Friday, August 26, 2016

Concert Review: 8/25/16, Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford

So the summer of 2016, I had really only cared about one concert...and for once it wasn't Bruce!  I had been so obsessed about the Guns N' Roses reunion that I kinda forgot that Bruce was coming back to Metlife Stadium this summer.  Shame on me.  Maybe it was because I had already been to the Prudential Center show, and the Barclays Center with Rory, but I just didn't have the same enthusiasm that I usually did in the weeks leading up to this show.  Which to say my excitement was at like an 8 or a 9 instead of the usual 10.  Like I said, shame on me.  And it's almost as if Bruce knew that he was kind of flying in under the radar and wanted to pull out all the stops to really show his fans why he was, is, and always will be the greatest live musician you can possibly see.

I went to this concert with my wonderful girlfriend, whom I had gotten the tickets for her birthday.  Alright, the tickets were more a gift for me, but she was a Bruce fan prior to us dating and had been to about half a dozen concerts before, but this would be our first concert together.  And my God, was it a memorable show.  Four hours!  We had General Admission tickets on the floor, and I was exhausted at the end from just standing there.  I know we at LoS marvel at Bruce's energy and showmanship all the time, but it's really getting ridiculous.  Bruce is older than my parents, and he's not just "not slowing down", he's raising his game and playing some of the longest shows of his life.  And as much credit as we give to Bruce, The E Street Band needs credit too.  They are all close to Bruce, if not older, in age and keep up with him every step of the way.  I noticed a few times Bruce's interaction with Max, Nils, Garry, and everyone else in the band.  Bruce had a look in his eyes like he was almost challenging them to keep up with him.  And they absolutely did, and made it look easy.

So the night started out a little bit rough, as after our tailgate, we went into the concert and were met by enormous lines to get into the stadium.  It was just as I was about to go through the metal detectors that I heard the worst sound I could possibly hear, "Good Evening, New Jersey".  I had never missed the beginning of a concert, especially a Bruce show.  And as I heard the opening chords to "New York City Serenade", I finally got through security and had my ticket scanned.  It'll be ok, I can still catch the end of the song, and see the whole concert.  Nope, we hit another enormous line for getting on to the floor of the General Admission section.  The good news is I can hear the concert, but I was starting to get cranky at the drunks on the line, and the jerks who tried to cut the line, but were caught by the security staff.  Bruce was finishing up "Prove It All Night", when we finally were allowed into the stadium.  But now we have to stop and get wrist bands to get on to the floor.  Alright, now it's getting ridiculous.  I hear the familiar drum intro to "Night" as I finally am walking on to the floor of Metlife Stadium.  It was really only two songs that I missed, and considering the amount of time Bruce played for, it's just a drop in the bucket, but man I couldn't helped but feel somewhat bummed.  The feeling lasted all of two minutes, and by the time Bruce played "No Surrender" I had totally forgotten about those security lines.  And it's nothing I can be mad at Metlife Stadium at.  They're doing their job and security is a real issue.  But if you're going to any of his other shows this summer, allow yourself plenty of time to get into the venue.  Especially if you have GA tickets.

Even though this is The River tour, there were only a handful of songs played from that album, not including concert staples for every tour like "Hungry Heart" and "Out In The Street".  And since he's not touring for a new album, that leaves the setlist wide open for songs from Bruce's entire career, which for a hardcore fan was really exciting.  Like Rory said about Tuesday's show, the setlist last night was kind of somber at times.  And I think the songs he chose to play definitely were speaking for Bruce, especially this close to the election, without him having to make political statements.  I don't think it's a coincidence that "Ghost of Tom Joad", "Jack of All Trades", "Youngstown", "Death To My Hometown", and "41 Shots" were all played.  And Tom Morello being there for guest spots on certain songs certainly added to the political message.  But it wasn't beaten over your head, and it wasn't in your face.  Bruce was simply doing what he does best and expressing his thoughts through his song catalog.  And trust me, there were plenty of rocking tunes that kept people dancing in East Rutherford til after midnight, when they finally called it a night and said good night to an exhausted but thoroughly satisfied crowd.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Concert Review: 8/23/16, Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford

After a summer abroad, Springsteen returned last night to his home state, and performed one of his more somber and challenging setlists that I have seen.  When I last saw Springsteen, he was at the end of the first leg of the new River tour.  Since then, he ditched playing the entirety of The River, performing varied sets throughout Europe.  I chose not to look at the setlists all summer in order to be surprised, and found last nights results fascinating.

