Friday, September 28, 2012

OB's Top 5 Songs of the Wrecking Ball Tour

Unfortunately the Wrecking Ball Tour is winding down, and there won't be anymore concerts that I am going to in 2012.  At least I don't think so, but I am considering possibly going to the Rochester or State College shows next month. But I have nothing to complain about.  This was a fantastic tour, that I was lucky enough to be at 5 of the shows.  Each show was stellar, different from the others, and I walked away a happy customer each time.  So without any further ado, below were the top 5 songs I saw performed live this past year.  None of the videos were filmed by me or anyone to do with Legends of Springsteen.

5.  "Lion's Den" (Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY.  April 06, 2012)

I am always happy to hear a song live for first time.  This song is rarely played live, and I believe this is the only time this was played on this tour.  I've always enjoyed this song from Tracks and was definitely rocking in the aisles of MSG when Bruce was playing this.  It's far from Bruce's best song, but it's definitely a fun quick song and was a very welcome addition to the setlist.

4. "41 Shots" (Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ.  April 03, 2012)

When the murder of Trayvon Martin was making headlines, Bruce brought this song out for a number of shows.  What I liked most about Bruce playing this song was the subtlety.  At no point did Bruce mention Trayvon Martin, gun laws, or anything else.  He just played the song to create awareness that a young, unarmed man was murdered.  And despite what many NYPD members and supporters may say, that's what this song is about.  It's not condemning, judging, or partisan.  It's about awareness of a tragic event.  I'm glad Bruce played it for those few shows, but retired it before it became a regular in the setlist.  It keeps the songs more relevant and important when it's played so sparingly.  

3.  "Out In The Streets" (Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.  June 22, 2012)

After being delayed 2 hours due to severe weather, Bruce opened the show with this great track from The River.  The crowd was amped, Bruce and the band was amped, and the result was something magical.   When the chorus hit and the crowd sang along with the "woah oh oh oh oh" not a single person cared about weather delays, what time they'd get home, or anything else.  Bruce Springsteen was in town, and that was all that mattered.  We had waited all night to see him, and Bruce showed his appreciation for our patience by giving us his all, and we gave ours right back to him.  This is the symbiotic relationship Bruce has with his audience and I never felt it more than I did during that opening song, that night.

2.  "Atlantic City" featuring Eddie Veder (Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL.  September 07, 2012)

First of all, as huge baseball fan it was absolutely indescribable to be at the legendary Wrigley Field for the first time in my life.  Secondly, as a fan of Pearl Jam it was fantastic to be able to see Eddie Veder live for the first time in my life.  So factor those two items in with one of my all time favorite songs, and oh yeah, Mr. Bruce f'n Springsteen too, and you got one kick ass performance.  The Wrigley show was amazing, and as much as it kills me to say this as a native of New Jersey, Bruce showed the most energy I'd ever seen from him at this show.

1.  "The Weight"  (Prudential Center, Newark, NJ.  May 02, 2012)

Outside of the McCartney incident, I believe this performance got the most buzz.  And rightly so.  This amazing cover of the classic song by The Band was a very fitting tribute for the recently deceased Levon Helm.  I cannot put it into words, and fortunately I don't have to with this video.  However, as powerful as this video is, it's nothing compared to being there live.  And I believe I have 18,000 other people who were there that night who would agree.

So, there you have it.  Agree?  Disagree?  What were some of the highlights of the shows you attended?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Wrecking Ball

Hold tight to your anger,
And don't fall to your fears
- Wrecking Ball, Wrecking Ball

I've always had my reservations about "Wrecking Ball" but I've slowly come to appreciate it through the course of the tour, none more so than last Saturday night at MetLife.

I do consider myself privileged to have witnessed its debut in 2009 but hearing it again for its final NJ appearance this tour resonated with me the most. I still find the song muddled, but the power of the above lyrics really stuck out to me.

