by Robert Gillis
Published in the Boston City Paper 4/2012
Nosebleed seats (section 330 row 10, place your trays in the upright position) but who cares, — it’s Bruce Springsteen back in Boston and ANY seat is a good one! And as always, the man did not disappoint!
All Springsteen shows are special but this is one we all needed, after the death of Clarence Clemmons, Springsteen’s oldest and closest friend, and the very soul of the group — would the E Street Band go on? Would Springsteen go back to the acoustic one-man shows? We needed this show, and in some ways, I think Bruce and the E Street band needed to get back out there, not to prove themselves in any way, but to make a statement that the show DOES go on even without its soul.
“Tonight’s story is about hellos and goodbyes. It’s about the things that leave us and the things that stay behind.” — Bruce Springsteen
The show began with Bruce actually introducing himself, like James Brown: “Good evening Boston! Are you ready for star time? Let me introduce to you right now a young man who brought to you such legendary hits as ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark,’ I’m talking about the original ‘Hungry Heart.’ Mr. ‘Badlands,’ the Jersey Devil, the future of rock and roll himself! He’s sexy and he knows it! Let’s hear it for Bruce Springsteen and the legendary E Street Band!”
01. WE TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN — Far BETTER live; I was hoping he’d open with it and he did. Have loved it since I first saw it on the Grammys telecast. This is a song that’s easy to love and easy to misunderstand (like BITUSA) but a powerhouse anthem and balls-to-the wall opening. And it’s really the theme of the show.
02. WRECKING BALL — The only “BOO” Springsteen got tonight when he sang the song’s line about the [New York] Giants. But Bruce was in on it; he gave us our moment to get it out of our systems and it was good-natured; the man is from Jersey, after all, and there was a smile on his face as he continued the song. Yeah, we Bostonians are still smarting from the Super Bowl, but it was honestly hilarious, and after all, Wrecking Ball was originally written about the demolition of the old Giants Stadium and Spectrum, and fits so much in with the theme of the tour and album. Springsteen can tease without getting mean.
03. BADLANDS — I’ve complained in the past that this is overplayed given the sheer volume of material Springsteen could choose from, but it felt like we needed it tonight. Usually it’s an opener or much later in the show as a pick-me-up. At this point I’m thinking: The band sounds incredibly good, they are a well-oiled machine live, Springsteen, vocally, sounds excellent and is clearly, “into it,” and Springsteen looks fantastic. And then everyone realizes — this is one of Clarence’s signature sax songs — it’s coming — it’s coming — how will it be handled? And then standing ovations for Jake Clemmons (the late Clarence Clemmons’ nephew) and his sax solo in “Badlands” doing his late uncle proud. Jake did a PHENOMENAL job all night. It’s a relief, and also a little melancholy for me — Springsteen is not shying away from the beloved Clarence’s saxophone-heavy songs. The horns section also did a great job.
04. DEATH TO MY HOMETOWN — One of the many songs on the album directly dealing with the “robber barons” and bankers who destroyed towns (and lives, and 401ks) without firing a shot, this song is FAR better live. Love the “Irish-y” musical cues in this one.
05. MY CITY OF RUINS — Originally written for Asbury Park, this song always brings back my memory of driving to New York eleven days after 9/11, that Friday night telethon and Springsteen’s “Prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters.” Tonight it was still oddly appropriate as Springsteen introduced the band this early in the show and then asked if anyone was missing. “Are we missing anyone?” he asked, a question with a double meaning. He never mentioned Danny nor Clarence by name but we all felt it as we yelled out their names. We felt the band’s loss, we miss these two who died much too soon. “If you’re here and we’re here, they’re here,” Springsteen said.
06. THUNDERCRACK — [Wrecking Ball Tour Premiere] A request from a 17 year old in front of the Pit; Springsteen asked him his age and he said 17, and Springsteen quipped, “This song is 3 times older than you” and then rocked it. Don’t think I’ve ever heard this live. I need to learn the words to this early classic!
07. JACK OF ALL TRADES — From the new album and well done. And again, a cheer from the audience to the line about shooting the bankers all dead (a little disquieting, to be honest, that people cheer)
08. JACKSON CAGE — [Wrecking Ball Tour Premiere] have not heard this one live in years; a classic from The River album. Good song but honestly, felt like a bit of a throwaway. Or maybe just out of place.
09. SHE’S THE ONE — [Wrecking Ball Tour Premiere] And holy shit the crowd is insane singing EVERY word. Quintessential Bruce. Classic. Awesome. MORE!!!
