Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Worth the wait.
I finally saw my first live Bruce Springsteen concert last week - and it was the first one at MetLife Stadium for Bruce and the E Street Band. I've always heard about the energy, the duration, catalog breadth, and the atmosphere of a Bruce concert. It was all there Wednesday night.
As a concert, it truly is an amazing event. Nearly four hours of almost continuous music. Even the encore breaks don't last for more than three minutes. The music itself is something to behold. The arrangements, the brass section, the back-up singers (who frequently sounded like a church choir), Bruce's singing and his interaction with the crowd. Bruce's early guitar solo was impressive as well as later in the concert when Bruce and "The Professor" Roy Bittan on the piano collaborated on an extended guitar and piano duet - just a beautiful serenade.
In particular, crowd singing and participation seemed to peak with “Waitin' on a Sunny Day,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Born to Run” and “Rosalita.” The audience responded affectionately nearly every time the Big Man's nephew Jake Clemons had a solo; as well as during the tribute to the Big Man himself during "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."
Thematically, Bruce spoke often about ghosts throughout the concert. Prior to “Spirit in the Night,” and other songs; as if to honor Clemons but also to acknowledge that the ones we love are always near. Continuing with the spiritual, Bruce spoke of the E Street Band "consecrating" the proceedings, as well as prior to “Spirit,” leading a near musical revival along with his back-up singers.
In particular, spiritual or not, Bruce's music continues to move the faithful. I couldn't help but weep when he sang "The Rising" knowing that within view of the stadium outside the new One World Trade Center rises and sparkles in the night. To live in North Jersey, one can't help but think of September 11th when we hear the lyrics, "Sky of love, sky of tears...Sky of glory and sadness...Sky of mercy, sky of fear."
Whether he would admit it or not, Bruce is a preacher; and a very effective one. You see, too often today, it's very easy to preach all good news. But real, true preaching includes, as Bruce said Wednesday night, "The good news and the bad news and all the rest of it." Because, in Gospel terms, it's bad news before it's good news...we're lost before we're found, we're hurting before we're healed. And this is perhaps the essential quality of Bruce's work and catalog, it's not trivial pop music, it's angrier and louder than folk, and it's deeper than rock; yet it somehow mixes elements of all these. Because for nearly 40 years Bruce has been articulating and speaking for you and me. The pain, the struggle, the loss, the lament - the truth about life in America; “Death of My Hometown,” “My City Of Ruins” and more. This is why stadium-sized audiences keep coming out to hear him.
But fortunately and appropriately, he doesn't leave it there in lament and tears. The last 40 minutes of the show were just pure party and celebration. Perhaps that it is no coincidence that the last four songs could rightly be considered New Jersey anthems – “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Rosalita.” And for me, who admittedly favors earlier titles, the highpoint, what made it worth the wait of thirty some years to hear Bruce live - was to sing “Born to Run” with Bruce and 50 thousand of my fellow "tramps." Bruce and E Street Band have been all over the world. But being at a stadium in the Meadowlands, listening to a Jersey guy so poignantly sing about us and for us on many levels makes it not just a rock concert, but part community, part sacred.
Christopher B. Wolf is a pastor and author living Saddle Brook, NJ.
After the incredibly successful one-off Led Zeppelin reunion concert from 2007, he left huge, multi-millon dollar deals for a larger scale reunion on the table to go off and tour with Alison Krauss.
Of course, that ended up working out for him: the Raising Sand album won six Grammys, sold a ton, and redefined him as a more mature (but not "adult contemporary") artist. Of course, there had to be a lot of pressure for them to follow up that classic album, but Robert bailed on that one too, to form the Band Of Joy with Buddy Miller from the Raising Sand touring band, and Patty Griffin, whom Buddy was producing at the time.
That was a really cool album, but again, Robert has moved on to form a new band, The Sensational Shape Shifters. I don't know when the new album is coming out, but Plant made a very interesting move: on July 12, he and his band did a gig in London, and released it as a downloadable live album the next day.
This sounds like his most wild band yet. I loved the band will Alison Krauss, but it was pretty musically conservative, as many T-Bone Burnett productions are (and I love Burnett's productions). I loved Band Of Joy as well, but it was like a harder edged version of the Krauss band. But bringing back guitarist Justin Adams, who worked with him on the Mighty Rearranger album, brings back the non-anglo/world music vibe that he hasn't had for a while. There are some really great versions of Zeppelin songs on this live album. I'm definitely looking forward to the new studio album, which will be made up of mostly originals.