Personally, I don't advise holding onto your anger too frequently, but if the situation calls for it, these lyrics can serve as a reminder to stick to your beliefs.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week: Jole Blon

Like Steve said, Saturday's show at MetLife Stadium was nothing short of stellar.  Truly a "something for everyone" type show.  Unfortunately at one point during the show I wasn't feeling too hot and went to the back to get a bottle of water and escape the madness of the floor.  Even more unfortunate was that I missed this great song.  I shouldn't say "missed", as I was able to hear the song perfectly, but couldn't see it.

Gary U.S. Bonds is someone that I am becoming a huge fan of the more I listen to him.  Especially his 80s material where he collaborates with Springsteen and you can really see how they mutually benefited from this relationship.  Bonds' hit "Quarter To Three" was a staple of the Born To Run Tour and is still a favorite when Bruce plays it now.  And Bonds was able to enjoy a resurgence in popularity when he started working with Bruce.

"Jole Blon" is an old traditional Cajun song that had been popular for decades when Bonds put it on his 1981 album Dedication.  Bruce also recorded his own version that was rumored to be put on The River but instead he decided not to release it and re-recorded it with Bonds for the aforementioned Dedication.  

Even though I didn't get to fully experience this song on the floor, I loved being able to hear it and this great video shows just how much the crowd was getting into it.  But perhaps the two people enjoying it the most are Bruce and Gary Bonds himself.  Two old friends, getting up on stage and singing a song they both love.  It doesn't matter if there are 55,000 or 5 people there.  They would've put the same amount of energy and soul into this.  Their fans know and love them for that very reason

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Concert Review – MetLife, NJ September 22

David Remnick’s profile in the New Yorker writes about the “ultra-sincere interchange between Springsteen and his fans.” I’ve never witnessed a clearer illustration of that bond than last night’s concert which began with 55,000 dejected fans waiting more than 2 hours in shelter due to lightning warnings and ended with the entire stadium singing Happy Birthday to Bruce at nearly 2:00 in the morning while his family came on stage for a birthday cake celebration.

Word of Bruce’s marathon Wednesday show and stunning set list on Friday set anticipation for Saturday evening at a fever pitch. But the evening was mired early on by the impending weather storm that caused security to evacuate the floor and general seating areas. As lines snaked around the undercover of MetLife stadium and the clock ticked later and later, all sorts of scuttlebutt made its way up and down the lines regarding whether Bruce would play at all. And if he did, what kind of show would it be? It was hard times all around but I took comfort knowing that the person who was most upset about the delay was Bruce himself. Such is the bond that Remnick writes about.

When we were finally ushered out to the field and Bruce took the stage at approximately 10:30 p.m. with his trademark grin, gestures about the rain and his welcoming – “I think I just invited 55,000 people to my birthday party!” – we knew everything was going to be all right. And it was.

Bruce moved at a fevered clip, making up for lost time and delivering 33 songs in a 3½ hour show that rocked into the wee hours of the morning. It was almost an hour before he slowed down to introduce the band during the resident “My City of Ruins” call-outs. On this tour, this is usually the fifth or sixth track of the evening, but last night it was the tenth, coming after crowd favorites (“Out in the Street,” “Badlands), obscurities (“Cynthia”) and Wrecking Ball cuts (“We Take Care of Our Own,” “Death to My Hometown”).

A spirited cover of Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and the now familiar rendition of “Who Will Stop the Rain” gave playful comment on the situation. But I also noticed how many of the songs in his set list mentioned rain in the lyrics. It was hard to tell if this was coincidence or part of Bruce’s backstage selection process. Bruce also thanked the audience repeatedly for their patience throughout the course of the evening. Oh, Bruce. You know we’d drive all night to be with you.

I had general admission tickets to the floor and even though you have to put up with unruly fans, lack of readily available exits and the discomforts of standing in one place, I really feel that it’s the best way to see a Springsteen concert. Even with the big screens and video camera wizardry, you need to be up close to really appreciate the showmanship of the E Street Band. From Bruce’s cavalcade of expressions and theatrics to Nils Lofrgren’s exorcism-like guitar playing on “Because the Night” (much of which wasn’t on the big screen) to the entire band dancing in unison to “Shackled and Drawn” you have to be up close to get the full effect.

