I was lucky enough to see Springsteen perform at the Nationwide Arena. The ticket said the show starts at 7:30: Springsteen’s band took the stage right at 8:00, no opening act, and then played 26 songs back to back, non-stop, ending right about 11:00. I kept track of the set list and can confirm that Springsteen’s website has an accurate one. Three straight hours of music starting out with “High Hopes” — here’s a clip:
I’ve seen Springsteen once before, in Detroit — where he forgot that he was in Detroit and welcomed everyone from Ohio to the show, a gaffe that he remembered and joked about at last night’s concert. Everything I’ve said about this show so far was true of the last one, except this time he had Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave on guitar, and the band blew my doors off just that much more.
Morello looked like he was having fun. A lot of it. He’s never seemed to me to be the type who has fun on stage, like he’s more the serious musician type, so that was good to see.
Springsteen’s set list was interesting, to say the least. He played “Badlands” and “Born to Run,” as we’d expect, and I might be tempted to say that he performed “Hungry Heart,” but he didn’t — the audience sang it while he walked around getting hugs and singing the filler parts. And yes, people had signs with songs on them, which he’d grab, take up front, and then flash to the audience when the band started playing it. But he wasn’t hitting his top ten hits by any means: maybe 1/3 of his set list fit that category. He pulled up three teenage girls on stage to dance along and then brought up a very old woman — she had to be in her 80s — to play guitar along with him, and she did, and she jammed. She sang a bit too and sounded good. When his performance of “Born to Run” hit the part where the band was playing staccato, he just held his guitar out to the people up by the stage and let them beat on it with their hands.
He’s 64 this year, but I can’t tell. I’m not sure how the sound quality is on this clip, but he’s always been a touring performer, and every time he performs he wants to blow the audience’s doors off. He cut his chops touring around NJ and the Midwest, and he’s never gotten away from that. He loves what he’s doing, and he shares that love every minute that he’s on stage. I miss Clarence Clemons, but I loved that during the line “When the big man joined the band” came around during “10th Avenue Freeze Out” the big screen over the stage showed footage of the big man himself. I also missed Stevie Van Zandt for some unknown reason: seeing Bruce, Morello, and Nils Lofgren jamming together was great. Add Van Zandt to that mix and I can’t imagine what that would be live.
As a father, I try to teach my children right. One day, maybe four or five years ago, when my son Penn was a much smaller boy, I sat him down to teach him the Basic Facts of Life:
1. Elvis Presley is the King of Rock and Roll.
2. Aretha Franklin is the Queen of Soul.
3. Michael Jackson is the King of Pop.
4. Bruce Springsteen is the Boss.
My son wrinkled up his face and said, “No, Mommy’s the boss.”
Okay, maybe she’s done a better job on him than I have, but I’m still going to set him straight some day.
And speaking of setting people straight, my friend Terrie guffawed when she saw that Springsteen was still the number one performer in New Jersey. I had to ask…why is that a problem? She said, “Because he’s old.” I told her, remembering the Detroit show, that when Springsteen plays “Born to Run” live, God gets up and dances.
She said that’s because he’s the same age.
Just watch that clip, and you tell me if that’s an old man performing.
See Springsteen if you can. He doesn’t play shows. He has a party with his friends. Just, he brings the music. And if you don’t have the new album, get it.