April 10, 2008

I just wanna feel your rhythm :: Bruce Springsteen in my hometown

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
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
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
Devil’s Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Detroit Medley
Born to Run
Glory Days
Bobby Jean
American Land

[photographs by Joseph Quever]


  • Enough of Bruce, where is your Vedder review. I went to the SC show and Berkeley…now talk about a different atmostphere from the one you just described. WOW!

    Smik — April 10, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  • Outstanding post! Keep up the great writing and rivoting reviews for “tramps like us.”

    Roger in Houston

    Rog — April 10, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  • I think we have all felt like that at huge concerts.I first saw Broooooooooooooooooooooooooooce at Wembley on Indepedence day in 1984; equally, I remember standing at the back of said same venue watching U2 during the Achtung Baby years and reflecting on how odd it was not to be close to them anymore.

    Springsteen has had to step up to the plate in these venues, I guess.

    The romanticism of his music has an epic intimacy that desires connection and that distance, of a vast auditorium, does make you feel disconnected from the heart rush of loving music and the joy of involvement it brings.


    Russell — April 10, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  • of the past 20 shows i’ve been to, mostly clubs and maybe 4 arena shows, the arena shows were all waaay better than the club shows. i mean, you can have a killer show in an arena, but for sure, anything less than killer, is just waaay worse in an arena than in a club. you fell so disconnected. i enjoyed my bruce show, but the crowd was really into it and i think that makes a big difference. plus, good seats!

    c — April 10, 2008 @ 4:08 pm

  • Next time, try getting floor tickets for Bruce – it’s a whole different experience from being in the seats and it should give you that smaller venue feel you wanted. Not exactly, but close. He and the band really interact with the people in the pit and every concert is great because you don’t have the “corporate” crowd to bring you down. The best part? NO sitting! Not even during the “slow” songs! :-)

    You got to see a great show and an amazing setlist, though! Hearing “Trapped” live is an experience every Bruce fan needs to have.

    Anonymous — April 10, 2008 @ 4:22 pm

  • I saw him twice on this tour, and while you’re way far off in the nosebleeds, it’s one of the only concerts you can see a 70 year old man and a 14 year old girl both enjoying the music equally, and that’s worth something.
    Now.. about Vedder. How was Yellow Ledbetter?

    Jake K — April 10, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  • A guy playing in a tribute band is more “rock n roll” than the Stones playing at Fenway for $163 a pop?

    I wonder, would we say that a guy painting imitation Picasso’s on a pier for tourists was more of an artist than Picasso because he had become a “franchise”.

    Only rock stars, particularly the Stones, have to put up with this nonsense.

    I’d rather see Bruce in a club too but if he played clubs only the well healed or the well connected would get in to see the shows.

    Keep up the great work, as always.

    One more thing: have you heard the Ryan Adams contribution to the recent Cowboy Junkies disc? I’d love to hear Margo Timmins sing some of his songs.

    David — April 10, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

  • Heather, when Bruce does a solo tour again, you should try to see that. The better seats are easier to come by, and he connects with the crowd on a much more intimate level. And he rocks out a fair amount too — it isn’t all mumbly “Tom Joad” stuff.

    Pete — April 10, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  • You can’t keep the Stones and Bruce like Chia-Pets; they grow up and bigger, like any other little thing with a real future. Rock n Roll is primarily about being larger than life, and very few have done it better than the Stones and Bruce.

    The notion that just because a band plays a small venue, makes it more real because they sweat, is absurd: just take note of how Bruce and Jagger sweat. Guys like Bruce and Jagger, even if I don’t like the prices, have earned the right to charge what they wish; great as they are, Nada Surf and Ryan Adams haven’t, and never will. Just different animals, is all.

    And, all of these bars, clubs and theatres are corporate owned and operated, and tickets are sold via TM to Ticketweb etc. It is ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL corporate, so the cloner and the clones in the herd should get over their delusion that they are living on the edge (because they got to see some loser band for 5 bucks in Butt Hole, Wyoming, and got free chicken wings, to boot.)

    The problem with so-called indie bands and their fans, is, that they aren’t unlike their more successful elders: they drive SUVs, buy Middle Eastern oil, shop at Costco, have mortgages and dine at The Colonel’s and Ronnie McDonnie’s. “Normally” not an issue, at least in our crazy Western world, but these types of fans with cybercopies of Pitchforks stuck in their ass, make it one, because they are just a bunch of hypocrites.

    It’s like adults who only root for college and not pro teams: that somehow the former is pure and unadulterated, when they are just as sponsored and revenue driven as the pros. These fans have to get over their inferiority complexes, and fast.

    Next time out, invest (or navigate your way) in a GA, first 10 rows in the orchestra or prime lower level side seats. It’s no more corporate than the plane and the car and the food and the fuel that you and your friends used to get there.

    Anonymous — April 10, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  • I felt the same way! (also my first bruce show.) Thank you for making sense of it for me. Still a great experience, and i’ll definitely take the suggestion about seeing him perform solo.

    amy — April 10, 2008 @ 10:03 pm

  • You nailed this one. I saw Springsteen once when the place was less than half full and lamented that no one was there. What did I know.
    Remember, somewhere, playing in some dingy bar is another, not Bruce, but someone, and someday all the kids will say, you should have seen him when…”

    PS: Kuddos to your guy Eddie for bringing the Penns back together. The power of music.

    paul of illinois — April 10, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

  • Thank you so much for the tunes, makes me wanna ditch work and listen to all the Bruce live albums.
    BUT: what about the Vedder show???