Additional highlights from the evening included Bruce calling on stage the 73-year-old Gary U.S. Bonds for two songs (“Jole Blon” and “This Little Girl”), more surprise appearances from Born in the U.S.A. (“Cover Me”, “Downbound Train”, “Working on the Highway”) and bizarre theatrics during the encore performances of “Glory Days” and “Seven Nights to Rock”. The latter of which included Bruce playing the piano with his forehead.

By the time the night concluded with Bruce bringing out his mother – Adele Springsteen – and additional family members to distribute birthday cake to lucky members of the audience and tear down the house with a beatific rendition of “Twist and Shout”, it was clear that we were witnessing something special. As Bruce readied his 87-year-old mother to sing back-up vocals, he noted almost as an afterthought, “It’s going to be loud as hell.” He then plugged his mother’s ears with a bit of torn off napkin and proceeded to rock. As fireworks went off above the stadium, it felt like the entire crowd was smiling in unison. Like so many other times in my life, when the world seemed to be ending (which it wasn’t), the music of Bruce Springteen turned things around. It wasn’t the best Springsteen concert I’ve ever been to, but it might be the one I never forget.

Happy Birthday Bruce!

Bruce Springsteen turned 63-years-young today, and your Legends of Springsteen editors were lucky enough to spend the first two hours of his birthday rocking with him.  While a detailed concert review from last night is coming up shortly, we took a brief moment to stroll the parking lot of Metlife Stadium to find the best birthday tributes to the Boss.

This simple-yet-effective birthday card drew the biggest attention.  Stationed close to the main entrance, numerous people stopped to take their picture with this poster (especially the ladies, who puckered up and kissed the sign).

Not too far away was this tribute to Bruce.  If you haven't been to a Springsteen concert, you can't throw a stone without hitting several American flags.  While Springsteen fans share many different political beliefs, they are all united by the underlying core value of working hard to make their country better.

While it didn't blow me away with style, I was impressed by the size of this banner.  When I went to the concert, I was still able to spot this enormous banner in the middle tier of the stadium.

Finally, while not a birthday greeting per se, a solid bumper sticker.  Although, getting into an accident with this car would put a new meaning on the phrasing "rear-ending".  

Friday, September 21, 2012

First Drafts - Stolen Car

Before getting into the differences between the original version and the final version of the song, I must say that the original version of "Stolen Car" is one of my all-time favorite Springsteen tracks.  I even included it on my "Bruce For Beginners" playlist.  I don't feel like I am alone here, as it was easier to find this version of "Stolen Car" on Youtube than to find the version from The River.

The original version of "Stolen Car" was written for a pre-River album called The Ties That Bind.  Numerous tracks from that were either reworked for The River or came out later in The Promise.  This version, while telling the same sad story, has a much pop-ier inflection, with a catchier piano riff and additional lyrics that recall happy memories and inspire hope.  

While previous versions of the First Drafts series has argued in favor of Bruce's reworkings of his early efforts, here I have to disagree.  The final version of "Stolen Car" is incredibly different, as the song is slower, quieter, and sadder.  It does fit into the theme of The River moreso than the original version, but I always found it a difficult song to listen to.  In the process of writing this article, I've listened to it several times, trying to appreciate it for what it is.  And while I did grow to appreciate the shift in the musical tone, I still feel lyrically Bruce made a mistake in cutting out the final verses.  The final version of the song ends abruptly, and does not tell as strong a story as the original version.  Thankfully, Bruce has done a good job saving his early cuts throughout his career - it would be a shame if the Tracks version never made it off the demo tapes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Out in the Street

When that whistle blows
Girl, I'm down the street
I'm home, I'm out of my work clothes
- Out in the Street, The River

