitars strike and snarl and make your insides feel warm.

“A choir,” I said in the encore, “That means–” “There’s a guy with a French horn up there, WHAT ELSE COULD IT BE,” said the SO. And yes, I am setlist sequencing in my head, moving the warhorses around like chess pieces all night. I have not been setlist watching simply because of lack of time, so it is more the gesture of a retired master than anything serious. They brought out a local choir to add a fantastic, picture-perfect background to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (yes, also too long) before taking us into “Jay-Jay-Eff,” I actually said out loud, the song that defines the Stones for me more than almost anything else. As Mick pranced around the runway, I pointed out that I thought that this was the song where Mick would come out in the cherry picker, which I saw in the exact same place I was standing at the moment, the site of the former JFK Stadium, back in 1981. My first show, down from NYC, learning the trick of coming down on NJ Transit to Camden and then SEPTA across the river into Center City and changing to head down to Pattison.

And then an encore; yes, we are getting an encore, even in a show sequenced to end at 10:58 and the encore to begin at 11:01, it is the only thing it could be, which is “Satisfaction.” There is MT again, back up with the guitars, and while I understand bringing him on and could have easily named half a dozen songs I would have loved to seen him play, this would not be one of them. I do not think he added to it, I think it bloated the song, which was having trouble picking up speed. And this is “Satisfaction,” which should be sharp and sear and be the aural equivalent of a mic drop. But that song is the riff and the rhythm, and the drum break makes the fucking song. I want crisp, dammit. Perhaps I want too much.

And then the bows, and they linger, waving at us, smiling at each other. I stood at the entrance to the tunnel, watching them leave, and with both hands, blew them all a kiss, in farewell and in thanks. For everything.

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Nothing To Say: Soundgarden at Terminal 5

haven't seen these four guys in one place since 1996

I have not been certain at all about this reconstituted Soundgarden, so uncertain that despite my great love for that band and their music I did not leap through hoops or get on planes to go see them. I missed all the gigs last summer because I was on the road anyway and so when they turned up back in NYC, I decided it was time. I heard all the whispers of separate tour buses and less than cohesive energy between the lead singer and the rest of the band, and it was just time that to go, to find out for myself.

And as it turned out, it was lovely to see them, you know, those four guys onstage making the noise that many have tried to emulate but none have equalled. They were loud and huge and noisy and smart, they were smart more than anything, and I got sucked into them when many of us were finding what piece of the noises coming out of Seattle we wanted any part of. Everyone was flocking to Pearl Jam and Nirvana but I actually attached myself to Soundgarden first. I loved Cornell’s hair and THAT VOICE and Thayil’s presence and guitar playing and MATT CAMERON, who made that enormous drum sound come out of that tiny kit, and this fucking punk rock bass player over in the corner.

And then I moved to Seattle in the middle of everything, in enough time to be able to see some of the great shows, that Lollapalooza 96 tour, a club show at the Showbox (which went on sale at 5pm on a Friday at the Blockbuster on Queen Anne. I ran out of my office at Second and Pine, took cash out of the ATM on the corner [promptly leaving my card in the machine], and hopped on a bus. I was the third person in the line), and other stories that are more of the same, that overwhelming love of a band and its music and being able to immerse yourself in it until it decides to call it a day. I was not cheated but I wish I had gone to Europe to see them those times I was sitting in the MIddle East and watching MTV Europe and realizing that this was all going on at home without me, but that is another story for another day.

The verdict is that I’m glad I went tonight, but I don’t need to go again. It’s like seeing that guy you dated 10 or 15 years ago, wasn’t a bad dude but you just kind of drifted apart, and it’s lovely to see him and he looks good and has a new hair cut and likes his job and you had a nice evening but you don’t need to, you know, rekindle anything. The new material is certainly respectable but, let’s be honest, even the catchiest ones don’t hold a candle to the most obscure track on Down On The Upside. I mean, I tried, and the crowd tried, but even the kids at the front didn’t know the words to the new stuff.

