Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Long and dark, shiny and black

So believe it or not, KB and my mom and aunt and I went to see Bruce Springsteen play at Giants Stadium on Thursday night last week.

I've never really considered myself a Springsteen "fan," although I can certainly sing along to plenty of his songs, and I've never had any special antipathy towards him, either (like I do towards, say, Rod Stewart). I've never owned any of his albums myself, but both KB and my mom have a lot of them, so I've listened to plenty of his music and become, if not exactly a fan, then an appreciative listener. He has a sort of workman-like quality to his music - no frills, no fancy effects or over-produced noise, just basic, instrument-based rock and roll. His earlier albums are especially classic, and there's a quality of street poetry to his lyrics that reminds me of Tom Waits in a way.

So last December, my mom mentioned that she'd like to see him play and if she got us tickets would we be interested in going? And I was like, "Oh, okay. Sure. I know KB will want to go." So we got our $80 nosebleed tickets and I forgot all about it for six months. And when Thursday night rolled around, I can't really say I was all that jazzed about going - I'm still feeling pretty tired from the placentasmithing and I was coming down with a cold (which I'm just now getting over, thankfully, but of course KB has it now), so the prospect of driving up the Turnpike, standing up and screaming for three hours and getting home at one in the morning wasn't exactly floating my boat.

But boy, am I glad we went. The man knows how to put on a show, even when you're so high up he appears to be 1/8 inch tall and you have to look at the Jumbotron to see what the heck is going on. He's gotta be pushing 60, right? I mean, he and most of his band (for it was the full-on E Street Band Experience) have been making music for like, 40 years or something crazy like that. And he (and all of them) just so genuinely seemed to be enjoying himself, just playing music and having a good time. And they just powered through them! He didn't stop for a lot of stage patter, there were no "We're gonna take a short break" announcements - they played nonstop pretty much the entire three and a half hour show. It was pretty impressive.

He did kind of milk the New Jersey thing a bit - apparently this was the last time he'll ever play at Giants Stadium (they're tearing it down and building a new stadium 50 feet away. Ah, progress.) and he did a lot of "It's great to be home in New Jersey!" kind of stuff, but the crowd ate it up. It's funny, there seems to be a certain level of irony inherent in many of his songs, and I think it's fair to say a large part of the crowd was kind of oblivious to that darker layer of his stuff. Kind of like when Ronald Reagan wanted to use "Born in the USA" as his campaign song, and Bruce turned him down - Reagan didn't get the whole bleak, disaffected thing that song has going on. Ronnie heard the fist-pumping "Booooooooorn in the USAAAAA!" chorus and thought he could ride that wave, never mind that the lyrics are about a man who's been used and abused by his country. So there were a lot of T-shirt and Crocs-wearing, pot-smoking good old boys in the audience who didn't quite get the, how shall I say, deeper aspects of the music.

(It took me a while to realize that people in the stands were not, in fact, booing him throughout the show. They were yelling "Bruuuuuuuuuuuce!" I would hear all this booing and be like, "What's the problem, people? Let him play "Brilliant Disguise" if he wants to!" until I realized what was happening. Duh.)

Apparently, the band have a repertoire of 250 songs that they can choose from at any given show, and they take requests from the audience - you have to hold up a sign with the song you want on it, and he walks around and takes the signs from people and brings them back to the band and they all go through them and pick out which ones they want to play. So it was a nice mix of what they wanted to do and what the audience wanted to hear.

And he did play the one song I wanted to hear, which was "Rosalita." I love that song. We were talking about it before the show, what songs would we really want to hear, and when I said "Rosalita" my mom was like, "Oh, don't count on it. It's rare for them to play that one, apparently." (She watched the 60 minutes special with Bruce on Sunday, so she was the authority.) But it was the final song of the show! It was awesome.

And we didn't get home at one in the morning. We got home at three in the morning. There was a propane tractor-trailer overturned at exit 16W on the Turnpike (which is where the Meadowlands is) so everyone was late getting to the concert. It was supposed to start at 7:30, started instead at 9:30, and he played, including encores, until one in the morning. And I stupidly wore brand-new (cheap) sneakers and got blisters from walking from BFE (where we parked) to the stadium and back.

And I'm STILL glad we went. The man is a class act, all the way.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Caroline - this is a great review - I"m sending it to my friends in Toronto who gave me the cd I tried out when you were here - they have a video of one of his concerts - you should be writing for Rolling Stone - my best, K