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Verse Chorus Verse: Bruce Springsteen – St. Louis, MO | Oct. 25, 2009

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I'm reminded this morning of U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."  I don't think Bono was thinking about Bruce Springsteen fans when he wrote that song and it's not the first thing that comes to mind for me but it is today. 

People at a Bruce Springsteen show all come looking for something.  For some, it's a good time or a good party.  For some, it's for a sense of community.  For some it's escape.  I suspect for some it's babysitting (more on that later).  For me, it's the songs.  It's the music.  I find something in the songs of Bruce Springsteen I don't find anywhere else.  I come to a Springsteen show to hear those songs played and experience their power in a way that can't be experienced any other way.  I come for the songs.  Last night in St. Louis, I didn't get them.

Last night, The E Street Band performed the Born To Run album in its entirety.  We knew that going in so there were no surprises there, but we'll talk about it for a moment.  In a word, incredible.  Yep, they nailed it.  "Backstreets" was a transcendent performance and Bruce was able to summon a lot of the intensity such a powerful song requires.  Clarence Clemons was almost note-perfect on "Jungleland" and that's important because that might be the greatest sax solo in the history of rock and roll.  "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" is always great.  "Thunder Road" had some small tempo issues but was still good and "Born to Run" never disappoints.  The Born To Run portion of the show was a massive success.  Those are songs — some I've gotten before and some I haven't — and I got those and I treasure them.

There was, however, the show before and after and on that score this was the least imaginative setlist I've experienced in my 5 shows.  Of the non-Born To Run songs, only one was a real surprise and let's go ahead and talk about that now.  Someone made a beautiful sign with some fancy artwork.  Its request: "Bruce Play Piano."  He did.  He gave us a solo acoustic "For You" and it was a wonderful reading that only made me yearn to see Bruce in a solo setting some day all the more.

"Seeds," a song that used to be played in the context of a Recession Trio,  was sandwiched between a new song, "Wrecking Ball," and the venerable "Prove It All Night."  Bruce peeled off an inspired guitar solo at the end of it.  I liked the performance, but the #2 slot is one of the very few open slots in the set list and I was hoping he'd play something that hadn't been played at most of the shows on the tour, including the two I'd already seen.  "Wrecking Ball" made a lot more sense for Philly and Jersey where Bruce was playing his final shows at venues he's played countless times.  It's not a song that's going to stand tall in his catalog and just didn't have much resonance in St. Louis nor was it particularly memorable musically.  "Prove It All Night" is a good one, but for some reason it didn't take flight.  Nils did an abbreviated solo and it didn't have the fire Lofgren often generates.  It was good, but I've heard it better.

After that, we got "Hungry Heart."  I've never heard this one live and it's a big hit, so I was excited about that… until he played it.  The crowd sang more of "Hungry Heart" than Bruce did.  He had the audience sing the first verse and chorus.  The E Street Band picked up a chorus as Bruce crowd-surfed.  It was entertaining to watch him do it, but it wasn't a great presentation of the song.  Some people would probably rather watch Bruce crowd-surf so they can dance and sing the songs themselves.  I like hearing him sing.  A little audience participation is fun.  I wish he'd been more present.

After Born to Run was "Waiting On A Sunny Day."  I'm not going to pile on this war crime of a song again but I'm going to point out a couple things.  First, while I wish he wouldn't play it I've accepted this is the "Waiting On A Sunny Day" tour.  I know it's coming.  You just can't play that after "Jungleland."  The transition from the one to the other is horrible and I'm not (just) referring to the stature gap.  Put it somewhere else!  Second, the kids are killing me.  Rock and roll used to be dangerous.  Parents used to not let their kids go to rock and roll shows.  You know something is wrong when a rock show is a family event.  Parents used to get babysitters.  Now they pay $100 to bring the kids, too, and Uncle Bruce loves him some kids.  Once again, he let some twerp sing "Sunny Day" and the kid had obviously been coached up by his parents to throw in the "come on's" and "hit it, Big Man."  Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Aging Babyboomers, you are the coolest parents on E Street and we all hate you.  

