' ' Cinema Romantico: Life As It Should Be

Monday, June 12, 2006

Life As It Should Be

Only occasionally does Cinema Romantico find the need to leave the realm of movies to discuss other matters. In fact, I believe it's only happened once. But today it must happen again as the events of this past Saturday night warrant a hymn of praise, the likes of which will be overblown to an extent most of my readers may never have experienced.

I saw Bruce Springsteen and The Seeger Sessions Band live in my hometown. Now it should be noted I am irrefutably biased when it comes to Gentleman Bruce. He is my idol. He is the greatest writer ever to live since William Shakespeare. He is the greatest live performer to have ever graced the earth. Any arguments you make against the statements I have just made are pointless for the simple fact that I am right and you are wrong. That's just the way it is.

I've name-checked all the great movies I've been able to see since coming to Chicago but allow me to list just a few of the wonderous musical shows this move has afforded me. I was 15 feet away from Win Butler and Regine Chassagne and the rest of The Arcade Fire at the Riviera (a venue just featured in "The Break Up"). I was 5 feet away from Kathleen Edwards at Martyrs as she sauntered onstage with a glass of scotch (which nearly caused me to ask for her hand in marriage). I stood with my elbows on the stage for the duration of an entire Neko Case show at the Vic. And yet as magnificent as each of these shows were they just can't compete with what Sir Bruce can do before a live crowd regardless of where your seats may reside. In Detroit we sat in the second row balcony......behind the stage. In New York City we sat up against a wall.....behind the stage. At the Rosemont Theater in Chicago we sat in the second to last row of the whole auditorium. But on Saturday night in Des Moines we were priveleged enough to stand not more than 30 feet away from the microphone which Bruce occupied for a majority of the evening. Until he......well, we'll get to that in a moment.

That Springsteen show I saw at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, Michigan on September 9, 1999 was the greatest concert (perhaps the greatest thing) these eyes had ever seen, if only because it was the first Springsteen show I'd been fortunate enough to witness. So with that in mind we'll say that his June 10, 2006 show at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa was the greatest concert (perhaps the greatest thing) I've ever seen - part 1A. Yes, it was that good. You truly cannot understand what the man can do on a stage until you've seen it. His shows can change lives and save them and affirm them.

If you don't believe me, just ask any Springsteen-show virgin from Saturday and they'll tell you.

His show on Saturday night was part church service, part racous funeral service, part passionate protest. Or, in other words, it was exactly what it was billed to be - a hootenanny. Except it laid shame to anything else that has ever dared to call itself a hootenanny. There were guitars and fiddles and banjos and accordions and trumpets and trombones and a tuba. Even a tuba solo. There were crowd sing-a-long's and vintage Springsteen theatrics and dancing up the wazoo and several mentions of Iowa's "world pork expo".

He made "Old Dan Tucker" - written 162 years ago - rock harder than any modern day song I've heard in years. Pure and simple. He closed his main set with "Pay Me My Money Down", which seemed to last forever - and if it had gone on longer than that I would not have complained. He reinvented his acoustic tune "Open All Night" as New Orleans swing which in turn caused me to shake Andrea my fellow concert-goer and scream "this is the greatest thing I've ever heard in my life"! At least it was until he played the most scorching version of his own "Ramrod" I've ever heard (including the show-closing version he played in Detroit that almost caused me to spontaneously combust). This one he reinvented as what he called "Texicali". It was the type of thing for which words are utterly useless. And I heeded Bruce's advice to put on my "dancing shoes" while listening to it. It's amazing to me that I - arguably the most neurotic person you'll ever encounter - can lose every hint of self-consciousness during a Springsteen show. I dance and sway and shout and sing along and pump my fist and if someone near me doesn't like it they can piss right off. At one point he would not continue with a song until he had made every last person in the Wells Fargo Arena climb to their feet.

People often talk about so-called "out-of-body" experiences. I'd never believed it - not until Saturday night, that is. During the second song of the evening Bruce left his mic and sidled down the stage to his right and, suddenly, he was a mere 10 feet (!) away from us. Bruce (my idol! the man who has got me through the rockiest times of my life and accompanied me for many of the grandest!) Springsteen! I'm fairly certain at that point I left my body. Not for long, mind you, but I do remember ever so briefly hovering over myself for a moment.

Bruce has a tendency to make such things happen.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

While I cannot match your enthusiasm, I can certainly say that I did not count myself among the fans of The Boss until I saw him with the E Street Band in St. Louis. He is indeed one of the best performers to have ever graced this world.

And while it is foolish of me to assume you do not own it or have not seen it, but check out his VH1 Storytellers DVD, if it is not already in your collection. The man is as fine a speaker/storyteller as he is a performer.