Monday, March 21, 2016

The Bruce Springsteen Concert

If you have never been to a Bruce Springsteen concert go to your bucket list and put that at the very top -- above Tantric sex, seeing the Taj Mahal, or meeting me. A Springsteen concert is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
I saw him again last week at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles. Most people who go to a Springsteen concert are repeaters. There must’ve been 30,000 people jammed in an arena that probably holds 15,000 (the concert was last Tuesday and I suspect there are still some folks trying to get out of the parking lots), and of that 30K I would guess 28K had seen him at least once (or a hundred times) before. This wasn't a concert; it was a pilgrimage.

In LA he prefers the old Sports Arena to the newer glossier Staples Center, which is dominated by luxury boxes. The Boss doesn’t consider CEO’s and CAA to be his target fanbase. He plays for us tramps. The Sports Arena has no luxury boxes. Doors on the bathroom stalls are a luxury at the Sports Arena. But Springsteen calls it “the dump that jumps.”
I was fortunate enough to get good seats. (Aside: Why do we always use the plural of “seat” in reference to concerts or theater events? It should be “I was fortunate enough to get a good seat” not “good seats.” I expect Jerry Seinfeld to do ten minutes on this at his next concert.) The photos that I’m sharing were taken from there.  The big joke is that it says on the ticket:  No cameras/recorders.  EVERYONE was taking pictures.  I'm the only one who didn't take a Selfie. 

I saw no one famous in my section. The biggest celeb, to my knowledge, was my concert-mate, Eric Nadel, the radio voice of the Texas Rangers, and he was not mobbed.   Oh wait, I did see the woman who owns the Italian restaurant I like in Century City. 
So what’s so amazing about a Springsteen concert? Well, the music first of all. This is rock n’ roll heaven. His body of work over the years is staggering. And if you care to stop clapping or playing the air guitar while he performs them you’ll find there are a lot of complex themes and deeply emotional messages within some of them.  And car references.  Lots and lots of car references. 

But it’s his energy that is so extraordinary. He played for well over three hours. The man has a Medicare card!
During the uptempo numbers the entire crowd stood and they sat during the ballads. By the third hour they were sitting through a lot of the fast tunes too. Of course, half the audience has Medicare cards as well.  

Clearly, Springsteen still has the passion. His joy is so infectious, even after God knows how many concerts around the world. By this point, it can’t be for the money. He could piss on Alex Rodriguez.
For this tour, he performed the entire “ River” album. “The River” has always been one of my favorite Springsteen LP’s. He calls it his “coming of age” album and since I still am coming of age, it has always resonated with me. “The River” is a combination of good-time youthful rock n’ roll and tender ballads that are always about some blue-collar guy who is confused about life and love so he steals a car.

For the record: “Hungry Heart” is my favorite Springsteen song. What's yours?
After singing all twenty tracks of “The River” he launched into another hour and a half of greatest hits including “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “Thunder Road,” and “Rosalita.” And still you wish he had sung four or five of your other favorites.

You may say some rock stars raise the roof or tear down the building. Springsteen literally does. The Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena will be demolished now that his tour dates are over.  It's good to be the Boss.

44 comments:

YEKIMI said...

You can thank WMMS in Cleveland for playing the hell out of his music back in 1974/75. To this day a lot of stations in my area use "Thunder Road" to kick off the weekend. That seemed to get the ball rolling for his becoming a musical legend. Never been to one of his concerts but they always seem to go on forever.I don't want to do anything for 3 hours, unless it's DJing. I assume that he has an IV of Extra Strength 5 Hour Energy for a couple of hours before he takes the stage.

Dave Creek said...

Saw him in Louisville for this same tour, and it was amazing. My son, who's twenty, knew Springsteen by reputation and some of his more popular songs, but was clearly more impressed than he expected to be. Actually smiled and clapped along.

I envy you your tickets, Ken. As was usual, my wife and son and I were at the far end of the KFC Yum! Center (you can't make up a name like that, can you?). Any farther back and we'd have been seeing the show on a delayed basis.

