After a while, you begin to run out of superlatives. You already know that you’re not objective, so you begin to doubt that what you’re thinking can possibly be true. So be it. After seeing Bruce Springsteen for the tenth time last night, I’m comfortable saying that this is among the best two or three shows that I’ve seen – and maybe the best ever.
Circumstances had a lot to do with it. Number one, it was the night before my birthday (and by the time we got home, it was my birthday), and that’s always a good reason to celebrate. Number two, my wife Debra was able to join the party, making it the fifth show since 1985 that we’ve seen together. Third, my parents joined us, armed with their earplugs, for their baptism, at age 72, into Bruce-mania (it’s never too late to start). Fourth, through dumb luck more than anything else, we were there with my two closest Bruce compadres – Craig, with whom I saw the 1981 show in San Diego and the 2000 show in New York City; and Tim (joined by his wife Carole), with whom I saw the 1988 show in Mountain View, the 1999 show in Oakland, and the 2003 show in Sacramento. I say dumb luck because Craig and his family live in London, which makes it a little hard for him to make a quick jaunt over to Arco Arena. But a family trip coincided perfectly with Bruce’s tour schedule, and the rest is history (he also was joined by his mother, also her first Bruce experience). All of us met in the parking lot a couple of hours before the show – joined by co-worker Stephanie, also at her first Bruce experience; and colleague Sherry, who was (needless to say) delighted that Bruce played “Sherry Darling” – and it would have been a great night just for the party. Speaking of dumb luck, I should also mention that I ran into Steven Rubio, who’s been seeing Bruce shows even longer than I have, and had the opportunity to introduce myself. Steven is a Berkeley-based blogger, and a man after my own heart.
So the stage was set for a memorable evening, and Bruce and the band delivered in spades. Like many shows from the second leg of 2-year tours, the band had settled in with the new material, and the structure of the show was looser, with Bruce pulling some chestnuts from the past to spice up the proceedings. And it didn’t take long for one of those chestnuts to make an appearance – the show opener was “Spirit in the Night,” a song that, if I’m not mistaken, I’ve never seen performed live. Other “oldies but goodies” included “Murder Incorporated,” which remains one of the best-sounding live songs in the playbook; “Because the Night,” featuring a mind-blowing solo by Nils Lofgren; and “Rosalita,” the erstwhile former show closer; with Bruce holding up a sign from someone in the audience saying “Can Rosie come out tonight?” Indeed she could.
Some other notable moments:
• Charlie Giordano sat in for Danny Federici, and when Bruce called the audible which resulted in “Sherry Darling” (it was obvious; you could see him walking around to each member of the band), it was funny to see him whipping through his songbook to find it – apparently, the first time he’d ever played it!
• Of all the songs on Magic, the one which really has blossomed in concert is “Gypsy Biker.” Steve’s acoustic intro, and his guitar duel with Bruce at the end, were (if you’ll pardon the expression) magical.
• Max Weinberg is a miracle; a force of nature. It’s become a cliché to say it, but that he is able to get that sound out of a drum kit that small is amazing.
• During the spoken intro to “Living in the Future,” there were more demurrers in the audience (including a woman right behind us who yelled “just shut up and sing!”) than I’d heard before, even when Bruce sang “American Skin (41 Shots)” in 2000 – a show I’ll be writing about later.
• I really enjoyed “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” a lot more this time around – the band seemed more comfortable with it than they did last October, although they did seem to lose the beat near the end.
• This really has nothing to do with the show itself, but we learned a valuable lesson tonight, thanks to the young woman sitting right in front of me. So young women, listen closely: it is not a good idea to wear low-cut jeans, without underwear, when you’re attending a concert where you’re going to be standing up and sitting down a lot. And don’t ask me how I knew; just take my word for it.
In the end, it was one of those nights that, it seems corny to say, I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It’s probably a safe bet to say that this particular group of people will never all be together at the same time again, and let’s face it – the E Street Band in its current incarnation won’t go on forever, as evidenced by Danny’s health issues and the fact that Clarence has to spend much of the night sitting on his well-deserved throne, rather than roaming the stage.
In some ways it’s sad, but it’s also a reason to celebrate. Celebrate the spirit in the night.
Spirit in the Night/Radio Nowhere/No Surrender/Lonesome Day/Gypsy Biker/Magic/Murder Incorporated/Candy's Room/Because the Night/She's the One/Livin' in the Future/The Promised Land/Sherry Darling/Backstreets/Devil's Arcade/The Rising/Last to Die/Long Walk Home/Badlands/Girls in Their Summer Clothes/Rosalita/Born to Run/Ramrod/American Land
Read more of my writing about Bruce here.
Read Steven Rubio's thoughts on the April 4 show here.