    Tony — April 11, 2008 @ 3:31 am

  • Hey Heather,

    I’ve seen Bruce 42 times the past 20 yrs all over the world and I can tell you for sure that being close to the stage is just a different show altogether, which is really the case for any arena or stadium show.

    NOBODY does this better than Bruce. Nobody.

    Hope next time you’re in the pit.

    Anonymous — April 11, 2008 @ 5:32 am

  • Ah, so glad you finally got to see our Jersey hometown hero in action! He really is still amazing inconcert, the spontaneity of these recent shows, where he’s taking requests from the audience must be outstanding. I personally went to the Madison Square Garden show in October, and am going again to GIants Stadium in July- less than a week after my wedding (my first concert with my new bride)! If he plays “Fire” then, she’ll flip her lid. You don’t know how lucky you are, he never plays that one!!!

    I was lucky enough to see Bruce at the legendary Stone Pony about 8 years ago, as an unannounced guest performer at a charity gig. Undeniably one of the concert highlights of my life. (http://www.livedaily.com/news/2123.html)

    Thanks for the amazing blog and the fantastic post!

    Pete Pizza — April 11, 2008 @ 10:15 am

  • Next time, Heather, you have to make the extra effort to at least get general admission tickets. It’s a *completely* different experience from floor level. I’ve seen him three times this tour, all three from the pit, and all three were mind blowing. The energy that comes off that stage has the same feeling as when a freight train races past you. It’s a palpable roar. And “Rosalita” from twenty feet away is damn near a religeous experience.
    Anyway, that’s about as much bluster as I can manage, glad you finally got to see him at least.

    bpfastball — April 11, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  • Heather, just think though…Some of the artists you’ve seen amongst a dozen or two people or have even had the pleasure to interview may one day be the Bruce’s and Rolling Stones of the next generation or perhaps ours.

    Then we can wax poetically about seeing them in a basement as sweaty drunk kids!

    Matthias — April 11, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  • I am so, so, so, so jealous! I wasn’t able to hit any of the CA Springsteen shows this past week and I think a little bit of me may have died inside because of it.

    I’ve actually only seen The Boss twice. Once was the very first night that the Staples Center opened to the public. The other? On the field at Dodger Stadium and as a lifelong Dodger fan as well, it was truly a religious experience.

    The show sounds amazing. Glad someone got to enjoy the Boss while he was West Coastin’!

    Blue — April 11, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

  • I was just surfing around before I go out the door to see Bruce tonight in Dallas, and I ran across your review. It just got me that much more amped for the show. I agree, it’s a shame that it has to be big arenas nowadays with $100 tickets and $10 beers. But at least with Bruce, I think you come closest to getting your money’s worth – and I don’t like beer anyway.

    My first Springsteen show was in 1975 at a smallish, 2000 seat venue. All I knew about the man going in was what I’d heard on the records, living in the South I wasn’t hip to his live performing reputation. Boy, what a revelation! That concert is, to this day, the one all others are judged by. Truly a religious experience. None of us will be that young again.

    Sybil — April 13, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  • Because the Bruuuuuce show I saw was such an amazing experience for me I just hate to hear that yours was less than stellar. I saw him a few years back with E Street and it literally changed my life, if for no other reason than the high it gave me meant that I didn’t require my anti-depressants for a good few months after :)
    We were at an indoor venue and our seats were less than great but the amazing thing (besides the man and the band of course) was that for the entire concert EVERYONE stood. Everyone sang. Everyone looked just as happy as we were to be there.
    I can’t remember now what exactly was so spectacular about it, but just that it was one of the greatest feelings of my entire life. Maybe next time will be better…

    Homegrown {& the Bug} — April 13, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  • I just went to my first Bruce show in Anaheim this past week. Though I haven’t been a teenager for years (aagghh), it made me feel like one: I’ve now got a crush on a guy twice my age because of his charisma on stage. I had okay seats, but next time, I’m in the pit, baby. Check out some of his stuff on youtube–maybe you’ll try for some standing tix next time

    Christina — April 14, 2008 @ 4:49 am

  • Danny Federici RIP 1950-2008…he truly will be missed

    Frank — April 17, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  • Hi Heather, I just found your blog. I’ve been a Bruce fan for over 34 years, have seen 24 shows, own over 300 boots, used to have an all-Bruce radio show broadcast over the internet, and I still never tire of the man!

    My best friend in Phoenix was at the San Jose show as well — as he said, “since he doesn’t seem to be coming to Phoenix, I had to take my son to see the E Street Band!” I hope you get to see many, many more shows.

    BTW, check out my blog — I’ve just put you on my bloglist!

    Don (the Mission Man)

    Mission Man — May 2, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  • That sounds good. I am an old fan. Any more of this show anywhere? Was there a zip that I did not see (I told you I was old)?

    Dan — May 20, 2008 @ 8:33 am

  • Hi Dan,
    I think I originally found this show on DimeADozen….not sure! I don’t have the whole thing.

    heather — May 20, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

  • Thanks Heather, you’re the best. I know about dimeadozen, but being old, have not been able to navigate it yet.

    Dan — May 20, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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