Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Air Canada Centre

Wow... I mean, just... Wow.

That may not have been the best Springsteen show I've ever seen, but it was certainly one of the most fun to be a part of. From Radio Nowhere straight through to American Land, I was literally singing and dancing all night long (this fact may or may not have anything to do with the multiple pre-MLB-steroird-policy-Carlos-Delgado-sized beverages consumed over the course of the evening {on a side note: would a modern day Carlos-Delgado-sized beverage come in a plastic cup in the shape of Alfonso Soriano?}). I can't even begin to explain how great a time I had.

The night began for me with my parents arriving at my place where we promptly listened to the new album and then walked up to the subway, picking up my brother and his girlfriend on route. Being a Springsteen fan is a family thing for us. As my dad likes to say: "I raised my kids the right way." Some people might say otherwise, but I'll go with him on this one.

Unbelievably, Ronnie didn't have tickets to the show but was able to score a couple of 300 level seats for $50 each off the scalpers out front. I have no idea how he does it. We met up with my buddies Foley, Skeeter, and Trish, and some of my parents die-hard friends (this was show #49 for my dad's buddy Watson. The man has seen it all. It was #20 for my dad, which meant that I felt like a scrub because this was only my 9th show), and headed into the hangar.

We had about an hour before the show began with which to soak in the vibes of the crowd. And for my money, there is no better group of people to be with than a bunch of Springsteen fans. More than with any group I can think of, these are the people I feel connected to. We think the same way because we listened to the same music growing up. We feel the same way because we've sung all of the same songs to ourselves in times good and bad. And we think the same way because we've gone to the same ridiculous lengths to see the man perform. I'm not even close to being a religious man; but I'm a believer in the Boss. And these were his people. And I felt right at home.

Which is why I had no problem sharing stories with the people sitting in front of me about all of the times they've seen Bruce perform in the past (they said the best show they've ever seen was the gig in Buffalo back in July of 2005 - the show at which my sister requested "Everything is Everything" on a piece of paper before the show, only to have Bruce say: "Lisa, that is the incorrect title of the song", before giving her You're Missing). And it is also the reason that I, albeit drunkenly, promised the dude that if they played Thundercrack, I would kiss him.

(As a side note, I try to make a habit out of not reading the setlists of the preceeding shows. Call me old fashioned, but I just like to be surprised by what they pull out. Now, had I done my homework, would I have promised to kiss a bearded stranger on the cheek? Probably not. But what the hell. We were all brothers here tonight.)

We were also finally able to get to the bottom of the whole, "is it okay to wear the T-shirt of the band up on stage?" debate. This has been a long-standing dialectic between my friends and I, stemming all the way back to a story I once heard about Hugh Dillon (frontman for the now-defunct Headstones) bringing some kid up on stage at a show in Sault Ste. Marie because the kid was wearing a Headstones T-Shirt. The dialogue went a little something like this"

H.D. - "Hey man, what's your name?"
Kid - "Jimmy"
H.D. - "Jimmy. Great. Hey everybody! This is Jimmy! SPIT ON HIM!!!"
(the crowd proceeds to blanket the kid and his Headstones T-shirt in a layer mucus)

The thinking is, if you are physically at a band's show, that says enough about your appreciation for the band, and the T-shirt is simply overkill. But at a Springsteen show, it seems like every third person is either a) wearing a Springsteen T-shirt, or b) dressed like a 70's version of one of his Jersey shore characters. And like I said, I am one with these people, so they can't be all bad. So my buddy Foley and I came up with a definitive statute regarding wearing a shirt with the logo of the band up on stage. And the Rock Show T-shirt Rule states:

You are NOT permitted to wear a T-shirt of the band performing on stage unless:
a) The T-shirt was purchased at a show which took place more than 20 years earlier
b) The venue at which the T-shirt's show took place is no longer in existence (ex: Exhibition Stadium, The Boston Garden)
c) You are at least 50 years of age and simply don't know any better

These are your only outs. No exceptions. But I digress.