The first thing I do when I get home from work is change out of my clothes and into a new outfit. It doesn’t matter if I’ve had a good day or a bad day at work, the second I get home, I need to change my clothes. I don’t have a rigid uniform or uncomfortable requirements but I have a psychological barrier that I can’t feel at ease until I’ve changed into a new outfit. As such, these lyrics from “Out in the Street” always resonate with me. A crowd favorite in Bruce’s recent tours, this song is an unabashed celebration of free time. Even if you love your job, it’s hard not to get caught up by the joy of clocking out when you listen to this song.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week - MLB 2012 Postseason Commercial a commercial?  Is this new ground?  Frankly, I'm uncomfortable with this move.  While it can introduce more people to Springsteen's music, he's already extremely well known, and young people hate baseball anyway.  As an avid viewer of TNT's basketball coverage, I know that the TNT/TBS networks have zero qualms about replaying the same commercials over and over again until you become physically repulsed at the opening notes.  This video is also dripping in America-sauce, once again trying to turn another one of Springsteen's songs into a patriotic anthem (and conveniently leaving out the greatest line of the song involving whores and gamblers).  But, with Bruce on tour and a presidential election around the corner, you had to figure he would not shy away from staying front-and-center and grabbing people's attention.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Springsteen Links - For You Raffle

Lawrence Kirsch, author of the limited edition Bruce Springsteen book "The Light in Darkness", is currently running a raffle to win a signed copy of his sold out book “For You, Original Stories and Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans”.

The raffle is in support of the annual Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research. We haven't had the opportunity to read "For You" but received information on the raffle and encourage our readers to make a donation for a chance to win. Here's an excerpt from the website along with a link for more information:

Each $10 ticket you purchase gives you one chance to win and a $15 ticket gives you three chances to win the book. The contest is open to everyone and tickets can be bought from September 7 to September 23, 2012. Tickets can be purchased at and, where the winner will be announced September 26, 2012.

Participants can enter the contest as many times as they wish and all proceeds go to the Terry Fox Foundation. The book, autographed by the publisher, will be shipped to the winner free of charge anywhere in the world, so everyone is encouraged to enter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review - Glory Days by Dave Marsh

Dave Marsh's two Bruce Springsteen biographies – Born to Run and Glory Days – are widely considered the definitive books about The Boss. With unparalleled access to Bruce and his camp, it would be hard for them not to be. If anything, Marsh has been criticized for hero worship. But you won't find any such criticisms on a blog called Legends of Springsteen. Hero worship or not, Marsh’s detailed, engaging and affectionate writing deserves credit on its own merit.

Glory Days picks up where Born to Run leaves off and covers Bruce's career from The River through the release of Live: 1975-1985. One of the highlights here is a finely detailed account of Springsteen creating the Nebraska album. The picture of Bruce alone in his New Jersey home writing and recording the solo album may seem like familiar territory in Bruce folklore. However, the level of insight to the album's production and the marketing approach offers an engrossing account of the album’s unorthodox production.

Another section I found particularly enlightening was the post-Born in the U.S.A. success. Marsh gives a grand account that represents the sheer enormity of the album's popularity. I was intrigued to learn about the radio / dance remixes of "Born in the U.S.A." and "Dancing in the Dark" by Arthur Baker. I didn't even know these versions existed before. It's interesting to listen to them now - although both are unremarkable apart from their novelty.

The book concludes with a great promotional effort for the Live: 1975-85 album. I had never given the album much thought before, figuring that I have so many live songs already but after reading about the considerable work that Bruce and record producer Jon Landau put into the track selection and order, I'm very eager to pick up a copy. Marsh includes a quote from Landau about the project that we should all envy: "It was an enormous amount of work and it was easy as hell."

Glory Days is full of beguiling anecdotes that will have Bruce fans enraptured for page upon page. My personal favorite involves Bruce going to see a movie by himself in Denver and ending up meeting a teenage fan who invites him back to his house for dinner with his parents. It's tempting to suspect such stories to be apocryphal but it's much more fun to believe that Bruce really is that down to earth.

Returning to the hero worship claim, there isn't much critical here beyond a harsh ribbing of "Downbound Train". Throughout the book, you kind of keep waiting for some sort of failure to creep in but it's really all about success. I would be fascinated to read Marsh's take on 1987 through 1996 in contrast. In 2003 Marsh released Two Hearts, the Story which combined abridged versions of Born to Run and Glory Days and included a new addendum on The Rising. I haven’t had the opportunity to read it myself but from what I understand it doesn’t delve into the less revered period of Bruce’s career.

