Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Springsteen: still pulling rabbits out of his hat



Photo credit: Kelly A. Swift

I've seen Bruce Springsteen more than a dozen times since November 1980, when I first caught him right after the release of "The River." That continues to be a concert by which I measure all other shows; it was the first time I ever remember crying during a rock 'n' roll concert ("Thunder Road" couldn't have been more amazing) and has only been equaled by a handful of other concert experiences, notably U2 at the US Festival in 1983. A show "The Boss" performed at the Sports Arena on Halloween Night, Oct. 31, 1984, also ranks as one of the best rock concerts I've ever experienced. And you had to love when he burst out of a coffin to kick it all off!

Here I was again last night (Monday, Oct. 29, 2007), and it was kind of like old times. Indeed, the show was at the same site (L.A. Sports Arena) where I first caught him 27 years ago. But instead of touring in support of "The River," Springsteen and his trusty E Street Band came to town in the wake of the recent release of "Magic," an aptly-titled disc that showcases a singer-songwriter that continues to be at the top of his game.

Was last night's concert equal to the marathon-length shows he performed in the early and mid-1980s? Yes and no. There were moments when everything clicked, notably during a propulsive "No Surrender," inspired "The Rising" and slightly-slower-than-the-recording "The Promised Land." And of course, "Born to Run" delivered with the house lights on and the audience all singing along, continues to be glorious.

But that super-charged feeling of the past where the sold-out crowd would hang on to each note and sing along seemed to ebb and flow across the 135-minute show I caught on Monday night. Springsteen continues to be an amazing singer, and he has the solid backing of the best rock 'n' roll band still around (drummer Max Weinberg, piano player Roy Bittan, saxophonist Clarence Clemons and guitarist Nils Lofgren in particular), but "Magic" gems such as "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" and even the bona fide rocker "Last to Die" fit unevenly this night. The night's opener, "Radio Nowhere," was solid, as well as another new track, "Devil's Arcade," the latter which found Springsteen playing some melodic lead guitar.

Springsteen now relies on a teleprompter (when you are sitting high, behind the stage you notice those types of things) and at times he would lose the high end of his voice and his focus, but an outing by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band is still incredible and outdistances shows staged by artists half his age.

Magic, indeed.

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