Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Concert Review: 4/25/16, Barclays Center, Brooklyn

Well, I finally made it.  First, OB went to a show in Newark.  Then, my mother saw him in Los Angeles.  But, on the final night of the American tour, I was able to see the man myself.  I have to admit, it was looking a little bleak there for a while, but I have to thank my mom for securing a ticket to me so I could see Bruce one more time.  With musicians dropping like flies these days, it is important to see the acts you love while you still can.

What can I say that hasn't already been said at this point?  Every time I go into these shows, I'm expecting "the bad one", the one where we can see the signs of aging and the dip in quality.  You might call this thinking pessimistic, but honestly: how long can a 66-year-old keep performing at such a high level?  And yet, here I am, about to write yet another glowing review of a Springsteen concert.

While it wasn't Bruce's first time in Brooklyn, it seems that many people in the crowd were first-timers at a Springsteen concert.  They had a ton of awkward energy, from shouting during Bruce's speeches (Bruce: "The River....was an album....." Drunk Guy: "That FUCKIN' rocked!"), to forming a conga line during "Dancing in the Dark".  There were also many rookie mistakes, as beer was spilled all over my aunt, one girl was drunkenly escorted out before The River was completed, and it looked like it might be the first crowd to drop Bruce during his "Hungry Heart" crowd surf.  Give it time, and I'm sure Brooklyn will build up its alcohol tolerance and upper arm strength.

As for the concert itself, I have to say, despite my slight skepticism for seeing The River performed live, Bruce made it feel like an entirely unique experience.  Slower songs like "Independence Day", "I Wanna Marry You" and "Drive All Night" were given longer introductions and unique live additions, allowing the songs to slowly wash over you.  On the other end of the spectrum, Bruce was able to get the audience going for bar-room bouncers like "I'm a Rocker" and "Ramrod", making the 20,000 seat stadium feel like an Asbury juke joint.

After The River, Bruce treated the audience to rarities, with three songs not on Bruce's formal studio albums ("Loose Ends", "Trapped", and "My Love Will Not Let You Down").  As my first introduction to Bruce was Live in New York City, it was especially sentimental to hear "My Love Will Not Let You Down".  A young girl was brought on to sing about half of "Blinded by the Light", and Springsteen added additional covers of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and Prince's "Purple Rain" (which set the internet abuzz after Saturday's performance).

The audience began to leave during "Shout", assuming it was the end of the night.  However, as "Shout" ended, Bruce reached back for another guitar, and, bam, "Bobby Jean" was closing the night.  By my count, this was the tenth official Springsteen concert I've seen (not counting a performance for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), and it was just as special as the rest.  Given that it took so long to get tickets, I tried convincing myself I wasn't missing much, or that I'll wait for the next tour.  But, it was yet another fantastic evening, and I cannot wait for the next tour.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Springsteen Covers "Purple Rain"

As I said in yesterday's post, I would not be surprised to see Bruce honor Prince by playing one of his songs.  I speculated as what it could be - perhaps something of a rocker like "Let's Go Crazy", or maybe follow Warren Zevon's path with "Raspberry Beret".  However, he opened last night's show with an outstanding version of "Purple Rain".  Nils Lofgren also shines, making this a perfect tribute to the late Prince.

Update: Springsteen has made this available as a free download on his website.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince Talks Bruce Springsteen

In this short clip, the late great Prince talks about how Springsteen inspired him as a band leader, talking about how he rehearsed and trained his band to improvise while in concert.  It also should be noted that Springsteen has often talked about Prince, too, telling the story of how "When Doves Cry" kept "Dancing In The Dark" out of the top spot on the chart, denying Bruce his only chance at a number one song.  It is not a bitter story, and you can tell that both musicians respected and inspired each other.  I would not be surprised if Bruce had a tribute to Prince in his live show tonight.

