' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: Night Two Of Ecstasy

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Digression: Night Two Of Ecstasy

So the one thing everyone knows about a Springsteen show, even if they have never seen a Springsteen show, is the stories he tells, the rambling monologues that occur before songs or after songs or often in the middle of songs themselves. Yet the show I was honored enough to witness at the arena bearing the name of the place I used to work which I will therefore not say aloud in the city where I was born and raised on Monday night (here is proof I was there! - photo #29) contained hardly any Springsteen storytelling at all. It was fierce, it was urgent, it was non-stop. Song after song after song, piled on top of each other, relentless. Even the standard encore where the band takes the bow, leaves the stage, the house lights go down, the crowd cheers for awhile, the band comes out, house lights come up, and band plays turned into the band taking a bow and then....going right back to their instruments and playing. No time to waste!

Anyway, I'm hoping you don't mind if I go into a storytelling vibe by way of explaining yet another life-affirming Springsteen concert experience. (On second thought, you don't have a choice.)

Like how there is this infamous tribute band in Chicago called Tributosaurus and how every month they "become" a different band and play a setlist as that band and how in August of 2005 they "became" Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band and, man, they did a good job. This wasn't Puttin' On The Hits. This was the real deal. This was for E Street fans. The best part: they played the infinitely awesome "Candy's Room" and finished and the lead singer said, "That song is so good I think we should play it twice." Maybe 30 people cheered, of which I was one, and, by God, they played it again and finished and the lead singer said, "That song is so good I think we should play it three times." Maybe 3 people cheered, of which I was one. Alas, they didn't play it a third time but, even so, they had played it two more times than I ever heard the real Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band play it live.

Until they played it on Monday night.

Or like how when I lived in Phoenix there was this weekday night when I had to be to work by seven in the morning and, yet, when Caleb and Jed and Nathan announced at ten at night they were driving over to Tempe to drink a few beers and shoot some pool I piled into the car with them anyway and as we drove back Jed and I wound up in a music discussion, as were wont to do, and he asked me what I thought the single greatest rock and roll song ever recorded was and how, expecting me to answer "Born to Run", I threw him for a loop and said "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones. And I still sincerely believe to this day that statement to be true. Except, obviously, I had never heard Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, the greatest rock and roll band of all time, play the greatest rock and roll song of all time.

Until they played it on Monday night.

Or like how when I was making my cross country move to Phoenix, my car packed with everything I owned, having somehow emerged unscathed from a brutal snowstorm in the Texas panhandle, the fate of the nation I was traversing currently hanging on a few chads (yes, this was exactly one day after Gore/Bush 2000) and how I could not have cared even the slightest bit less, I found myself driving into Flagstaff at dusk and as the sun was the setting behind the mountains leaving the Arizona sky awash in that glittering orange I slid my cassette mix titled The Utmost Springsteen into the Tempo's sturdy tape deck which led off with the full band "Incident on 57th Street" and how that moment is still special to me in a way my most melodramatic prose could never truly describe - life bearing pastures of promise (which would, of course, turn out to be false promise but never mind). Yet I'd never heard the full band "Incident on 57th Street" live.

Until they played it on Monday night.

The house lights up during to "Born To Run".

The sing-along to "Hungry Heart". You can see Bruce down there - well, sort of - not too far away. These were my best seats ever for an E Street Band show.

Or like how two years ago for my annual "Christmas Writing" that I send to family & friends in lieu of a Christmas card I sent what I titled The Prigge Hymnal, a collection of essays about the eight songs that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart and how one of those songs was, of course, "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" by Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band and how another one was the old-time folk tune "Hard Times" in a stunning, miraculous version by eastmountainsouth. I'd heard three songs from my hymnal, not the two I'd just mentioned, in person and I'd never seen two songs from my hymnal at the same show because, you know, they were all by different bands and so such a happening was pretty much impossible.

Until they played "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" AND "Hard Times" on Monday night.