I picked up my second hand copy of Glory Days for $2.00 at a Housing Works in New York City. What a steal! Every Springsteen fan should read this book. If you aren't lucky enough to find a copy in a secondhand store, it's still worth the money on Amazon Market Place. Just be sure that you have your iPod within reach while you're reading.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics of the Week - Sherry Darling

"Well this morning I ain't fighting tell her I give up
Tell her she wins if she'll just shut up
But it's the last time that she's gonna be ridin' with me."
--"Sherry Darling", The River

Springsteen's sense of humor has been a topic of minor debate among the Legends of Springsteen editors.  On one hand, nearly every song of Springsteen's is full of lost souls who run away from dark places only to find more misery.  On the other hand, in concert, he'll take these songs and make them into joyous crowd sing-a-longs (see "Hungry Heart").  However, Bruce's more humorous side shines through in "Sherry Darling".  His silliest song to-date ironically appears on his third (or fourth) darkest album (I'd rank Nebraska and Darkness ahead of it; Wrecking Ball come close).  These lyrics highlight the exasperation we've all felt when arguing over nonsense - it always gets to a point where silence trumps any feeling of victory you'd get in winning an argument.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Springsteen Video of the Week: "My City Of Ruins"

With tomorrow being the 11 year anniversary of the September 11th terrorism attacks on our nation, we here at Legends Of Springsteen wish to take a moment to reflect. 

Originally written in November of 2000 as a song for the struggling city of Asbury Park, NJ, "My City Of Ruins" took on an entire new meaning when Bruce played it in the video above. On September 21st, 2001 FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS all aired America: A Tribute To Heroes, a telethon to raise money for the victims of 9/11, in particular the families of the police and firemen who perished. 

When Bruce came on with just a guitar and harmonica (and some familiar background singers), and sang this virtually unknown song, it didn't matter if he was singing about NYC or Asbury Park or any other city for that matter. It didnt matter if he was singing about a city that had been crippled by terrorism or a poor economy.  All that mattered was that he was singing about people in need. And most importantly "with these hands" we will pray and rebuild that city, so that it may "rise up".  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Concert Review – Wrigley Field, Chicago September 7

Looking at the back-to-back baseball field precedent of the Fenway performances last month, there was a temptation to think that the first night at Wrigley would be Bruce’s safe night and pale in comparison to the second night’s wild and unpredictable powerhouse. Such concerns were instantly eradicated the second Bruce stepped on stage and opened with “Prove It All Night” (’78 Opening).

From that lengthy, guitar-heavy salvo, he segued into “My Love Will Not Let You Down” from Tracks. It was almost as if Bruce was testing the audience right off the bat to see how many fans were in attendance and who was ready to party. When the audience earned his trust, he quickly returned the favor by turning to audience participation heavy favorites “Out in the Street” and “Hungry Heart”.

From that point it was apparent that all bets were off. The next thing you know, Tom Morello is jumping around stage in a Cubs hat unannounced and shredding his unclipped guitar alongside the band in “Death to My Hometown.” An hour or so later, who’s that walking on stage? None other than Eddie Vedder. He was rumored to join Bruce in Philadelphia after being sighted near backstage but an appearance didn’t materialize. This time? Here he is joining Bruce for a stark duet of “Atlantic City”.

Other notable moments included the tour debut of the quietly powerful “None but the Brave”, the best live version of “Land of Hope and Dreams” I’ve ever heard (every instrument powerful; every lyric precious) and the always appreciated “Trapped” (which had our beer guy shimmying up and down the aisle). There was also the unexpected Born in the U.S.A. one-two punch of “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Darlington County” that sent my wife to Stubhub scouring for seats to Saturday night’s concert (cooler heads prevailed after the show).

Seeing Springsteen at Wrigley Field marked a series of firsts for me:
• The first time I’ve seen him perform outside of New Jersey
• The first time I’ve seen him perform in a baseball stadium
• The first time I’ve seen him joined by surprise guests on stage

This was my eighth Springsteen concert but the first outside of the Garden State. It was startling the first time I heard him yell “Chicago!” instead of "New Jersey!" Seeing it in Wrigley provided great atmosphere but I did find the audio quality lacking. Perhaps it was just the location of our seats toward the back of the lower tier but the sound was often distorted, which made Bruce’s speeches even less intelligible than usual.