My favorite Springsteen song: "The River." It would make a great theme to a movie sometime, but I can't imaging that hypothetical movie being better than the song.

The best two dollars I ever spent on rock and roll: two dollars to see Springsteen at the University of Kentucky Student Ballroom in 1974. This was before BORN TO RUN, so no one knew who he was. A lot of people were buying Springsteen albums the next day.

Carol said...

I went to college in a town very near to both where Bruce Springsteen grew up and actually lived at the time. I was never a fan, really, but he was a bit of a demi-god in that area, so I couldn't avoid him completely.

One day my dorm-mate and I were hanging out when she got a call from her boyfriend saying we needed to get down to Th Inkwell (our coffee-house hangout) ASAP because Bruce Springsteen and Micky Rourke were there. So we hopped her car and then sat at a table outside the room were Bruce and Micky were, waiting for them to come out. My favorite part of this story was when another kid from our school came to our table to say hi. He was informed as to the reason why everyone was sitting quietly and staring at a door. He scoffed, but at that very moment, Bruce came out to wave to the server, then ducked back into the room. The boy, his face a picture of shock and awe, grabbed a chair and plopped down to await the second sighting. Still makes me giggle to this day.

For the record, Bruce was very kind and said hello to us as he passed by, but Micky Rourke just ducked his head and hurried past us.

Matt said...

My favorite has always been Born in the USA because of the happy feel good theme which Ronald Reagan embraced.

Pat Reeder said...

I saw him live once, but it was a long time ago. I did watch a live stream of his recent concert in Dallas. Very strange circumstances: he did a free outdoor show near downtown, but it poured rain and not many people turned out. He still put on his usual three-hour barn burner for those who were there. At one point, he let a bunch of teenagers come up on stage with him, and I thought it would take half an hour to get them off because they were all lining up with their cell phones for selfies with him, and he was posing for them all.

Favorite song: "Thunder Road." Also partial to "Badlands" and several other tunes from my favorite album of his, "Darkness on the Edge of Town." I never cared much for "Hungry Heart" because of the line, "Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back." That guy may think he has a hungry heart, but I think he's just an a-hole who has some hungry kids.

Incidentally, I've left a couple of comments in the past few days that never appeared. I didn't think they were offensive in any way. Am I having that problem again with sending posts that don't go through? If there's anything else I can do to prove I'm not a robot, please let me know.

Peter said...

I love Born in the USA, Dancin in the Dark, Streets of Philadelphia and Murder Incorporated. I've never seen him in concert but have watched a lot of his live performances online and the live versions of Born in the USA are always epic, especially with the extended instrumental section at the end and the powerhouse drumming from Max Weinberg.

Question Mark said...

Bruce's show at the Rogers Centre in 2012 was the single best concert I've ever seen in my life, of any musician. Nobody tops Springsteen.

Question Mark said...

Bruce's show at the Rogers Centre in 2012 was the single best concert I've ever seen. Nobody beats the Boss.

DBA said...

I don't know about you but I imagine most people rarely go to a concert/theater alone, so it's reasonable to say "good seats" because even though you individually may only have made use of a single seat, most likely the booking involved at least two. And unless it was for a mad rush to buy before sell out show, you probably got them together, rather than having one great seat and one so-so seat somewhere else in the venue. So why not default to "good seats"?

Hollywoodaholic said...

I remember seeing him at the L.A. Coliseum around 1985 and the 80,000 or more there stood on the tops of their seats for the entire four hour concert. I've never seen anything like that before or since.

A few years earlier I saw him at a small club (>100 people) in Calabasas jamming with Gary Busey playing Buddy Holly songs all night.

The one time I shook his hand and welcomed him on his move to L.A. (temporarily) was at Joe's Diner in Santa Monica on Main St. (of COURSE he ate at Joe's diner). Being a New Jersey guy he kept is cash in a huge roll of money, and the same moment he was pulling it out to pay, I was reaching to shake his hand. There was that one moment of New Jersey paranoia of someone trying to grab your roll before he relaxed and graciously accepted my welcome. Sorry about that, Boss.

