If you were a rock fan and Friday night at Madison Square Garden was the first time you have ever seen Bruce and his band, you would be excused for claiming it was one of the greatest concerts you've ever seen.
But let a seasoned pro let you in on the real deal: they're still rusty.
And that is despite one of the greatest set openers ever. With the house lights up, the E Street Band entered to a complete recording of Sinatra's "New York, New York" before a blistering, very, very smart "Badlands". The momentum took the band straight thru the lights dimming full throttle "We Take Care Of Our Own".
This is an inversion of the earlier nights on the tour and so great it made me forget how much I disliked the latter song.
Ok, here we go. The problem with the set was too much "Wrecking Ball" (3rd song tonight) and the band are off but just a touch. It's like a baseball pitcher whose fast ball is in the lower instead of upper 90mph. The E Street Band don't get all of "Waiting For A Sunny Day" and so while everything is working, it isn't working well enough. I had a great seat and people were sitting for some songs. No really.
Yeah, baseball. That was the audience. You could swap em outside Yankee Stadium… Except for the blacks, of course. With the exception of playing on stage or serving dogs and suds behind the counter, they were nowhere to be found. It really is weird, Springsteen is a totally white phenomenon, he isn't even sampled. I am thinking, color and class because his latest album is so class conscious and because he "just played the Apollo" a month ago, and plays two terrific soul songs in the middle of the set. And baseball? His bluecollar heroes can't afford to buy tix or Yankee Stadium or MSG for that matter. This gig sold out instanaeously, and my sit, which cost me a hundred something, was changing hands for thousands. When Bruce discusses money tonight, he says (I paraphrase) the money went from those who needed it to the very rich and a couple of guitarists. That's a smart comment. A home run.
And along with the soul songs, not the only homeruns, because, cmon, how can you screw up "The Way You Do The Things You Do"?.He couldn't screwed up the money speech and he certainly could've screwed up but instead reinvented as an astounding rockabilly "Johhny 99". It stops the show dead in its tracks with the E Street Horns (hey, Bruce named em), swinging from the rooftops all the way to the electric chair. Also a reminded that Bruce can write about money -or at least could.
And other, handfuls, of great moments. I take it back. They were all great moments. But look at it this way: if Marlon Brando starred in "American Pie Part IV', he might be great but the movie would not be "Hamlet". Same deal with Bruce and the band. "Lonesome Town" has never recovered from the crap keyboard lick, "The Rising" can't rise above the lighting, and "Waiting On A Sunny Day" only survives because Bruce gets bailed out by his pre-teen niece who sings a verse and wins us over. During the encore, Bruce brings his niece and sister on stage for "Dancing In The Dark" and you'd have to have a harder heart than I do not to melt!
"My City In Ruins" has a slow build, slow enough for every one to notice he has stolen the riff from "Tracks Of My Tears". He also uses it to introduce the band, a great song but a bad idea. Of the new songs "Jack Of All Trade", "Wrecking Ball" and "Easy Money" should be dropped, "Shackled And Drawn" re-worked, "Death To My Hometown" and "We Are Alive" are keepers. "Death" has a great opening verse that sticks the flea in my ear to my griping about his lyrical ability. At least for a verse.
And Bruce looks his age, but acts half it, whether sliding across the MSG or, body surfing on top of the General Admission, the man is the bomb.
If you'd never seen him before, you'd think it was one of the greatest rock and roll shows you'd ever seen. If.