Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bruce Springsteen

Let's not be snobby about this. With some concerts, you get exactly what you pay for. For example, if you go and see Coldplay, you get four incredibly dull people boring the pants off everyone whilst being barely able to play their instruments. If you go and see Radiohead, you get five incredibly dull people boring the pants off everyone whilst deliberately trying not to play their instruments. And if you go and see Muse...well, you get the idea.

It follows that if you have gone to a Bruce Springsteen concert expecting pyrotechnics, surprise guests or huge light shows, you are going to be very disappointed indeed. If, however, you have gone along expecting consummate showmanship, high levels of energy, sublime musicianship and three hours of sing-along songs, then he really is The Boss.

Not that there is any ego with this man. He's in charge and everyone knows it, but he wears it lightly. There isn't a single reference to 'me' in the whole evening. In fact, he only ever refers to 'The E Street Band', never 'my band'. It is similar to the relationship a conductor has with his orchestra, as if there is a mutual understanding that none of them could do this without the others.

Forty years in the music business might not have changed the act much, but they have taught Springsteen a thing or two about working an audience. We begin tonight with 'From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)', a song he wrote for Welsh new waver Dave Edmunds back in the early '80s. On a couple of occasions he dives into the audience to collect placards with requests on them. Two of those requests are even played. One of these, 'Blinded By The Light', leads to a hilarious story about the late (and very much missed) E Street Band organist Danny Federici - and an even more hilarious one as Steve Van Zandt (yes, him off The Sopranos) frantically tries to work out which song he is leading up to.

Surprises? There aren't any, really. It's amazing that Springsteen remains as fit and in as good voice, even after all these years. There's the odd song where the arrangement is slightly different, but nothing too exciting. What is good to see, though, is how well new songs like 'Gypsy Biker' and 'Long Walk Home' stand up against the older numbers.

Sadly, though, it is the niggling little things that remain most fixed in the memory. The inordinate wait for the band to come on stage - if you are going to play without a support act, don't open the gates three hours before you show up. The sound, which was bad even by stadium standards; for the first few numbers Gary Tallent's bass was distorting so badly, it was hard to hear anything else. The fact that Clarence Clemons had almost nothing to do for 75% of the set, before finally being allowed to let rip in the encore. And I am still not sure what Soozie Tyrrell is for, other than to create an even number of people on each side of the stage.

Great fun, then, but far too many shortcomings.


Blogger Jiggly said...

You go and see Springsteen yet you reckon Muse and Radiohead are boring??

You are weird, mate

10:38 am  

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