But ,it was so good to SEE them on that stage again and after that rush of deja vu and memories (during “Spoonman” I was having all the Seattle feelings and memories it was possible to have in one place at one time). It was good to just enjoy all those songs again. And it was good to enjoy them from the balcony like a grown-up, without six large frat dudes pushing against my back the entire show. I liked being able to EXPERIENCE THE MUSIC, to catch the little jazz fills Matt throws in (that break in “Spoonman” will always get me, you don’t expect it there but yet, there it is), the arpeggios Kim sneaks by (“Fell On Black Days” has one of my favorites), those vocal riffs Cornell can do when he wants to and showcase that voice that entranced us all the first time we heard it, and Ben, dear Ben, who I lamented years ago would have a less than happy fate, looks healthy and happy and has morphed his Sid pose into, well, I was going to say Entwistle-ian but maybe more like, if Sid had gotten old and grown up. Cornell has lost much of what made him so compelling back in the day, but, you know, Audioslave, and I think maybe he lost it because he wasn’t that person any more, he was already not that person any more when he first went out solo with the folks from Eleven.

I was happy with the set otherwise, I didn’t get “Searching” but I got “Outshined” and “Jesus Christ Pose” and that’s all I would have asked for. The set was surprisingly heavy on DOTU material (in a good way, because I’m not sure they liked it that much when it came out) and the crowd reacted more strongly to that than “Black Hole Sun,” during which most of them read their email. Kids down front with a sign for “Head Down” got their wish. “Fresh Tendrils” out of nowhere. It was good. They were solid. They were having fun, or at least they didn’t hate being up there together.

I did, at least, feel like they mean it, and that they are a band, but I’m not sure that this is grown up Soundgarden. They could do that but that would take work and being brave and, again, they could absolutely do it but I’m not sure that’s what they want to do. But they didn’t make me sad or break my heart and I just wanted to walk up and hug them and be all “Dudes! It’s been so long! You look great! Nice to see you.” And it was.

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, 12-3-12

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Walking onto the floor and seeing the Rust Never Sleeps set at the other end of the Barclays Center was this combination of disbelief and deja vu. I never got to see the Rust Never Sleeps tour; by the time I read about it in Rolling Stone it was long gone, and I used to sit in front of my stereo with the records and bemoan that I had missed what had to have been one of the most amazing things ever.

Monday night made up for all of that in so many ways. I applaud Neil bringing back the theatricalism of the intro, although this time they’re in lab coats and hard hats instead of dressed like jawas, scuttling about the stage. I was thrilled to discover that these were the original sets, that they escaped the warehouse fire. And being able to take the photo above, capturing that iconic album cover, was achieving some kind of previously unknown dream.

The sound was great; the show was loud and powerful and I liked the sound on the floor of the arena (my first visit). Neil is strong and in fine mettle. There were plenty of enormous grungy jams that just, only just, teetered on the edge of trying some of the audience’s patience; I appreciated the gentleman yelling “YOU SUCK” at the end of the closing jam of “Walk Like A Giant,” as the RNS Woodstock rainstorm was recreated for us, to my amusement and sheer wonder. LIke, it made sense that Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo were in the audience. (Also spotted: Al Gore. No kidding.)

There was restraint, though; when I heard the first notes of the opening “Love And Only Love” I settled in for what in past tours would have been a good 20-25 minutes, Neil kept things trim while still maintaining the integrity of the thudding original, which needs that room to grow and blossom. I was a little sad to get “Powderfinger” instead of “Cortez,” but later on I would get just about everything I could want, including “The Needle and the Damage Done,” just Neil acoustic. But “Cinnamon Girl,” “Fuckin’ Up,” “Mr. Soul” and then, of course, “Hey Hey My My” were what you came there for. (Although I was amused at a Barclays Center security guard walking around with headphones in some distress as Neil had the audience singing, “You’re just a fuckup!” for about 10 minutes to close the song out: “They’re just singing “Fuck” over and over,” she said over her headset.)

Patti Smith’s opening set was, uncharacteristically, the first time I have seen her perform this year. I felt she presented a strong setlist, giving people the hits with “Because the Night” and “Dancing Barefoot,” a new song from Banga, her lovely NY cover of “Only A Dream” from the Carnegie Hall tribute, and just when I was looking at my watch and thinking she had time for two more, the opening notes of “Land” guaranteed she could go full out punk priestess, incorporating a brief rant against the Barclays Center, even, as the transition into “Gloria” had the crowd roaring in approval.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the third band on the bill, Everest, who I also felt fine tuned a nicely crunching set to fit the bill they were on. [Full disclaimer, one of my oldest friends is in Everest and so I spent half of their set beaming at the sight of my BFF performing in front of the Rust Never Sleeps set.]

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