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Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Magic Tour Opener, Hartford, CT

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"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.

Setlist:

Radio Nowhere
The Ties That Bind
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason to Believe
Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Darlington County
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands

Encores:

Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thundercrack
Born to Run
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
American Land

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About Mark Saleski

  • http://www.glosslip.com Dawn

    I can’t wait to listen to this. With your great review and the NYT’s interview, this sounds like a great album.

    We saw Bruce in concert back a few years ago (actually like almost 8 years ago) and it was one of the best concerts I have been to. He and the band take their performance and their audience seriously, but in a very fun way.

    Great job Mark!

  • http://donaldgibson.blogspot.com/ Donald Gibson

    Did the concert, overall, feel shorter than the 99/00 reunion tour shows or the Rising shows? I thought Bruce would flesh out the rehearsal setlists a lot more than he has.

    Either way, it sounds like a great show and a wonderful time was had by all. Thanks for the review, Mark.

    -Donald

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    thanks dawn. and remember, this whole obsession started at the richfield coliseum back on The River tour.

    richard, the show did seem slightly shorter but much more intense. despite a few sequencing issues, that three-fer of Reason->Night->She’s The One was just crazy. and the closing American Land was like the Pogues by way of Asbury Park.

  • Mary Wilson

    Great review! Can’t wait to see him this Friday in Philly. Thanks Mark.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I am sooooo pissed that the first leg has bypassed the Northwest! I’m still seriously thinking about a flight to Oakland, except that I honestly cant afford it right now.

    So yes Mark, I am jealous…but I’m also really happy you were able to take in opening night (something I’ve never done, and just for the record my personal obsession goes back to Seattle’s paramount in 75 on the Born To Run tour).

    Screw the naysayers too. Anybody who has ever attended one of these shows KNOWS (unless they are on emotional life support) that there is nothing like the unbridled joy of dancing in the aisles and just plain taking it all in with what feels like 20,000 of your best friends.

    You can bet your ass that Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver BC will have my ass in a seat next spring though.

    Take it to the bank! Oh, and great review Mark!

    -Glen

  • Ian Dempsey

    WOW,
    Well written Mark,
    My wife Michelle and I will be coming from Canberra (Ausralia’s Washington) to the LA shows at the end of October.
    We saw Bruce with our entire family(+4 children and a future son in law) in Sydney in March 2003, a show plagued wih power problems, yet still brilliantly done by the Man and the E Streeters. Toward the end of that show Bruce apologatically said, and I quote “Sydney, I’ll never fucking forget you”.
    Well Bruce, We’ll never fucking forget you either, and as we are in our 50’s, like yourself, we are going to see you, for us, possibly one last time, before the zimmer frames prevent us from travelling, we’ll be holding the banner “REMEMBER SYDNEY BRUCE 2003″,Not in any other way than to say
    We adore you, no matter what crap The Sydney Electricity Co dealt you.
    In the words of the great Harry Chapin ( you sang his song “Remember when the Music)
    Onward and Upward,
    Ian and Michelle Dempsey

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    holy smokes, all the way from canberra! cool.

  • Jamey Hebb

    Awesome concert review for what sounds like a great show, and I am “countin’ on a miracle” to catch Bruce and the Band on this tour in either DC or Philly. Those who are critical and looking for a return to the mid-late ’70’s Bruce are delusional. Times change, we change, life goes on. What Bruce gave us back then was special, and the fact that he still goes out and proves it all night, night after night, and certainly not for needing the money, is a testament to his character and devotion to his fans. I have been a huge fan since BTR was released and have enjoyed every phase of his career.

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    one of these days maybe I’ll actually see him live.

  • http://blogcritics.org/video Lisa McKay

    Boston in November, Mary K!

  • http://dracutweblog.blogspot.com Mary K. Williams

    You got me a ticket? I love you!! Oh, wait… that’s not what you meant. : (

  • Karla

    Great review – I CAN’T wait to see the Cleveland show – I’ve seen him around 10 times and each time is a new, exciting, and fulfilling time.

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the review. It inspired my husband and I to buy tickets and get down to St Paul’s, MN concert. I am a Winnipeger and have waited over 20 years to see Springsteen.

    Can’t wait to see the show.

  • http://www.petesilas.com pete silas

    Springsteen’s Radio Nowhere

    RADIO NOWHERE—I didn’t think bruce had the same compelling drive to come up with a tune like this. I thought those days were lost to the rewards of mass success. This song is every bit as good as any of his classic work from Darkness, Nebraska etc.., I was riveted upon hearing it, listening to it 10 to 15 times the other night. What is this Song?? It is a musical call to arms from a fearless leader directed towards the younger musicians. He’s looking for the “Mystery Train” and is challenging all of us younger musicians with his call, will we take him up on it?? I for one, know that we’re are out here, I also know, that Bruce doesn’t fully realize how controlled the game is today. The title of the album “Magic” seems to foreshadow a role that Bruce is taking on this song, the one of a sorcerer/conjurer “I want a thousand voices speaking in tongues” as if he could wave a wand and fix the music business. Hope he realizes that some of us have followed in the Rock icons tracks but we can’t help if Justin Timberlake, Hip Hop and American Idol is what gets the most play.

  • chuck

    I Saw bruce in san jose last night it was the worst fucking concert i have ever been to in my life… a lot of people didn’t know any of the songs he was playing… The piece of shit didn’t play glory days, human touch, i’m on fire, or Born in the U.S.A. Not to mention I paid 600 bucks for two tickets, it was just a big ass let down…

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    $300 for one show?! I paid less than that for four days at Bonnaroo last year. Glad you have the money to waste, but I can’t imagine any show not being a letdown at that price. Plus, didn’t you catch two of those songs at the Super Bowl?

  • http://marksaleski.com MarkSaleski

    they’re going to be adding a special forum over at backstreets.com for people like chuck: “Attention-whoring, bitching, and whining”

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    hmm, I thought that what backstreets was for

  • Greg Matthews

    Just saw the show in Charlotte Have seen him in the past and tonight they were wonderful . There wasn’t a ticket that cost more than $100. in the whole areana . I kinda feel sorry for the other guy .Guess somebody saw him coming .