Wow, what a concert! It was a fitting end to a March madness, more of the mi vida loca in my case. Concern about a friend (more on this soon), St. Patrick’s Day parade, and a Pluto is a Planet protest, followed by a needed protest and vigil – protest against the Iraq war (and hitting some terrible milestones on that one) and vigil for Tibetan freedom.
Then in the last week, a strong ray of hope for my friend and sickness for me – my usual digestive problem, followed by the flu. Two days in bed, just two days to go. No, no, no!
Springsteen madness started appearing through all this starting Easter. On Backstreets news (well, it may be back there some day), a chocolate Springsteen in Catalonia for the youngsters on Easter. April Fool’s has decended on the Backstreets news now. Umm, the E Street viagra banner gag would have worked better for The Rising tour!
Then the day before the show, the Portland setlist showed the madness was closing in as I was getting well, well, at least a little well.
(Bruce) joked that the pot smoke wafting up from the pit might cause a shorter show (it ended up clocking in at a respectable 2:20). Later, spotting a group of women in the pit wearing tee shirts that read “Lesbians [heart] Bruce,” he changed a line in “American Land” from “the Germans and the Jews” to “lesbians and Jews.”
Ah, yes! Bruce was welcomed to the northwest!
Madness had descended on Seattle’s weather as well. Snow was falling downtown Friday. I remembered thinking how warm it would be for the show when I bought the tickets in December. . .
So, I’m heading to meet my friend Merri Ann at her work (conveniently near Key Arena) for the show Saturday, while the bus driver and a Real Change vender are speculating whether the sky looks like a twister coming. We had thunder and lightning as we ventured out with her friend Michael (as big a Springsteen fan as me, but going with other friends as his wife apparently is not) and found all the pubs packed, with the waitress at McMenamin’s claiming the back room for the Backstreets message board planned fan gathering did not exist. We ended up drinking coffee, tea and hot chocolate at the Uptown Espresso and head over to the show in a downpour. Long lines extend in two directions going into the street side if the Key. Michael knows the secret though, around the other side no line, a quick check, find the tickets and we’re in.
We check out our seats. Merri Ann’s and mine are in the section directly behind the stage, which is a great view, but a different view. Springsteen leaves it open (unlike other bands) and the band doesn’t forget you back there, but the video monitor is necessary for the most part to see Bruce and the band’s facial expressions.
Bruce opened with Trapped, a Jimmy Cliff cover I seem to recall was a b-side to one of the Born in the USA singles. A really good, and really dark (and surprising) opener. Which was the way the whole evening went. It was really good, but the playlist really dark, even the rarities like Point Blank and Reason to Believe (although that’s actually the most cheerful song off the Nebraska album. Most of the upbeat songs, mostly played toward the end of the main set and the encore, were audience requests.
I had especially looked forward to hearing the Magic songs live, and I was not disappointed. The imagery really stood out and was often magnified by how Bruce and the band played them on stage. Magic is certainly the most political album Bruce has ever done, with a majority of the songs either referencing the Iraq war (always focusing on the damage done to the soldiers and their families) or the loss of civil liberties and acceptance of things like torture and the disappearance of habeas corpus.
Gypsy Biker -“The speculators made their money on the blood you shed. Your Mama’s pulled the sheets up off your bed.” “We pulled your cycle out of the garage and polished up the chrome. Our Gypsy biker’s comin’ home.” The imagery, and the emotion Bruce brings to it, so powerful even with all the times he must have sung it by now.
Magic – The title cut has always been real creepy, because it’s about the current regime in that other Washington. The real dark, sepia, depression era looking camera work used to capture Bruce and Soozie Tyrell while he’s singing it to her violin and vocal accompaniment really added to the effect.
