Bruce Springsteen, Live
I am not a hardcore Bruce Springsteen fan, though I do own a handful of his albums and listen to his music whenever it comes on the radio. He’s the sort of artist I take for granted — a legend who tours frequently, continues to put out good music and remains vital and beloved. But he won’t be around forever, which is why I decided to go his show Tuesday night at the Times Union Center. I had never seen Springsteen before, and it seemed like the time had come to check him off my concert bucket list.
I had always heard that Springsteen puts on a great concert, but I was still unprepared for just how good he is live. He might just be the most generous performer I’ve ever seen. Not only did he and the E Street Band play for almost three solid hours, but they also engaged and interacted with the audience in a way that felt highly personal — a pretty impressive feat when you’re playing for thousands of people. Then there was the music, which was superb: a powerful, fun and inventive mix of hits, deep cuts and covers. Much to my amazement, the show opened with a cover — the great INXS song “Don’t Change.” Which made me think that Bruce Springsteen has reached that point in his career when he can do whatever he wants, and it will be amazing. And that even if it isn’t amazing, people will love it anyway. Full disclosure: I love INXS, so playing an INXS cover is a surefire way to win me over.
I was impressed with Springsteen’s energy, but also with the energy of the crowd. Springsteen bounds around stage and belts out song with the energy of a man half his age, while the crowd roared their approval every step of the way. It all added up to one of the higher-energy shows I’ve ever seen, and the enthusiasm and electricity only increased as the show wore on, before peaking during the encore, when Springsteen followed up the searing and mournful song “The Wall,” about the Vietnam Wall, with three of his biggest hits: “Born in the U.S.A.,” “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark.”
I think most of us can agree that Springsteen’s newer work is simply not as good as his classic material, but the Boss is so good live that even a lesser tune such as “The Rising” is transformed into something transcendent and transfixing. Of course, I should give props to the E Street Band, a crack team of musicians that never hit a wrong note. Especially fun was watching and listening to saxophonist Jake Clemons, the nephew of longtime E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in 2011. Another highlight was an intense performance of the socially conscious folk anthem “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” with Springsteen and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello sharing vocals.
Springsteen takes requests off the handmade signs of audience members, and my favorite moment of the night came when he placed a sign that read “Stayin’ Alive” next to the microphone and proceeded to launch into a rollicking version of the Bee Gees classic — another surefire way to win me over, although by that point I had gone from being a mere Bruce Springsteen appreciator to thinking he might be one of the greatest people on Earth. Midway through the show, he yelled, “Are you ready to be transformed, Albany?” which might have sounded self-aggrandizing coming from almost anyone else, but seemed like a wholly accurate description by the Boss of what was taking place.
Because I can’t remember the last time I felt as satisfied or happy after a concert. When you see Bruce Springsteen, you definitely get your money’s worth. And then some.
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