Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Concert Reviews: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Yes, we're a football blog. But really, there's not much going on right now. Football is a greuling sport that takes a lot out of people that play it, which is the primary reasons players have such short careers and there is a long offseason.

We could waste your time this offseason posting about James Harrison's dog or what TO did today or what Peyton Manning is complaining about now. But we won't. You have better stuff to do. And so do we.

One of the best things to do in Pittsburgh in the summer time is to go to concerts.

Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to go to two concerts.

And since it's been a while since I got to post a recap of anything, I'm going to give you all a concert review. If you're not interested, you can go read more depressing stuff about the Pens. Or you can distract yourself from the fact that the Pens are down 2-0 by reading about concerts I went to.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
May 19
Mellon Arena

This was the third time I've seen the Boss in Pittsburgh, and I think this was probably the best of the three shows ('03 at PNC Park and '07 at the Mellon Arena).

Bruce rocked the house at the Super Bowl, and he came to Pittsburgh with the same fire and energy in his set that we have come to expect from the Boss. The show carried a strong recession-era theme, featuring songs about hope and redemption in hard times.

Bruce opened up with Badlands, pumping up the crowd and pushing the energy level right off the bat. Bruce pulled another one off the Darkness On the Edge of Town album with Candy's Room, which got another big crowd reaction. After the epic Western song Outlaw Pete, Bruce broke out Jackson Cage and crowd favorite She's the One.

Bruce gave a rousing speech to the crowd about taking the fear out in the world and building a house of love, a fitting intro to the title track from his new album, Working on a Dream. After two recession-era themed songs (Johnny 99 and Seeds), Bruce changed up his typical setlist and substituted local favorite Youngstown for the more popular Ghost of Tom Joad. Guitarist Nils Lofgren threw down an epic guitar solo that melted the faces off of everyone in the first three rows at the end of Youngstown, capping it off by attaching a camera to the end of his guitar, giving the crowd a great view down the neck as he shredded.

As had been made well known in the media before the show, Bruce had taken to randomly changing the setlist on the fly and trying to "Stump the Band." However, the E Street Band is the greatest little house band in all the land. And you're not going to stump them. After collecting signs from the crowd, Bruce pulled one out and announced the band had "Never played this song before." What followed was an epic cover of Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, that was definitely the highlight of the show.

Bruce followed up with another request, Darkness on the Edge of Town (continuing the notion that this very well might have been a setlist from the Darkness tour). Next came the hopeful song Waitin' on A Sunny Day where Bruce gave the microphone to a young kid (probably 8 years old) in the front row and had him sing the chorus. The kid was embarrassed, but the crowd went nuts for it. As a veteran of Bruce concerts, these are the kind of things that make him the Boss and the greatest performer touring right now.

After The Promised Land and I'm on Fire, Bruce announced that Patti (his wife) was at home performing "maximum security detail" on their three teenagers. Due to this, he busted out Kingdom of Days, saying "This one's for Pats." Bruce, like no other performer, has a way of building from one song to the next to bring up the emotions of the crowd. After running around for an hour and a half, the band came out with Lonesome Day, The Rising, and finally Born to Run to close out the main portion of the set.

To start the encore set, Bruce came out with "Hard Times" a song by Stephen Foster, a Pittsburgh native. Then, for the first time in the three shows that I have seen, Bruce sang crowd-favorite Thunder Road, which was followed by Land of Hope and Dreams. The Irish jig-sounding "American Land" came next. He closed his previous show in Pittsburgh with American Land, and after he gave props to all the E Street Band, most of the crowd thought the show was over. But Bruce, ever the performer that takes the show to the next level, brought local artist Joe Grushecky out on stage and rippoed off Glory Days and Mony Mony to close out the night in epic fashion.

At the end of the night, this was an epic show with a great setlist top-to-bottom. The themes of hope and redemption during hard times ran through the show, capped off with the uplifting beats of "Land of Hope and Dreams," "Glory Days," and "Mony Mony." In all honesty, this probably could have been a setlist from the Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour, with 4 songs from the Darkness album punctuating the show (Badlands, Candy's Room, Darkness, Promised Land). This was my third Bruce show and he's just as good now as he was three years ago (actually, I would argue he's better now). If you ever have a chance to see him, it's definitely worth the price of admission. He played for about 2 hours and 45 minutes and had the crowd rocking the whole time. If you have list of "Things to Do Before I Die" and "See Springsteen in concert" isn't on that list, get off your ass and rectify that problem.

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