When Morello joined for “Death to My Hometown” I can’t say it made much difference to me but it was fun to see him bobbing around. His addition to “Jack of All Trades” was more significant but his presence really came alive during “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. The feverish powerhouse conclusion of which was the heaviest guitar playing I've ever seen in a Bruce concert. As the night progressed, Morello seemed happy camping out on stage and by the end, it felt like he had joined in for so many songs that he might as well just become a permanent member of the E Street Band – something I would wholeheartedly endorse.

On the subject of additions to the band, during “Spirit in the Night” Bruce had Jake Clemons join him on the steps and the two reprised the kind of pantomime that Bruce and Clarence had been doing since the 1970s. Their repartee wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, the sax blurts not timed completely right and for a moment the performance reminded me of Jimmy Stewart trying to recreate his lost Madeleine in Vertigo. But only for a moment.

The band finished with a rollicking encore that featured a sign request for “Jungleland” and capped off the night with “Twist and Shout” with the remarkable jumbo screen image of Springsteen, Vedder and Morello all singing into the same microphone. Who knows what kind of magic is in store for the second night at Wrigley. We can suspect it will be full of sign requests, other guests and jaw-dropping rarities. But however it unfolds, this first night was truly one for the ages.

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Drafts - Born in the U.S.A.

The story behind this version of "Born in the U.S.A." is pretty well known by most Bruce Springsteen aficionados.  But, for those who may be hearing this somber, acoustic version of the song for the first time, it goes like this: this track was originally written for the Nebraska album.  However, his producer, Jon Landau, loved the lyrics and heard the potential for a hit.  It was reworked with the full band, and became the oft-misinterpreted yet iconic anthem it is today.

Did they make the right decision?  Economically, the answer is a resounding "yes."  It put Springsteen on the map, and moved millions of records.  But, did taking such hard lyrics and wrapping them in fist-pumping pop chords negate the message of the song?  It can be argued that the true nature of the song is most effectively communicated in the somber Nebraska sound.  

Personally, I feel that Landau and Springsteen made the right decision.  The pop nature of the song, as well as the ensuing controversy regarding the song's message, helped make even more people aware of the plight of Vietnam veterans.  You can only spread your ideas if people are listening to them, and by making the track more mainstream, he created more fans willing to explore his music and its themes.  It was also a time where social causes were being promoted through pop songs, such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?", so it wasn't unprecedented, and this kind of music helped influence generations to come.  

Which version do you prefer?  Let us know in the comments.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Springsteen Lyrics Of The Week- "Local Hero"

"I was driving through my hometown, I was just kinda killing time."

On Monday I went home to see my parents, and on the bus ride to New Jersey I couldn't believe just how much the area I had grown up in had changed.  I guess it's to be expected, but as I moved on with my life so has everyone else. It sounds downright silly to think otherwise, but I guess I couldn't help but feel nostalgic, wishing certain privately owned stores and parts of town were still there instead of retail chains and McMansions.  I'm not sure what exactly Bruce is singing about in this song, but I definitely was pumping this song in my iPod as I drove around.  

Monday, September 3, 2012

Springsteen Video Of The Week- Atlantic City

I had never seen this video before, but I'm really liking it.  It doesn't hurt that this is also one my top five Bruce songs.  But having just got back from AC, and taken an absolutely brutal beating at the tables, I can tell you Bruce's bleak depiction of "The World's Most Famous Playground," is fairly accurate.  Atlantic City is such a strange city.  It's on the water, it has the boardwalk, the casinos, the nightclubs, the comedy clubs, the music venues. It attracts the poorest of bums to the swankiest of high rollers, and everything in between.  And yet in the end, it's just really a dumpy little town that's the definition of corruption.  But people keep coming to it, year round.  When Bruce sings "Everything dies baby, that's a fact but maybe everything that dies someday comes back", he is very much singing about the city itself and its inhabitants.