I got a shiny saw blade
All I needs’ a volunteer
I’ll cut you in half
While you’re smiling ear to ear
And the freedom that you sought’s
Driftin’ like a ghost amongst the trees
This is what will be, this is what will be
Livin’ in the Future is far more intense the way Bruce does it on stage. I think he’s trying to exorcise the whole Bush administration then and there, opening with a needed rant about our loss of civil liberties and the un-American appearance of things like “rendition” and loss of habeas corpus: “Woke up Election Day, skies gunpowder and shades of grey” “My ship Liberty sailed away on a bloody red horizon. The groundskeeper opened the gates and let the wild dogs run.” “My faith’s been torn asunder, tell me is that rollin’ thunder, or just the sinkin’ sound of somethin’ righteous goin’ under?” “We’re livin’ in the future and none of this has happened yet.” Oh, yeah! Alas, even Bruce’s magic isn’t that good,
Devil’s Arcade – told from the point of view of a wife or a widow of a soldier injured or is it killed in the Iraq war.
The cool desert morning, then nothin’ to save
Just metal and plastic where your body caved
The slow games of poker with Lieutenant Ray
In the ward with the blue walls, a sea with no name
Where you lie adrift with the heroes
Of the devil’s arcade
Bruce and Stevie stood, with their backs to most of the audience (facing us), their heads bowed, for a few minutes at the end as Max’s drum kept beating like a heart beat. It was just really powerful.
Followed by The Rising, with all it’s Sept. 11 imagery, followed by Last to Die, re-asking the young John Kerry’s question “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake?” for the current war. “We don’t measure the blood we’ve drawn anymore. We just stack the bodies outside the door.” He did Lonesome Day, another Sept. 11 infused song off The Rising, before Gypsy Biker as well.
No, we haven’t forgotten Sept. 11, but the Bush regime is using the same kind of imagery as in Bruce’s songs to sell the lies of an unrelated war, torture and detention without charge or trial. Which, when you think of it, is as cynical as it gets (and I know this administration would get much more cynical if we let them).
Enough rant, back to the concert! He played several from Darkness on the Edge of Town, which is one of my favorite albums, including The Promised Land. There’s that twister the bus driver and Real Change vender mentioned (and some of my favorite lyrics):
There’s a dark cloud rising from the desert floor
I packed my bags and I’m heading straight into the storm
Gonna be a twister to blow everything down
That ain’t got the faith to stand its ground
Blow away the dreams that tear you apart
Blow away the dreams that break your heart
Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted
What am I leaving out? Because the Night, co-written by Patti Smith and She’s the One, a couple more of the rarities he played. Waitin’ On a Sunny Day and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out a couple of possibly weather related requests played (at least they were one’s I had thought before the concert he should play because of the weather). Long Walk Home and a pumping version of Badlands closed out the original set (still a little on the dark side), followed, alas, by only one encore these days. I remember 2, even 3! Did I mention I realized just before this one, that my first Springsteen concert was 20 years ago?
An encore of Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Rosalita (another request), and the obligatory (Tramps like us!) Born to Run, ending with an American Land finale. I hadn’t realized Bruce wrote a song for the American Land edition of the Seeger Sessions. Darn! He really is probably going to finally convince me to pay for that album all over again for 3 additional songs.
Ahh, the band – Bruce has an incredible amount of energy even though he’s pushing 60. You know, it’s really great Bruce still does those back flips, but looking at the picture from the Seattle concert on Backstreets, I’d say, watch those gymnastics. I don’t think the rock world is ready for it’s first “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” moment! Danny’s still out and fighting melanoma. The Big Man had to sit a lot, still recovering from a hip replacement (but still sounds great on the sax). Little Steven got to sing solo for a few verses. Nils had a great guitar solo. Mighty Max, Garry Talent, and Charlie filling in for Danny. Patty is still missing, though (and I do like her singing), home with the kids stopping this kegger, pot brownie, pizza party, for, umm how long has Bruce been telling this story? I’m not sure he has a place to go back to in Jersey by this point.
Me? I’m still getting over this flu (and was waiting for the bus back in a Fairview Avenue Freeze-out), my voice was already almost gone by the concert (and Bruce was complaining how badly we sung) and has totally gone, with a turn for the worse earlier today. Still recovering, but finding clips of rare songs at other Springsteen concerts on YouTube, I’m ready to go on the road for more concerts. Alas, my finances are only slightly better than my health!