When the lights finally went down the place went crazy, and as Bruce and the band entered the stage to the sounds of a carnival calliope (I love the quirky entrance music, which peaked with the Tunnel of Love tour carnival music in 1988), the place seemed ready to explode... and when he asked "Is there anybody alive out there?", it promptly did.

Radio Nowhere has all of the makings of a poppy hit, and was a decent opener. Night was fantastic, as always, and did a little to separate the true fans from the less than devout. Lonesome Day is one of my favourite songs off of The Rising album, and just about everytime I've seen him perform it live, I end up getting close to choked up when I sing along... Tonight was no exception. I wish I could explain this phenomenon. I may have some deep rooted issues that need to be sorted out. Moving right along.

Gypsy Biker is a fabulous song, one of the real gems on the album. But like my buddy Skeeter pointed out, I wish Bruce would talk more about his new songs. It doesn't need to be anything elaborate like the way he used to introduce The River, but a few words would go a long way. Like when he introduced Magic by saying that the song "isn't really about Magic, it's about ticks... and their consequences..."; that song now means about 10 times more to me than it did before, and watching him sing it up on stage with Patti, after what the two of them have allegedly been through lately... that's just a great song.

The band debuted For You for the first time. That is an absolutely killer song, but no live version of it could ever rival the version released on the Japanese Import that simply blows every other version out of the water. Bruce played this one while sitting at the piano during his acoustic show in Toronto in 2005. "Your cloud line ugers me, my electric surges for you..." Love it.

Loved the Stevie Ray Vaughan infused version of Reason to Believe (done to the tune of Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky) because nobody rocks the harmonica like the Boss. Candy's Room was one of the supreme sizzling highlights of the night, prompting me to call my buddy DVZ to allow him to enjoy his favourite track via the magic of cellular technology. SHE SAYS BABY IF YOU WANNA BE WILD.... Max was absolutely killing on the drums by this point, only to be outdone by She's The One, the very next song on which the boys in the band turned back the clock. It honestly felt like 1978 at the Agora Ballroom in Cleveland on this track. Out of this world. I half expected them to mix in Gloria and Not Fade Away.

When I was a kid, Promised Land was my favourite song, and it felt like it all over again as we screamed "Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man / And I believe in a Promised Land".

They slowed things down for one of Patti's songs (A Town Called Heartbreak - her new album is fantastic, by the way), which may have prompted the line of the night, overheard by my buddy Foley in the bathroom: "Bruce put this song in 'cause he knew we'd have to take a piss halfway through". Too funny. But hopefully all of the small-bladdered die-hards made it back in time for Incident on 57th Street. Along with New York City Serenade, this is my all-time favourite tune, the imagery more evocative than a Steinbeck novel (is there a more brilliantly descriptive set of lines than:

Johnny was sittin' on the fire escape watchin' the kids playin' down the street
He called down "Hey little heroes, summer's long but I guess it ain't very sweet around here anymore"
Janey sleeps in sheets damp with sweat, Johnny sits up alone and watches her dream on, dream on
And the sister prays for lost souls, then breaks down in the chapel after everyone's gone

With the exception of "Barefoot girl sittin' on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain", I think not)

Needless to say, this was a huge highlight for me. I had Sandra on the phone to share the moment.

Darlington County was a classic rocker, and to the best of my knowledge remains the only decent rock song to reference the World Trade Centers. Devil's Arcade is another great new song that was superbly done, and the feeling the Springsteen put into The Rising brought that song to another level for me. There was anguish in his face while he sung about those heroes... As Trish pointed out (this was her first show), he feels every song. No doubt.

The Long Walk Home is a beautiful song, and a nice little nod to the town of Freehold. Loved it live. Badlands was another supreme highlight, taking the religious feeling to a whole new level as the crowd vehemently screamed to let the broken heart stand as the price you gotta pay.

