November 16, 2009

Higher and Higher

I’ve been to shows, but not THAT show.

Sure, I could expound forever on the trope of a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show being likened to a religious experience, but I won’t because I feel I can do better than that.

Forget it. Who am I kidding?

If I didn’t before last night, I BELIEVE now.
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It’s a pastiche of images swirling through my head. You have Bruce’s first descent into the middle of the crowd for ‘Hungry Heart,” crowd surfing back to the stage to continue the show – or the abscess of horns magically bringing “10th Avenue Freezeout” to life.

A marathon lasting over three hours; it felt as if no stone was left unturned, from first album classics (“Growing Up”) to the prowling, elemental (“Kitty’s Back”) to the ‘WTF?’ (“Jole Blon”?)

Of course, the main attraction came with the complete performance of the group’s 1975 stone-cold classic, Born To Run. Any way you look at it, the album is colossal. Every track has a mammoth emotional hook. The way the piano dances in “Thunder Road” as Bruce’s vocal gets more urgent each verse, his shredded vocal in the chorus of “Backstreets,” and the mournful trumpet that wades through “Meeting Across The River”. These moments are at every turn.

There’s the album’s title track, which really is the only song to actually capture the naïve, blazing intensity of being young and in love – so powerful, so hopeful, one wrong move and it could crush you under its weight.

All of these emotions translate live. The songs feel otherworldly – Clarence Clemons’s majestic solo on “Jungleland,” – yes, THAT solo – is something I could live in. It peaks and valleys with grace and complete effortlessness from it’s performer. It’s the end of a musical journey, and a hell of a fitting epilogue it is.

That wasn’t even the end of the evening; an entire set of songs followed the album. The award for “Too Soon?” goes to “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” based on a Christmas tree (complete with working lights) cardboard sign request collected by the Boss during the “requests” segment. Fans in the pit threw Christmas hats at the band, and both Clemons and drummer Max Weinberg obliged them. (Also, it should be said, Max wearing a Christmas hat does nothing to overwrite his classic perv supreme image on The Tonight Show in my mind.)

The one-two punch that really brought the evening full circle came at the end of the evening – the jubilant (and personal favorite) “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” which has been documented by us before, and it was great that we finally heard it by the person who wrote it. Jaw dropping. No other words other than those are coming.

The night’s final song – a cover of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” was the other moment. The normally three minute rave up expanded to an epic thanks to Bruce and his band, taking advantage of this by making their way to the center of the arena to sing the chorus amongst the faithful.

At that moment, it was clear: together, we were already on a higher plane, if only for a couple hours.