10. EASY MONEY — One of my favorites from the new album and really showcases Soozie’s violins, as well as the influence of the “Seeger Sessions” album. Great stuff and powerful commentary on the state of America, 2012. LOVE IT.
11. WAITING ON A SUNNY DAY — A crowd pleaser for sure and even at 62, Springsteen still did the the running / landing on the knees! Springsteen crowd surfed back to the stage! Also some pretty good harmony from three babes in the audience.
12. PROMISED LAND — Guys next to me are high-fiving me — I LOVE the camaraderie that comes out in Bruce shows when old favorites are played. The song is an anthem and everyone knows all the words. Crowd is on fire.
13. APOLLO MEDLEY (THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO/634-5789) — Change of format and I loved it. Springsteen talked about the honor of playing at the Apollo Theater recently and the many musical inspirations who have played there. Springsteen hilariously tried to do the high voice of Smokey Robinson and laughingly gave up. I have seen the song 634-5789 mentioned in many playlists but never seen it live; both songs paid tribute to the music that inspired Bruce and a chance for the whole band to sing. And that moment of them all interacting showed one thing really missing tonight — I would have liked to see more interaction with Bruce, Steve and Nils. It just wasn’t there. I wonder why?
14. AMERICAN SKIN (41 SHOTS) — Springsteen can say so much without saying a word. Very appropriate to have this song back in (which he played last week in Florida) after the 2/26/2012 police shooting of Florida teen Travyon Martin that sparked an outrage through the country. Hush over the crowd; everyone understands why Springsteen chose this one tonight.
15. LONESOME DAY — Soozie’s violins just make this song every time. Love the song, but seems out of place for the tour, maybe it’s just me?
16. THE RISING — YEAH! Guys next to me are high-fiving me again. We’re in church, we’re in the choir, we are shouting to the rafters! LOVE IT!
17. WE ARE ALIVE — Like this one. Quieter, almost stripped down, almost folksy, a reminder of the fallen from so many generations. Reminder of the theme of the show.
18. THUNDER ROAD — Always a crowd pleaser and a rousing rendition this evening.
“You always bring it a hundred percent, guaranteed, up here [in Boston].” Springsteen said to the crowd. Before the next song Bruce (as always) endorsed a local charity taking collection in the halls: Tonight was the Boston Food Project.
19. ROCKY GROUND (With Michelle Moore) — Like the song, Michelle is a great singer, but I still HATE the rap part of the song. I like rap, but not on a Springsteen song. Just doesn’t work for me.
20. LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS — The arrangement for this excellent song was more in line and style with the version played on the new album and not what we’ve heard live for years; but still very good, offering hope. We need that hope more than ever.
21. BORN TO RUN — Someone said recently, “You go to the Rolling Stones, you want to hear Satisfaction.” I suppose that’s true but I wish (and I’ve said it before) that Springsteen would retire BTR for a while. Springsteen tours so rarely; would like more variety and less BTR and…. and….
22. DANCING IN THE DARK — Arg, really? Meh. If I were a drinking man this would be my “go get a beer” song.
23. RAISE YOUR HAND (With Peter Wolf) [Wrecking Ball Tour Premiere] — I have often joked that Springsteen being in town gives Peter Wolf something to do, but then I was lucky enough to see the Aerosmith / J Geils Band show at Fenway a few years back and got an entirely new appreciation for just how talented Peter Wolf is. I mean, understand: I liked the J Geils Band FAR more than Aerosmith that night — they simply gave a far better performance. So, nice to see Peter! Also, I’d gotten very used to “Raise your hand” being an instrumental where Bruce would gather sign requests! I miss that!
24. TENTH AVENUE FREEZE OUT — THE story of the band and honestly, the most tearful, beautiful tribute to Clarence saved for the end — and in all of my years of seeing the Boss (since 1985) probably the most emotional, poignant moment EVER. The songs gets to the line, the CLARENCE line, “They made that change up town / and the Big Man joined the band” and then, in the spot where Clarence would blast into his sax solo, the music STOPS, STOPS, and the crowd goes insane for over three minutes, cheering, stomping, with a close-up on Bruce and his mike, Bruce wiping away tears. It is so obvious how profound the loss of the Big Man is — Clarence was the soul of the E Street band.
And then, after three minutes of cheering and applauding, we’re back into the song. AWESOME. AWESOME.
A three hour show without a break; the show does go on, and just pure Springsteen awesomeness, rock and roll and a healthy shot of what’s going on in America right now. As always, thank you Bruce. Thank you for being there, thank you for making the difference and keeping us such good company on the road!