"And so it begins!"
Those were Bruce's excited words as the last chord of "Radio Nowhere" hung over the crazed Hartford Civic Center crowd. A count-off led into the crashing opening chords of "The Ties That Bind" and we were off. Off to the beginning of another album, tour, and era in the E Street Band's history — and another chapter in our own lives. What, you think that's being overly dramatic? Maybe so, but for me it was something of an historic event. That, and simply a great rock and roll show.
You see, due to (work-related) circumstances beyond her control, TheWife™ was not able to attend. The lucky recipient of her "responsibleness" was Stepson#1. The E Street Band might be getting older, but the age range of fans seems to be expanding in both directions. There were a surprising number of younger folks in the crowd and Stepson#1 was one of them. I have to say that it was very heartwarming to witness his reaction to the event. And finally, finally … he has seen exactly what I've been going on about for all of these years. Yes, it was a special night in many ways, and I was so glad to be a part of John's real introduction to it all.
The Internet has put an interesting twist on how things are viewed. There is so much scrutiny focused on every detail, changing expectations as well as spinning the outcomes. "Fans" have been complaining about poor song selections, debating when to take bathroom breaks, claiming Patti is ruining the band, taking bets on whether Clarence will last the tour, cracking wise about Bruce's hair, and giggling that Little Steven ain't so little anymore. It's all so pathetic and really, what does it have to do with the music?
Absolute nothing. I mean, what's the point? That Bruce isn't stuck in 1978 anymore. Oooh, poor babies.
Then there's the complaint that some of us are trapped in the "Bruce can do no wrong" cage. Not at all. My interest is in seeing how an artist makes it through life … what the reactions are. It goes far beyond a simple good vs. bad sort of thing.
Which is why some of my favorite moments from last night are the very things these people will crab about. Patti and Bruce dueting on Patti's "Town Called Heartbreak" — I love hearing their voices blend like that. Plus, it's a nice smoldering, bluesy tune. The short "speech" before "Livin' In The Future" — Bruce is a citizen just like the rest of us and he splits his voice between pure statement and one of the bounciest songs he's ever written. There are a few more but why give any more weight to the negative spirit, eh?
There were many musical highlights last night. "Gypsy Biker" was simply huge. With the combined guitar firepower of Bruce/Steven/Nils, the song exploded as the solos dug in. It feels like "Long Walk Home" has been in the live set forever, with Bruce and Clarence lifting off as the tune progresses. Bruce called an audible after "Town Called Heartbreak" and the band launched into "Darkness On The Edge Of Town" followed by an off the charts "Darlington County." Perhaps the most breathtaking segment of the show began with a reworked (by way of ZZ Top) "Reason To Believe" that led into the merciless two-fer of "Night" and "She's The One." Anybody who thinks this band has lost its edge has lost their mind. Gawd, it was beautiful.
"Girls In Their Summer Clothes" headlined a group of encores that included "Thundercrack" (yes!), a blissful "Born To Run," "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," and the final (and somewhat controversial) show closer, "American Land." The "fan" contingent that sees this song as a misplaced and inappropriate draw from the Seeger Sessions simply misses the point. What starts out as a Celtic sort of thing, launches into an intense raveup that brought to mind The Pogues back in their heyday. Bruce took a wide stance at the mic and leaned into the song and just blew it out. The sweat was flying and people were dancing in the aisles.
If this is any indication of where Bruce and the band are headed, I am still joyously along for the ride — me, TheWife™, Stepson#1, and anybody else who makes this stuff a part of their lives.
The Ties That Bind
Reason to Believe
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Born to Run
Waitin' on a Sunny Day