When they did Thundercrack in the encore I kissed another man on the cheek. Enough said. It was that kind of night. An absolutely killer version, like Main Point in '73, and it truly separated the die-hard fans from the rest. If you were twirling around-and-around-and-around-and around after learning that her hair ain't brown and her eyes ain't either, then you know what time it is. And we might be soul mates. That's why I had no problem laying a wet one on the Jim Kelley lookalike.

Born to Run always brings the house down, and with the lights on and my buddy Dunner living vicariously through the phone, this was no exception. Dancing in the Dark was also fantastic, but I definitely thought he should have pulled one of the lovely ladies up on stage with him a la Courtney Cox.

They closed the show with a Pogues-esque, follow-the-bouncing ball track called American Land that had the entire place dancing as if it were St. Patrick's Day at Cooper's. Just an incredible party (at least where I was sitting).

I honestly felt like they could have played for another hour, and when the lights briefly went down again after the encore, there was the flicker of hope that they'd come out and do two or three more... maybe something from The River (inexplicably, the setlist was devoid of a track from that classic double LP) or Tunnel of Love (also conspicuous by its absence, along with everything released in the 1990's). To me, this longing for more was a combination of the fact that the band was definitely on on this night, and the idea that maybe they could have done a little more.

By just about any band's standards, this was a show for the ages. But for the E Streeters? For the "earthshaking, heartbreaking, history making E Street Band"? There could have been more. But I guess it isn't the mid-70's anymore. And it's tough for a 58 year old man to be jumping off the Professor's piano and running the length of the stage to slide on his knees. And we probably won't see Nils doing his backflip anytime soon. And we might have seen the last of the young girl's hearts growing weak as the man child gives them a double-shot (At the 7 minute mark of this clip is the definition of what it means to be a rock star).

But even as we admit that maybe we ain't that young anymore, my dad's buddy Watson put it best in the wake of his 49th veneration: "There's no such thing as a bad Springsteen show."

Damn straight. And it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive.

This was one of those nights where we knew it.


Anonymous said...

All the Young Dudes

Sean lad

What section were you in?

I saw someone that looked a lot like you, dancing up a storm behind stage to right towards Clemon's side. Dancer was wearing light t and cap. The guy knew every note Max hit.

This show was probably one of my best, next to the Senecca College intro to Toronto in 1976 because of the proximity to E Street vibe.

My Mrs. (a Mega term by the way)and I, we were directly in front of the Boss. And I mean directly in front, on the floor no less, and the saliva was flying fast and furious all night. I could see the anguish in his eyes as he sang, "Long Walk Home". I saw the pain in his soul as he sang about the decling values/freedoms in USA, family/life , and small town changes. Courthouse must have symbolic importance to the boss, that is where he got married in The River.

Any way, loved Thunder Crack any all the other wall of sound tunes.

But "For You and Incident on 57 Street" were transporters ,really took me back to my Yuuths. I felt like a high schooler
driving my Parkdale buddy's 1970s Camaro 350 Z28 LT1 version down to Florida. Five speed no less with Hurst on floor. Priceless escape without THC. Though I had found the keys to the universe.

I met her on the strip three years ago
In a Camaro with this dude from L.A.
I blew that Camaro off my back and drove that little girl away

Icing on the cake would have been a good rendition of "Growing Up."

Did I ever tell you about the cool USA/ Michigian 1976 plates i pinched from a Philipino's Yellow Trans Am in front of mom's house in the hood.. Still have them in gargage today. Right beside my Boss news clippings from 1970 to 1990.
Will show next time you come out to White Breadville. So Young American.

Ps Love you review, you pencil has been very poignant.

Keep your lawn blades sharp and you will become the writer you envision.

Later Oscar

Eddie Meeting Across the River

Anonymous said...


Just heard from my source, could see Bruce tour in TO this summer at bigger venue.

Like the commercial says, "Save your money".


Krewe Chief said...

great review of great show.

there's a recording of the show here if you're a member of dime

Sean McCallum said...

Full Setlist:

Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
For You
Reason to Believe
Candy's Room
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Incident on 57th Street
Darlington County
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land


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