I’ve been talking about trying this idea for a long time, finding a way to see Bruce Springsteen on the Magic tour that everyone –from indie hipsters to old rock codgers alike, and all shades in between– kept raving to me about. Because he didn’t put Colorado into this tour, I was left searching airfares for far-flung cities (Buffalo, anyone?). And then Vedder announced his Berkeley show in the same weekend and suddenly the chips fell into place. I was headed to San Jose to see Bruce Springsteen for the first time in my hometown.
This was my first Springsteen concert experience, and I am out of practice at spending over a hundred dollars to see these stadium shows. With what I could afford, I found myself in the nosebleed seats, far from the tightly packed action and the wristband lotteries of the floor. I hear this is not the best way to see my first Springsteen show, but I don’t work for Google, Oracle, or Yahoo so what can ya do. Bruce took the stage promptly at 8:15 to deafening screams, waving signs, and the opening notes of “Out In The Street.”
Bruce’s voice was in strong and vibrant form, and the band was tight — some would say orchestral — all dressed in matching black. “Fire” saw its tour debut as voted on by the listeners of KFOG, and “Trapped,” “Incident on 57th Street” and “Devil’s Arcade” (one of my favorite songs on Magic) were all highlights for me. I was naive enough to try and bring in a camera, which got taken at the door, so all I managed was this cell phone snap during “Born to Run” with the house lights up and thousands of voices singing along. That was a pretty cool moment.
Bruce played many requests taken from signs from the audience – the traditional posterboard variety or this guy‘s head request. I wonder if he used a Sharpie? Bruce pulled him on stage and then launched into “Glory Days” for him, much to the delight of the crowd. It’s odd what a heartbreakingly stark and sad song that really is, but everyone was pogoing like it was the party anthem of the year (and I guess the music does sound like it). But the lyrics still get me.
On the plane ride back home to Colorado, I was reading a book review in the May 2008 Paste magazine for Like A Rolling Stone by Steven Kurutz. It’s an examination of a guy named Glen Carroll who plays the role of Mick Jagger in a small Stones tribute band called Sticky Fingers. A paragraph of the review probed at some of the strain and pull that I felt after the Springsteen show when it mused the following:
“Kurutz has a revelation at a ‘real’ Stones concert at Fenway Park. He buys a $163 ticket “in the nosebleeds” and witnesses the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band on the biggest, most expensive stage set ever built … but can only see it on a JumboTron screen. The Stones are isolated from fans and press. Kurutz is watching a franchise, not a rock show. Success for Glen Carroll, on the other hand, means playing with reckless abandon to a basement full of drunken, sweaty kids. Which is the ‘real’ rock ‘n’ roll?“
Seeing Bruce felt intensely rich for me, to actually experience for myself this amazing artist with lyrics that incise deeper than almost any other, and songs that lay out an epic alternate world for me where the roads are always open and the engine is always running. But so much of me wanted to see him in a small venue, hot and sweaty and immediate, without all the schtick and $95 seats and corporate rock feel.
Sure, he can do the huge huge stage spectacle so why not, and sure he connects better with a gigantic audience than many other artists of his scale. But still – I was in Section 210, and most everyone sat for the whole show. As my companion predicted, folks stood for Born To Run and there was some fist pumping, making sure not to spill their $10 beers. Maybe I am just too idealistic and starry-eyed about my live music, but I felt distant and cold from an artist that is relatable and warm and I wish it could have been different. Ah well. I shouldn’t be allowed to go to these things, and feel like apologizing for unrealistic expectations. I guess subconsciously I wanted Main Point, but in a plausible world, what I got was very good.
SAN JOSE 4/5/08
Out in the Street
Something in the Night
Reason to Believe
Prove It All Night
She’s the One
Livin’ in the Future
The Promised Land
Incident on 57th Street
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Born to Run
[photographs by Joseph Quever]