I am not personally a huge Prince fan (not that I dislike his stuff, I just never really listened to his songs outside of the major hits), but he was an amazing performer.  While 2016 seems to be sparing no celebrity, this was a bit more shocking, as he did not appear old or slowing down in anyway.  My condolences go out to his family and his fans.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bruce Springsteen Cancels Show In North Carolina

As I am sure you have all heard, this past weekend, Bruce Springsteen cancelled his show in Greensboro, North Carolina, in protest of House Bill 2.  HB2 is the infamous "bathroom bill", which critics have said discriminates among those in the LGBT community.  As far as I know, this is the first Springsteen show cancelled for political reasons, and it is a move that has generated the most debate about Springsteen since he played "American Skin (41 Shots)" at Madison Square Garden.

It's a tough subject for me to fully discuss, as I do not wish to make this blog too political (and expose my own lack of knowledge on the subject).  I'd just like to express my thoughts as a Springsteen fan.  From what I'm feeling right now, I'm about 85% certain Springsteen made the right move, so I'd just like to start by addressing some of the general criticism he has received:

Issue 1: Other states have laws that can be seen as discriminatory, yet Springsteen still plays there

Critics of Springsteen's move will be quick to point out that in 28 states, you can still be fired for being gay.  Therefore, shouldn't Bruce cancel touring in these states?

I absolutely hate this type of arguing.  It is a slippery-slope argument that is basically saying "If one thing is broken, it isn't worth it to fix something else."  This argument is purposefully designed to kill the conversation and stop progress.  House Bill 2 is a hot topic that is in the news, so it makes sense that Bruce would focus on that issue first and foremost.

Issue 2: Bruce should have said something at his show.

Another reason critics will say that Springsteen should have done the show is that his message would reach more people by performing.  He would have a major platform, and could make political statements throughout the show.

In theory, this makes sense.....to someone who hasn't seen a Springsteen show.  In nearly every show he has performed, he has made a political speech.  None of them have gotten the news coverage that his cancellation has received.  It isn't a stretch to say that much of mainstream America had no idea Bruce even had a show planned for Greenboro.  This grand gesture worked better at spreading his message than a few words before "The River" would have.

Issue 3: It hurts the fans.

This is the argument that I have a hard time resolving.  Bruce's fans come from far and wide to see his shows.  It wasn't just a show for the North Carolina legislature, but for people across the world.  Cancelling a show deprives fans who have been looking forward to this show for months, who have saved up money to see him, who have taken their time to travel to the show, who may be seeing Bruce for the first time, and some who may never have an opportunity to see Bruce again.

I understand that having a weekend ruined is nothing compared to having a bill passed to discriminate against your personage, but what stuck with me was when Bruce said in his statement, "Some things are more important than a rock show".  I get the sentiment, but I feel it undersells the power of music.  After nearly every disaster in the world, there is a musical fundraiser for the victims (Bruce has participated in several of them).  Music continually inspires people, changing their lives and the world at large.

The results of Bruce's protest remains to be seen.  It seems that this move has inspired other fellow musicians - Bryan Adams just cancelled a show in Mississippi, and I expect more announcements to come.  Perhaps the cancellation will create the change in the world Bruce is working towards, and I hope he'll be back in North Carolina again soon.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Song Spotlight - "Bruce" by Rick Springfield

Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman.  Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg.  Ketchup and catsup.  Mistaken identity is a common problem in society.  Heck, even I, Rory Toohey, have been mistaken for the Rutti Tutti Fresh and Fruity meal at IHOP.  Rick Springfield knows this feeling well, and took his frustration out in his 1980 novelty song "Bruce".  There's no subtlety or metaphor here, as aside from the name "Bruce", there's also references to Springsteen's Time Magazine cover and Born To Run.  Even poor Rick's mom isn't immune from the mix-up.  It's a funny (and catchy) anthem for all of those who have been misidentified in their lives.  Thanks, Bruce I mean, Rick!