Friday, September 5, 2014

Best Of The Bruce Build-Ups

As we all know, there's nothing better than seeing Springsteen live.  Granted, the songs sound great in studio, but live?  Surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, and watching the man himself go crazy for three straight hours?  It really has to be seen to be believed.

My favorite moments in each concert are the "build-ups".  You know the moments I'm talking about: where the song reaches an emotional high point, teeters there for a moment, and then Bruce sends it crashing down.  Here are, in my humble opinion, the songs that, from the first chords, have me eagerly anticipating that build-up-and-crash.

5. "Badlands"



"Ooooooh, oh oh OH oh...."  It's a call that's become so synonymous with the song that I'm surprised that it isn't actually on the studio version (it's more of a low hum).  The chant is so popular that it frequently used as a call for an encore!  After the saxophone solo, the chants start, building in volume and intensity, just waiting for Bruce to return to the song.  Then, "For the ones who has a notion..." leads the way to the climactic line: "I want to SPIT in the face of these BADLANDS!"  I saw "Badlands" live in my first Springsteen concert, and had a similar experience to the above performance.  Since that time, it has been cemented as an all-time favorite Springsteen song for me.

4. "Darkness on the Edge of Town"



"Darkness on the Edge of Town" is a song that slowly lulls you in.  It's gentle rhythm is easy to listen to, and it's melancholy story is engrossing.  Then, Bruce's wailing chorus kicks in, and you are hooked.  But, it doesn't end there.  The verses return to being gentle and approachable, while the story gets richer and darker.  Finally, the build-up breaks, culminating with Bruce screaming "TONIGHT I'LL BE ON THAT HILL, BECAUSE I CAN'T STOP!"  It is chillingly effective each time.

3. "Jungleland"



Bruce's climatic build-ups are not only in signified by massive guitars and primal wailing.  Sometimes, the build-up leads to a whisper, and it is no less dramatic.  This is best signified in the conclusion of the musical epic "Jungleland".  The journey Springsteen takes us on in "Jungleland" is sprawling, beginning slowly with violins and a piano, becoming an up-tempo rocker, transitioning to a somber saxophone solo, and concluding back again with the piano.  After this nearly ten minute adventure, the music stops.  It is now just Bruce and the audience.  "Tonight.....in....."  Anticipation builds with each out-of-rhythm syllable.  "Jun...."  When will the next one drop? "Gle...."  And, finally, finishing the build-up with long, low growl: "Laaaaaaaaand....."  The piano kicks back in, taking us away from this world.  Amazing.

2. "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out"



I've been writing about this since, quite literally, the start of the blog.  It's a simple, repetitive riff, but each time, the anticipation builds.  As the song is basically the origin of the E Street Band, this build-up is functional to the storytelling process: it signifies that this is truly the start of something special.  s I wrote back then, I could listen to those opening notes on repeat for hours.  But, evenutally, Bruce reaches that "One two!" and brings it to the drop.  The song is filled with "moments" that you anticipate, such as "Kid you better get the picture" and "When the Big Man joined the band", and concludes triumphantly, but that opening build-up/drop sets everything in motion.

1. "Born To Run"



Come on, you knew this was coming.  This is what the build-up list has been building up to.  I feel silly describing the moment, because most fans know what it is already.  An everlasting kiss.  A saxophone solo. It all comes crashing down.  You shake your hands in the air.  You shake them longer.  Then, after an eternity, you hear "One two three four! The highway's jammed with broken heroes...."  And the crowd goes bonkers.  Not just one of the best Bruce build-ups, but one of the best rock-and-roll build-ups of all time.

So, are there any that I missed?  Let us know in the comments!