Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Kate and I went to see Bruce Springsteen last night in Albany. The show was listed as starting at 7:30, but it was 8:25 before the band took the stage. At about 9:30, they were playing "Devil's Arcade," one of the slower and more political songs off the new record, which gave me time to look at my watch. "Huh," I said. "Must be getting near the end of the set."

They finished "Devil's Arcade," and went into "The Rising." "Well," I thought while singing along, "This is a good song to end the set on." They finished, and went right into "Last to Die." "Bold call, ending on a track from the new record, " I thought. Then they played "Long Walk Home." "I give up," I thought. The next song was the last of the set, "Badlands," which the crowd of course went wild for.

They went off the stage for barely long enough to keep up the pretense that they weren't planning to play more songs, then came back out for the obligatory encore. They started off with "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" off the new record, and then the next song was "Thunder Road." "That was kind of short," I thought, and then again, they played three more songs ("Born to Run," "Dancing in the Dark," and finally "American Land").

The point here is that even though he's pushing 60, Springsteen hasn't done anything to lose his well-earned reputation as a great live act. They didn't leave anything in the locker room, that's for sure...

Tickets for the Albany show went on sale the day before we got back from Japan, so I ended up buying them from a re-seller. My first attempt to get tickets was thwarted, just before the Dylan show, and the seats for that proved to be so uncomfortable that when I re-ordered, I went for the General Admission seats on the floor of the arena. Spending a couple of hours standing wasn't any less uncomfortable than those seats, and we were half a hockey rink from the stage, so the view was fantastic. (For me, anyway-- Kate mostly saw other people's backs...)

As noted, the show was slow to start, which was a little annoying-- we were inside and on the floor a bit before seven, so we had been standing for a good hour and a half before the band came out. They were worth the wait, though.

If, like me, you grew up with MTV in the 80's, they look pretty much like you expect-- a little less mobile than they used to be, but you've seen them on tv. Bruce looks like Bruce, Max Weinberg looks like a calculus teacher, Little Steven doesn't look all that much like a mobster, Suzie Tyrell looks a bit like Patti Scialfa, and so on. The exception is Clarence Clemons, who looked like a walrus in a pimp suit. He mostly stayed off to the side of the stage, but would waddle out into the middle for the important sax solos. He could still play, but boy, he didn't look good.

The set list (which was posted to a fan site at 12:04 last night-- Kate was disappointed that it wasn't being live-blogged. You can also get a PDF version of the list from the official site, if you would like that...) was a good mix of old and new stuff, and the new stuff was surprisingly well received. It doesn't hurt that a lot of it sounds just like old stuff-- there were a couple of times when they kicked into what I thought was an old song, only to find it was a new track (the opening of "Livin' in the Future" is a dead ringer for "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out").

They did a good job with all of the material, though there were occasional ragged moments. The crowd sang along with pretty much everything, including some songs that I didn't really know, including the mid-set "4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy)" and "E Street Shuffle," which evidently haven't been played live for years. The only people disappointed were probably the ones holding up a bedsheet with "I Drove From Canada, Please Play Jungleland," and I think they'll get over it.

The crowd, at least where we were, was a bit toward the Baby Boomer end of the spectrum, though maybe a bit younger. At least, the one group of drunken frat boys near us stood out (and drew a lot of attention from security, who eventually escorted a few of them out) as significantly younger. They were also the most fired up for tracks from the new album, as you might expect.

Odd crowd note: We were standing near the railing on the edge of the general admission floor area (at the suggestion of a friendly guy in the crowd when we first came in, who said there would be better sight lines for somebody Kate's height), and at one point, I looked over into the seats and said "Huh. That guy's a dead ringer for Elliot Spitzer." And it was, in fact, the Governor of New York, sitting with his family in the second row, about fifteen feet from where we were standing.

That was kind of cool, but also kind of a pain in the ass, as people kept coming over to take his picture with their cell phones. Including one jackass who came to snap a picture during "Born to Run," and should've been clubbed with a flashlight, just on principle.

From a traffic-generating standpoint, I probably ought to say something bad about them, to see if I can match last month's spike in visits from angry Dylan fans. I really can't, thouhg-- it was an outstanding show, and I highly recommend seeing them if the tour passes near you.


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" ... even though he's pushing 60 ..."

It's great that they let him out of the nursing home. What did he do with his walker while he was onstage?

"The show was listed as starting at 7:30, but it was 8:25 before the band took the stage."

Really annoys me that they (they being gig organisers on both sides of the Atlantic) do this, but if a band ever showed up when they said they would, a lot of regular gig goers would get completely taken by surprise and miss half the set.

It's great that they let him out of the nursing home. What did he do with his walker while he was onstage?

Hey, rock and roll is a young man's game. Particularly high-energy live rock and roll. He's not that much younger than the Stones and the Who, and they've definitely lost some of their edge.

Your view of someone who is pushing 60 is definitely a young man's game. And, actually, I would argue that R&R is an old man's game. Popular music today is rarely R&R, at least not in the classic sense. I'm not sure Springsteen was ever R&R. But, you are right that the old R&Rers are reaching, let's say, the autumn of their performance lives. I don't know about the Stones, but Daltrey definitely lost it a while back. If you listen to the old tracks, it's no wonder he can't sing any more. Of course I'm sure the extracurricular activities didn't help.

Sounds like it was the same as the show he did in DC (at least the first of the two). I doubt that they ever have any intention of starting on time.
At the show I went to (which was also supposed to start at 7:30) Stevie VZ was up in the pre-show area taking pictures with fans from 7 till at least 7:30 or so. They didn't go on stage until about 8:15.
Our show also went on for about 2.5 hours. Pretty impressive if they keep up that pace for an entire tour.

By Christopher (not verified) on 16 Nov 2007 #permalink

It is amazing that these guys have been working that hard for so long. My first Springsteen show was 1978, the hockey rink at Michigan State, and it was at least 3 hours of full-on rocking. Thirty years later and they're still at it--quite commendable.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 16 Nov 2007 #permalink

Caught the Pittsburgh show the other night, and had pretty much the identical experience. He played an acoustic version of "Youngstown," though, which was pretty sweet.

I first saw them when they played the Union College Chapel in October 1974. (So there.)

By Bob Oldendorf (not verified) on 17 Nov 2007 #permalink