About Josh Hathaway

  • Scott Smith

    Sir,

    In reading your article it is obvious that you have zero clue in regard to Bruce Springsteen, The E-Street band, and what this tour is about. You wasted four pages of a worthless review and seem to know little to nothing about Bruce. Most critics need to see bruce more than five times before they have a say, as proof in your words. With all do respect, maybe you should review Hanna Montanna for 12-year olds.

    Sincerely,
    Scott

  • Sidney Ponson

    I was at the show as well and I agree with most of the article. It was a good, not GREAT Bruce show. I don’t have a problem with the sing alongs like Hungry Heart and Sunny, that’s part of the Bruce experience, but “Surprise, Surprise” really? Really?!? I said more or less the same words when I saw that sign. Boooo on those parents indeed.

  • Michelle

    This is the 4th time I’ve seen Springsteen on this tour and I thought it was a very good show. If you’ve never seen Springsteen do Hungry Heart (with the audience singing most of the song) I’ve got to wonder how many times and when you actually saw him–he’s been doing this song in this way since 1980! Waiting On A Sunny Day is also another song where he pulls kids up on stage to sing–again, he’s been doing this for at least several years now. I saw the Born to Run show in Chicago and I think this one was better–sorry you were disappointed, but your knowledge of real Springsteen concerts seems to be lacking.

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

    Josh,

    Man, I don’t know where to start here (and I really do want to keep this friendly), so I’m just gonna skip all the repetition about “Sunny Day” etc. We get that you don’t care for the song. Hey, at least he isn’t doing Marys Place — well, not yet anyway.

    What really struck me about this article though was the comments about Bruce fans bringing their families. I think something needs to be put into perspective here.

    Bruce has grown up, as have both his fans and the characters in his songs.

    The guy who wrote about frat parties in “Sheery Darlin” and the promise of “pulling out of here to win” in Born To Run is long gone, he aint coming back, and I for one am thankful for that because singing about the same things Bruce sang about thirty years ago would be pretty ridiculous at his age, not to mention quite redundant.

    Many of Bruce’s songs these days are about families and the challenges they face in their everyday lives. So it stands to reason, that these same families who have grown up with him would want to share that and pass it on down to their kids.

    If you want the good-old fashioned sense of danger that rock was founded on, there are scores of gangsta rap and death metal acts out there for your enjoyment. Me, I’ll take a Springsteen show any day.

    Bruce’s fanbase is largely an adult one now, and his concerts allow these fans to escape their everyday lives for a couple hours, and maybe re-live a little of their own “glory days.” It also allows parents to perhaps to share a little of the values of Springsteen’s songs with their kids, and maybe show them how fun it can be at the same time.

    Sorry man, but you really sound like kind of a grumpy old man when you grouse about the families.

    Finally, I’d like to also make a suggestion to you about tonight. Get to the show a little early, and find out which local watering hole is having the pre-party, and go hang out with some of your fellow fans. I think you’ll be surprised at just how nice most of these people are and you may find out just how rewarding that whole “community” thing shared by the fans can be.

    Hope you enjoy tonight, and I’ll look forward to reading about it.

    -Glen

  • Brucefan

    Cmon st louis fans.. Don’t get greedy… The last show he played In st. Louis, judging by the playlist, may have been his best of the entire last tour… I’ve traveled from the deep south to see Springsteen play at various sites in jersey 3 times in the last couple of years,… Not sure if I’ve seen a playlist much stronger than that one…any Springsteen show is a great Springsteen show… If this show was avg. For him, your still ahead of the game just based on what he served up there a year ago…

  • 11

    This tour is seriously flawed; I am glad that someone has the balls to come along and say ‘The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.’

    This is a desperately boring setlist.

  • 11

    Oh, and Scott: I have seen six E-Street Band shows over three tours and one solo acoustic show. Am I allowed to have an opinion yet?

  • Sonic Boomer

    Wow, how edgy, noting how *everyone* hates aging baby boomers. While your contempt is obvious, what isn’t clear is just who IS entitled to go to rock and roll shows? Not parents and their kids; we “know something is wrong when a rock show is a family event.”
    Just the parents? Just the kids? Face it, cool young hipster, rock and roll ain’t been dangerous since Blue Oyster Cult was blinding audiences with over-powered laser effects and you could never be sure if the guillotine operator at the Alice Cooper (band) show was sober enough to avoid an actual beheading.
    Maybe you should just watch concerts at home until you learn to be less contemptuous of your fellow audience members, both young and old.
    Oh, btw, I know a “kid” (teenager) who was at this show and she did NOT have to be “coached up” to respond properly.

