Springsteen ends a leg of his tour — and maybe more
It didn’t bother me that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were in town last night and tonight to end the U.S. leg of their tour and I didn’t get around to getting tickets. Maybe it’s because I don’t love Magic. Maybe it’s because the Hartford show I saw wasn’t great. (Here are my long-winded comments on the record and opening night of the tour.) Maybe it’s because I’m still burned-out after writing the book. Maybe it’s because I’m an idiot. Probably a combo of all of the above.
Anyway, I was saved from my own idiocy by a late-afternoon call (thank you, Chris and Bernie!), a GA ticket, and an unexpected pass into the pit. By any measure, this evening’s show was a giant leap ahead from the more tentative performance at Hartford last month. The set list was much more exciting (“This Hard Land”! Three songs from Wild and Innocent!), the blues-boogie version of “Reason to Believe” scorched, Garry Tallent sang backup on a world-record four songs, and almost every number played from Magic finally sounded like it deserved to be played by this grand unit. Peter Wolf looked thinner and wobblier than usual when he came out, along with a wine bottle, for backing vocals on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” so it’s probably a good thing they didn’t make a run at “Dirty Water.”
It’s hard to type out an instant review of a strong, loud rock’n’roll show when the most important thing hanging over it was left unspoken. Although no official source has commented, the state of keyboard player Danny Federici’s health has been widely speculated on the Net in forums both reliable and wacko, Sessions Band keyboardist Charlie Giordano has been spotted at several recent shows, the tour is about to go to Europe, and it’s easy to add one rumor to two facts and cook up a scenario. Indeed, it was a big night for Federici. Good for one or two solos most nights, he was called on for many more this evening, including a loose, luxurious break in “Kitty’s Back” that Springsteen kept gesturing him to extend, and sundry band members gathered around Federici’s platform to look up and listen. At the end of the evening, several E Streeters hugged him, Springsteen tried to inch Federici forward to the center mic, but Phantom Dan, true to his nickname, shook his head no, waved, smiled, and wouldn’t be pushed. It was reasonably clear what was going on — and I suspect it will become clearer shortly.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are one of the luckiest rock’n’roll bands ever. All the members from the unit that coalesced in 1975 are still with the group. Indeed, all of them are still alive, which you can’t say about the members of many other bands that hit their first peak in the Seventies. If the rumors are true (and, of course, I hope they’re not, but the evidence seems to point in one direction), it may be that the luck has begun to run out, as it will for all of us eventually. As the band played top-rank songs both 35-something years old and less than a year old (I’m thinking of “Devil’s Arcade” and maybe “Long Walk Home” for that second category), I couldn’t help but marvel how long this has lasted. It’s not just the band that has been lucky. It’s his audience, too. May Federici’s luck hold out, too.
(Thanks to Michael for passing on the link to this video)