And sorry for the personal stories, but where else can you share this kind of shit? Reverence for an unbelievable force of nature, talent and humility.

Pat Reeder said...

I should also add that one of my cockatoos dances wildly whenever he hears "Pink Cadillac."

Tom Asher said...

"Brilliant Disguise".

Stuart said...

I had the great fortune to see Bruce four times in two months in 1975--Houston, Austin, LA and Santa Barbara. The LA show was one of the famous Roxy shows, 10-17-75 late show. While waiting in line to get in, the early show was broadcast live on KWEST-FM, so we were able to hear that entire show live. Seeing Bruce that night was a magical experience. Pure energy.

Seen him several times since, but nothing comes close to the intensity of those first shows.

Markus said...

"Why do we always use the plural of “seat” in reference to concerts or theater events?"

Two possible explanations:
1) Etymologically, "seats" isn't a plural noun here, but a grated-down version of "sitting" - "we had good sitting/seating" or "we sat well"
2) Unless you're a mutant, your buttocks consists of two halves, not one, thus: plural

The good thing about saying "coming of age" is that it never includes any definition as to coming of WHAT age, so don't worry, you're all set.

"For the record: “Hungry Heart” is my favorite Springsteen song. What's yours?"
Probably ballads or other quiet stuff. Secret Garden, Blood Brothers, My Hometown, something like that.

Gary West said...

WNEW-FM (New York) was on Springsteen from the first week of his first Columbia album. Somewhere - there's a 1966 ad with (WMCA's) Gary Stevens making an appearance in Asbury Park and on the bill - one of Springsteen's early bands. "Born to Run" still my Springsteen fav.

Rod said...

Very envious Ken-- Have seen Bruce every time he has been in the Seattle area since I was in High School in 1978. Nobody puts on a better show, and I was in radio in the 80's and have seen LOTS of bands live. The last few times he's been to town, the show wasn't sold out, so I wasn't particularly worried about getting tickets to the show. But even though I was on the TicketBastard website at 10am when the tickets went on sale, it sold out in five minutes. Since I refuse to pay after market ticker broker prices, I will have to stay home and listen to The River on my Turntable and recall back to October of 1980 in the Seattle Center Coliseum, where my ticket was $12 and I waited in line for 3 hours at the local record store window to buy them.

Best song on The River-- "Drive All Night"

Rashad Khan said...

Favorite Springsteen song: "Ain't Good Enough for You," from an expanded edition of his "Darkness on the Edge of Town" album.

gottacook said...

I saw Bruce and the E Street Band three times. The first had the greatest impact on me - it was late July or early August 1975 in a college gymnasium in Kutztown, PA. I already knew the two extant Springsteen LPs well by then. The set included most of those albums but also featured "Born to Run" (which sounded just fine without a string section) and a few other tracks from the album about to be released. The encores started with "Sandy" and proceeded to a long string of oldies after the house lights were turned on, such as "Quarter to Three." I was standing on my rickety folding chair for most of the show, like everyone else.

The last of the three was during the Tunnel of Love tour in 1988 (which introduced the acoustic version of "Born to Run"). After that, he broke up the band and I had no interest in seeing him with the substitute band he toured with in the early '90s; soon after, marriage and babies intervened (mine, not his) and I never cared enough about the later material to try snagging a ticket in more recent years. But I didn't miss out.

I was and still am an adherent of the longer songs on the second album, and was glad to see Bruce & the band do "Kitty's Back" on Conan O'Brien's show around 2005 or so, with Conan strumming along too. The tempo was a tick too slow but the song still had swing, as did the version of "Don't Look Back" that I heard in Boston in 1977 (which later appeared on Tracks but in disappointing, squared-off 4/4 time). I'm afraid the Bruce who could swing is long gone.

Steve Schnier said...

I've seen Bruce many times - and he ALWAYS puts on a great show.
Only problem is, for some reason, I attract the obnoxious drunks.
The cute blonde with the British accent sitting beside me during the River Show at the Air Canada Centre, started off charming - and ended up (after 8 glasses of wine) passing out on the people in front of her. The drunk guy 5 rows ahead of us, stripped to the waist and danced topless for most of the show - the very drunk (did I mention she was cute) blonde beside me, did not.

