Thursday, August 28, 2008

For Your Listening Pleasure: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 11.12.07, Washington, DC

(Photo via Sony)

I am a "born again" Springsteen fan. Sure, I dug "The River" back in the day (as much as a 10 year old can I suppose), and "Born in the USA" of course...everyone got BITUSA and liked Springsteen when it came out. At one point, so many people owned BITUSA and liked Springsteen, it was almost like the record had arrived in everyone’s mail like those “Try AOL!” discs along with a “You will like Bruce Springsteen” brainwashing mantra attached. His killer marathon live shows became things of legend to the general populace when they could get tickets, and filled arenas to their rafters. By then I was 14 and my parents had no interest in squiring me 4 hours to the Syracuse Carrier Dome even if we could get tickets, which wasn’t likely.

And then, like those songs that get played on every radio station so much that they start to populate your nightmares, you get to a point where you cannot hear those songs without having a seizure. When BITUSA hit that threshold, I didn’t listen to Springsteen for a very long time (not being a fan of seizures, of course).

Fast forward to December 1995. I was having zero luck finding that perfect Christmas present for a man I’d been dating most of that year, who happened to be a big Bruce fan since the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" record. Completely by chance, I read that Bruce was adding one show to his Beacon Theater run in NYC for the Ghost of Tom Joad tour. Completely by luck, as this was prior to the wide-reach of the Internet and to get tickets for shows you had to redial a phone till your fingertips were numb, I scored us a pair to this show.

The Beacon Theater isn’t enormous and our balcony seats were two rows from the back of the joint, the seats in the center of the aisle; decent but not great. This really drunk girl next to me kept screaming "ROSALITAAAA" like every 5 minutes. I hadn’t listened to a note of the Tom Joad record. "Jesus, the things one does for love," I thought, and tried to quell the urge to slap that drunk girl off the balcony's edge.

Springsteen came out, gave his spiel about everyone needing to be quiet and whatnot, and began to play. I was digging it ok, (I always liked "Nebraska" and much like that, the "Ghost of Tom Joad" record was just Springsteen and an acoustic), and then he did the third song, one called "Straight Time." As he played, I noticed how taut his arms were, and how they matched his voice. This wasn’t a man just going through the motions, this was a man living this song about struggling on the road of right and wrong, this was a man completely engulfed and surrendering to the music coming out of him. There was nothing half-assed being put out here, this was 110%. That’s when I realized I was on the edge of my seat, covered in goosebumps, completely engulfed and unknowingly surrendering to the music coming out of him as well. That happened to me only one other time, when I stumbled across a college radio station left of the dial and had the epiphany that there was more out there than classic rock and Top 40, making me the music snob I am today. I was witnessing for the first time someone who felt that passion for music and wanted the audience to feel that too.

I left that show a fan again.

Since then I’ve seen Springsteen and the E Street Band a bunch of times. E Street shows are decidedly more upbeat than that solo show, where for a majority of the show, asses are always out of seats dancing. But that passion I felt the first time still radiates from the stage. It’s an unabashed and unbridled joy of truly loving what you’re doing, and you can’t help but smile at that because it shines so bright

The show below is from last November's show here in Washington, DC in support of Springsteen's latest release, Magic. The individual tracks are a couple of my favorites from that night.

Download: Springsteen and the E Street Band, Washington, DC,11.12.07
-Promise Land (live).mp3
-Devil's Arcade (live).mp3
-Reason to Believe (live).mp3
-Girls in Their Summer Clothes (live).mp3
-Full Show Zipped.zip

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