(Yes, I finally heard "Rosalita". This means more to me than the human mind can comprehend. Eight shows, six cities, over a thousand dollars later and I heard it. "Rosalita" isn't my favorite Springsteen, per se, since my favorite Springsteen song changes with the wind but it's in my Top 10 and, as I said in the aforementioned hymnal, it's my personal benediction. It's what I play as the soundtrack for my happiest moments. When Nebraska beat Colorado last year the first song I played after it was over and I was sipping my victory scotch was "Rosalita".

Also - and I'm being honest because a man has to be honest, right? - eastmountainsouth's "Hard Times" is still a little bit better.)

Or like how the night before my very first Springsteen show way, way back in September of 1999 over a few too many Long Island Iced Teas at Diamond Dave's with my friend Jana I turned into my Drunk-And-Now-I'm-Going-To-Pontificate-About-Springsteen-So-Deal-With-It Self, as I'm also quite wont to do, and ranted & raved about how behind the pop exterior of "Dancing in the Dark" the lyrics are dark and deeply introspective and yet how that pop exterior in the form of Roy's synth riff works in defiance to those lyrics and how I so, so, so love that sort of contrast in music.

And as I listened to "Dancing in the Dark" live for the first time on Monday, the house lights all the way up, dancing like no one was watching, and no one was since they were all watching Bruce, I could not fathom how much it all moved me.

Bruce gets criticized these days for his, let's say, faux working man identity. How can this guy who is so fantastically wealthy and has such expensive tickets and his New Jersey mansion and hob-knobs with Presidents get up onstage and sing songs like "Johnny 99" and "Seeds" and so on and so forth about people on the completely opposite end of the spectrum? How can he get up there and sing those lines from "Dancing in the Dark" that go: "You say you gotta stay hungry - hey, baby, I'm just about starvin' tonight"? I mean, how long has it been since Bruce was "starvin'"? (Most of the people who make this complaint can be found eating gruel and complaining about most everything else.)

But when you looked at that crowd at that moment, young and old alike, from the 84 year old woman Bruce brought up onstage at the end of "Dancing in the Dark" who shimmyed like it was the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance to the little girl at the edge of the stage out of whom Bruce managed to coax a couple lines to "Waiting On A Sunny Day" to the delight of a momentarily hushed arena, were grooving and singing. Bruce isn't necessarily singing these songs for himself anymore, he's singing them for us. Maybe Rosalita's "papa" now knows that Bruce does, in fact, have some money but, hey, that doesn't mean I have money. You know? Bruce is out there for us, for all of us, like he always has been.

It was a tough year for me as a Springsteen fan. I didn't like the new album and, quite frankly, I still don't. I didn't like that he played the Super Bowl and, quite frankly, I still don't. Yet maybe some other Springsteen fans out there did like the new album. Who am I to say? A lot of people had problems with "Magic" and "The Rising" and I thought a good chunk of both both albums were fantastic. Even more people - myself included - had problems with "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" but if we didn't have "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town" we wouldn't have "Living Proof" on "Plugged" and if I didn't have "Living Proof" on "Plugged" my existence would be just a tiny bit less meaningful. So who really knows?

And The Super Bowl....well, only a few days before the Des Moines show Little Steven Van Zandt confirmed on a radio show that after this tour The E Street Band is taking an indefinite hiatus. He also offered the following foreboding words: "You never know. We do every show like it's our last show, anyway. But don't wait around; if you're waiting to come see us, come now."

The band is getting up there in age. Bruce turns sixty today. Roy turned sixty earlier this year. Clarence is nearing seventy. How many more chances will they have to play, for us to to see them? He played a lot of places this year he never did. The Super Bowl, Bonnaroo, The Glastonbury Festival, and perhaps he just wanted to get this greatest of bands out there as many times as possible before....

No. I won't say it. Is it the last tour? I don't know. No one knows. I'm sure Bruce doesn't even know. But if it is, if The E Street Band reaches that point where it is no more it will simply reprove the most eternal of truths, the same truth that Monday's show reproved and that every Springsteen show has reproved and that every Ra Ra Riot show has reproved and that I'm sure the Kylie show will reprove too.

If only this would never end...if only this would never end...if only...

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