In the "Springsteen and I" documentary, my wife and I are clearly visible in the crowd during the concert in Hamilton.

Boob McNair said...

He's smart, Staples sounds like crap. But he could've played the newly improved Forum, still sounds pretty good in there. Glad you had a good time!

DAvid said...

Ken,

More evidence of how The Boss is a class act: he signed a note for a nine year-old to excuse him from being late to school the next day.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/springsteen-tardy-note-fan-1.3500574

Gary Benz said...

Simply, Springsteen is the best there's ever been. He hasn't lost his fastball at all, which is amazing. It's as if Nolan Ryan, after 45 years as a major leaguer, could still throw as hard as he did as a rookie. I'm a 40 veteran of well north of a hundred Springsteen shows in every kind of venue, every kind of city, every kind of show and I've never been disappointed of left feeling like I saw less than his best. A truly gifted songwriter, musician and performer with an almost unheard of ability to connect with an audience. Money has never been his motivation but has been the happy byproduct of being a rare talent. He once said that he'll stop performing when he looks out into the audience and can no longer see himself. The day clearly isn't coming any time soon and even the non or indifferent fans out there should see a show at least once. No performer before him has ever matched his body of work or his passion as a performer. Maybe there's someone out there that might in the future but whoever that may be, he or she probably hasn't yet been born.

Steve Pepoon said...

Many years ago in LA, Bruce played the Forum. The next morning a local DJ joked that he was still playing, his fingers bleeding, and that the doors were open so anyone could drop in for free. I believe that DJ got into some trouble because people flocked to the Forum and were pissed.

Breadbaker said...

Never seen Bruce (my wife won't go to concerts with amplifiers).

I have met you, though. I have photographic evidence, even.

GS in SF said...

From my understanding, Hungry Heart was written right after Bruce attended a Ramones concert. He actually wrote the song for them, but his manager/producer Jon Landau upon hearing it implored him to keep it for himself knowing how great it was. I just wish there was a demo of the Ramones doing it, ultra-fast with Dee Dee's 1-2-3-4 count off, Joey's punk-50's-soulful voice, Johnny's ultra-fast downward strumming of the chords with no solo, and Marky's standard beat with crash cymbals on the 1 and 3 count. Oh what could have been.

I'm a much bigger Ramones fan than Bruce, but it is not hard to see the correlation between them - New York and Jersey boys, playing no frills rock n roll in the early 70's with emphasis on angst and simple stories looking no further than their own room or street corner.



Mark Verheiden said...

For those who can't or won't attend big shows anymore, Springsteen is selling extremely good mixes of every concert from the current tour at nugs.net. These are not bootlegs, they're authorized and the sound is amazing.

VP81955 said...

Fave Springsteen song? "She's the One," Bo Diddley energy, '70s style.

A story both you and Eric Nadel would appreciate: Longtime legendary Phillies announcer Harry Kalas reguarly made answering machine calls for people, and Bruce -- a devout baseball fan -- got Harry to make one for him. Not long after Harry's passing, Bruce closed the Spectrum in Philly...and he played it before one of his songs. Needless to say, the Phils phans went wild.

R.I.P. to the Sports Arena, which I only visited once -- for a Clippers draft party in June 1989, a few hours before I flew east from LAX to end my first trip to Los Angeles. In the midst of the Sterling error, er, era, the crowd was a pretty surly bunch. It gave me an idea what rooting for the St. Louis Browns must have been like.

Katherine Bennett said...

I saw him in Phila, December 9, 1980 - the day after John Lennon was shot. Unbelievably touching moment when he talked about whether to have the concert or not, and then opined that Lennon would have said to go ahead, and after all (pause… then pointing way up above his head where a single string of Christmas lights blinked on) "It's Christmas!" Unforgettable concert.

mhowell said...

