Tuesday, October 9, 2007


(photo from Backstreets)

In an earlier post, I complained about not getting to go to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s Asbury Park rehearsal shows because they sold out too quickly. Ditto for his rehearsal at Continental Airlines Arena. Until a friend of mine came through at the last minute. Sweet!

The event really showed how much Springsteen and his organization treats the fans really well, and how hard they work to thwart the scalpers. Tickets went on sale on Wednesday for a Friday show, you could only buy two tickets, you could only get them over the phone, and you needed your credit card and matching ID to get into the show. That all meant that you had to get to the arena early, and there was a lot of waiting… something few (if any) Bruce fans would complain about. The show sold out in like ten minutes, because they only sold a fraction of the arena. But, as is always the case at Bruce’s shows, tons of fans showed up at the venue ticketless, hoping for a “drop” – Springsteen’s management usually holds a few hundred (or even one or two thousand) tickets until the day of the show to thwart the scalpers. I believe they probably sold tickets to most or all of the people on the “drop” line. So, everyone who was willing to put some work into going (as opposed to just money) were able to see a really special show. (I’d also read that they opened the doors at the Asbury Park rehearsals – not to let anyone else in, but so that people who didn’t get in could at least hear the shows. By the way, the $100 per ticket for all the rehearsals went to local New Jersey charities).

The floor was split into two sections – “the pit” was closer to the stage, and the rest of the floor was behind that, but the whole floor was general admission (which is what they’re doing on the tour, apparently; Backstreets has more info about the general admission policy). Some people had lower level seats, and the upper level was curtained off. Before the show, the people in the lower level were permitted to go to the second section of the floor if they wanted to. Really mellow vibe – the only rule seemed to be that they didn’t want people taking pictures. We were lucky enough to be in the pit, which was crowded but not packed, and gave the vibe of seeing Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in a high school gym. It was really cool – I hope to get “pit” seats when he returns in summer ’08.

My friend who hooked me up with my ticket suggested that I mention the celebrity sightings that we caught while we were there. Artie Lange from The Howard Stern Show asked us if he was on the right line when we were outside, and the dude who plays “Paulie Walnuts” on The Sopranos showed up with a little entourage.

The show itself was predictably incredible. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band don’t go out on tour as a nostalgia thing, they still play as if they have something to prove. Maybe it’s just that they are as great and as relevant as they were three decades ago. I saw their tour for The Rising seven times over two years, and it was amazing to see that people were reacting to his new songs as if they were classics. That album, of course, addressed 9/11 and the post 9/11 world with incredible eloquence and grace. But still, the older rock audience tends to be a bit lazy when it comes to listening to anything new, so it was incredible to see thousands of people in a stadium rocking to “Lonesome Day” and “The Rising” and really being affected by "You're Missing" and “Empty Sky.”

Happily, Magic isn’t tied to a shared tragedy. But I wonder if people will absorb/appreciate/respect the album in the same way they did The Rising. When Bruce isn’t working with the E Street Band, as on his last two albums/tours, he was able to be a bit more ambitious with his shows. But The E Street Band attracts more of the “classic rock” audience raised on, and continuously fed, “rock blocks” and “twofer Tuesdays": many of them pretty much just want the hits.

But everyone at the rehearsal was a die-hard, and probably had heard the album, even though it hadn’t been released on CD or mp3 (it had come out on LP at the last minute, to make it eligible for this year’s Grammy® Awards. You gotta love that kind of shrewd buisness sense).

They opened with the album’s first track/first single, “Radio Nowhere,” which is an intense song, and was even better live. “Living In The Future,” which sounds a bit like “Tenth Avenue Freezeout,” can be a huge hit I think, and it was great live. Bruce and Patti did a duet on one of her new songs, “Town Without Heartbreak,” which was great –it’s the first time I’ve seen her do one of her songs on stage with him, other than a few lines of “Rumble Doll.”

My highlights: “Candy’s Room,” “Night,” and especially the new and rocking version of one of my favorite songs from Nebraska, “Reason To Believe.” it sounded like Tom Petty's "Saving Grace," which sounds like ZZ Top's "La Grange" which sounds like any number of John Lee Hooker songs... it was a great reading of the song. They also did the rarely performed “Thundercrack,” which was a nice nod to the die-hards. Bruce mentioned that neither Max Weinberg nor Roy Bittan had joined the band yet when they last performed the song live.

Well, I’m going to one of Bruce’s regular shows at the arena next week, albeit with seats behind the stage in the upper level. I can’t wait.

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