  • 11

    Maybe next tour Bruce & Co. will come out on ice skates, and you can all bring your kids down on the ice with them for a rousing rave-up ending of ‘It’s A Small World.’

  • Sonic Boomer

    Yeah, that’s a great suggestion, 11. Is there some reason two generations should not be allowed to enjoy rock and roll together?
    Or does your ageist attitude only allow families to attend ice shows and groove to Disney music?

  • 11

    If I thought for one second, Sonic Boomer, that those kids who get pulled up on stage give a rat’s you-know-what about Bruce Springsteen, it would be different. These parents are using their kids as props to get close to Bruce.

    I don’t know how closely you follow these tours, but if you get really bored sometime, check out BXT’s message board, and read some of the threads about the way some people are acting with their kids. Stories about mothers dolling up their 4-year-old girls like tarts and dragging them past people who have been standing all day, dads jerking their sons up by their arms and perhcing them on top the rail, the list goes on and on.

    I guess someone’s little darlin’ is going to have to get crushed before this stops. Oh, but then, that parent will undoubted sue the venue, Bruce and anyone else they can think of, and that will be another golden ticket.

    Or, maybe the next time Bruce tries to play solo acoustic in a theater his calls for quiet and ‘STFU!’ will be met by signs for ‘Badlands’ and halfway through the intro to ‘Reno’ he’ll look up and see a Boy Scout troop in the front row.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    or maybe on the next tour the people with large arthropods lodged up their posteriors will stay home so the rest of us can have some fun.

    sorry, we ain’t here for business…

  • Sonic Boomer

    11, I appreciate the lowdown on these parents going Jon Benet on their kids, and I am sickened by it, too. I misinterpreted your comment, and I apologize. And I’m kind of disappointed that Bruce would either not recognize this is going on, or would, and doesn’t stop it.

  • 11

    Don’t let me completely off the hook, Boomer. I was being a bit of an ass about the kids. It might have been cute once or twice, but I think it has gone too far.

    In all truth, I just don’t much care for what Bruce is doing on this tour. The behavior of the parents, the lame signs, Waiting On A Sunny Day every night, the weak record, all are just small parts of a bigger picture.

    I guess I prefer the darker, more-adult themed stuff that Bruce has done, i.e. Nebraska, TOL, Joad, D&D, Magic, to the good-time stuff Uncle Bruce is serving up, and that clearly is NOT where he is right now.

    Everyone else is clearly having a good time and I am sure I’ll like what he does next, so it’s no big deal.

  • St. Louis Mom

    Are you really a fan of The Boss? I couldn’t wait to attend Sunday’s concert with my 8 yr old daughter….She listens to E Street Radio in the car with me all the time and she chose this concert over Miley Cyrus this month as her first concert.I know she made the correct choice as I wanted to create a memory for us both as I have enjoyed him for so many years.My college age son had to miss it and was going to go to KC the next night but of course it was cancelled. My family is a huge fan…it was not for babysitting. I was more annoyed with the 70 year oldsters sitting behind me for their first Bruce concert annoyed when we wanted to dance! And I am 51. What a wonderful night and those around me enjoyed seeing us having so much fun…

  • Janice

    I was in a band for years and you have to realize that when bands are on tour they may have favorite songs that they want to play. Maybe it makes Bruce happy to play Sunny Day. Sure he has so many great songs that we would love to hear but he has been playing all of these for years and whatever makes him happy he should do. I have mixed emotions about the kids at the concert. Maybe its just me or maybe it was the location of my seats or may I have been listening to LOUD music all my life that it is getting to me but the St. louis Concert was really bass-ie and too loud. At times we couldn’t make out the vocal because the bass and bass drum were kover powering everything. The Chicago concert had a very crisp and even sound. Nevertheless I enjoyed both shows very much. I just worry about the kids hearing loss. The person who wrote the review at the beginning of this blog needs to go see Bruce a few more times. I love whatever Bruce performs. He puts his soul into everything. If the Kids are that into Bruce to want to go to his concert then they definetly have a great sense of music!