The best Springsteen song is, strangely enough, not found on any of his albums. "Shut Out the Light", on the B-side of the "Born in the USA" 45 single, is the Boss at his introspective best. In one song he captures the very essence of PTSD before it even had a name. The song resonates more today than it did thirty years ago.

sanford said...

I came to Bruce quite late. Saw my 3rd concert in Milwaukee earlier this month. Great show. Amazing that a guy his age can still do a 3 and a half hour show. Plenty of stuff on you tube. For you Springsteen fans there is a great site Brucebase. Google it and will take you there. Lists every gig, set lists, videos. Plenty of full concerts on you tube. Most are audio but there are a fair amount of video performance (full shows)

Mitchell Hundred said...

To be honest, I've been nursing a bit of a grudge against Springsteen ever since I learned that he recorded a song called High Hopes that wasn't a cover of this.

Come on, you wanna hear that. Admit it.

Anonymous said...

Best son? 'Glory Days' - hands down.

Norm said...

The first time I saw Bruce was at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. My seat BROKE and I wrote to the Coliseum office. They sent me a refund for my ticket: $17.50!

Storm said...

Well, even though I'm not a fan myself, I'm very glad to hear that his shows are still great, even without The Big Man. When he passed, I was really kinda sad for the fans and wondered how they could go on without him. I can't imagine anyone else wailing that sax at the end of "Thunder Road". "...You ain't a beauty, but hey, you're alright, oh and that's alright with me..." is the story of my teens/20s. Plain girls, y'all; when we can get it, we make it count so you'll be back for more.

@Pat Reeder: ..."I never cared much for "Hungry Heart" because of the line, "Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back." That guy may think he has a hungry heart, but I think he's just an a-hole who has some hungry kids."

THANK YOU. That song has always rubbed my fur the wrong way. Why on Earth would the Ramones want a song about a guy makin' with the ol' Irish Divorce?

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Barry Traylor said...

I can't pick just one favorite, they are all my favorites.

Pseudonym said...

He did a really good version of Highway to Hell in Perth last week. On behalf of all Australians, thank you for singing the song of my people.

Gridlock said...

I'm a sucker for tracks from the end of favourite Tv shows, so it has to be This Train (Jon Stewart's choice).

Mark said...

Not a particularly huge Springsteen fan, although I enjoy the hits for the most part. But the moment in 'Rosalita' where he sings (or shouts) 'the record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!' ... so joyful & passionate, always makes me smile.

In the same way I know 'Santa Claus Is Coming to Town' is cheese, but it may be the song that feels the most to me like the band is really having a great time.

Astroboy said...

I saw 3 times in the 70's, at the Sports Area, the Fabulous Forum, the Santa Barbara County Bowl and I was supposed to see him at Robertson's Gym at UCSB but one of the wheels came off my car on the way to the show! I met him and had him sign my guitar when he had dinner at our restaurant in Ojai. Great guy, hung around for a few hours talking with folks. My favorite song? "Adam Raised A Cain", from "The Dark Side of Town", a thrilling song and it also scares the crap out of me.

Neal Grinnell said...

Because the Night, without question. I saw him preform it on the original River tour in 1980.

Neal Grinnell said...

Because the Night. I saw him preform it on the original River tour in 1980.

Mark P. said...

Bruce used to drop by unannounced (although it was usually a pretty open secret) at Clarence Clemons gigs at small venues at the shore and do a short performance (which for him meant one hour). As you say, he's not in it for the money, he wants to entertain his fans.

Brent Alles said...

As big of a Springsteen fan as I am, I have never seen him live in concert. Have to remedy that.

"Ties that Bind" is my favorite, though it changes from time to time. :)

Sherry Darling said...

Great to hear he's still on top form. The fact that he can play for longer than musicians half his age is astounding. I saw him two years ago and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Three and a half hours of pure energy from him, the E Street Band and the audience. Through pure luck, my sister snagged tickets to see him later this year and we've been memorising his albums in anticipation.

As for my favourite song, how can I choose? The Ties That Bind, Tunnel of Love and every song on the Born to Run album. The acoustic version of Two Hearts from The Ties That Bind documentary is also beautiful.