Previously opening most of the tour with the new rocker "Meet Me In The City", Bruce kicked off the night with "New York City Serenade", setting the somber mood to come.  Throughout the section of the concert, special care was taken in emotive performances of "Independence Day", "Jack of All Trades" (with a small introduction by Bruce), and "American Skin" (surprisingly lacking an introduction).  The lighter songs were pocked with some more seriousness as well, as Bruce grumped at taking a selfie with a fan during "Santa Clause Is Coming To Town", and forewent the crowd-surf at the end of "Hungry  Heart".

However, the moodier songs in the first half gave Bruce's bouncier songs a stronger punch.  Going through the darkness made the light seem even brighter, as the crowd welcomed barroom rockers like "Working on the Highway" and "Darlington County". However, even after a flurry of crowd-pleasing boppers, Bruce still brought down the house with "Jungleland" to start the encore.  It was merely the start of a nearly hour long encore, which could have ended with "Shout", but, staying true to the core of the night, ended with slower, more thoughtful songs like "Bobby Jean" and "Jersey Girl".

Clocking in at almost four hours, it was one of the more complex Springsteen shows I've seen.  Maybe it was not so much what he said, but rather what he didn't say: there were no political rants, not many jokes, and very few "Bruce stories".  As he has done throughout his career, he let his music speak for him.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Arcade Fire - "Born In The USA", WayHome Festival

Springsteen enthusiasts Arcade Fire played yet another tribute to their idol last July at the WayHome Festival in Ontario.  True to their hipster nature, the Canadian band sang a few lines of "Born In The USA", at a Canadian music festival.  Unfortunately, it is tough to tell whether the video is of poor quality, or if the performance itself wasn't very good (I'm leaning towards the former).  This, however, leads me to a rant that I'm sure many fans of going to concerts can relate to.

Whenever you see a live band, the pit will be littered with people holding up their cell phones to record the show.  While some musicians will try to ban them, it's a battle that is long over; love them or hate them, the smartphones are there to stay.  I have two conflicting thoughts on this issue.  My heart says that people should put down their phones, live in the moment, and enjoy the amazing performance that they paid good money for.  However, my brain says: who I am to tell people how to enjoy the show?  And, haven't I posted hundreds of articles using recordings that people made at concerts?  Touché, Rorybrain.

However, let's be realistic - there's a happy medium.  For the dozens of cameras at every concert, there's only maybe 1-2 good quality videos from any show that I can find online.  The success rate of recording is poor.  So, I'd ask all amateur concert historians to take an honest look at their abilities.  Are they producing quality concert footage?  Is it worth the distraction?  Can they improve the moments they capture?  If smartphones plan to be a permanent feature at concerts, the least we can do is improve their output.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Great Moments in Springsteen Snubs History - The 81st Academy Awards

In late 2008, Springsteen was riding high.  He just helped Barack Obama win the presidency.  He had just completed Working On A Dream, and would be starting a new tour.  He would soon play the Super Bowl, where he could finally finally complete his life's mission of telling America to put down their chicken fingers.  For any artist, that'd be quite a run, but in the midst of all this, he somehow earned himself his yet another Golden Globe award for his song "The Wrestler".

The stage was all set for this run to culminate in Springsteen's second Academy Award.  But, fate, the fickle mistress that she is, spit in his eye.

Now, granted, I'm not here to rag on the music of Slumdog Millionaire.  But, not only did Springsteen not win, he wasn't even nominated!  In fact, only three songs were nominated.  Generally, there are five songs nominated each year, although that can vary.  However, up until that point, there had only been four prior years since 1934 where just three songs were nominated! (Just to be thorough: in 2011, two songs were nominated.  That still makes it just five times in 82 years.) My conspiracy theory is that they wanted Springsteen to perform the song himself, but Springsteen declined (perhaps due to a scheduling conflict), so the Academy kicked him to the curb.  Do I have proof?  Of course not.  Regardless, it robbed Springsteen of his chance to go down in history as a musician to win two or more Academy Awards, and, today, it officially goes down as a Great Moment in Springsteen Snubs History.