Tag Archives: Clarence Clemons

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – LA Sports Arena – April 26, 2012

So, this is not going to be in chronological order…I still have so much Coachella stuff to write.  Plus, I’m actually at work and have a ton of stuff I need to be doing.

But, this has ended up as one of the most intense weeks of concerts I experienced since maybe my Glastonbury trip.  I know that I’m falling behind here because of sheer number of shows and needing to, you know the part about actually holding a job and fitting in some sleep somewhere.

I wanted to just write this last night, but couldn’t avoid getting some sleep.  Now, I’m about 5 hours from heading back for one more show to cap the week (Springsteen Night 2 in LA).  So, I’m going to shift gears from work and try to get this out there before I try to finish Coachella or my other backlog from the month.

Did I mention that I’m a damn lucky guy….I get to do all this concert going  because I have this wonderful and understanding wife who recognizes how much this crazy stuff means to me and makes it possible for me to act like a teenager with no cares in the world sometimes.  Plus, I have a job that’s flexible enough that I can travel and get opportunities I’d never have with a traditional 9-5.  I guess sometimes things just really are that good.

So, back to Springsteen.

I had some of the easiest traffic to the Sports Arena ever…seriously, just over 40 minutes to LA in rush hour?  It took me half that time again to actually park once I got off at MLK.  (By the way Sports Arena…$25 to PARK?…seriously?).  I now the place is having financial issues, but don’t try to clean up your entire budget on two shows.

I met my old friend John, another Springsteen fan from way back (and originally from Jersey to boot) and we dashed across the road (well, as much dashing as my knees allow these days) and grabbed a burger and fries.  We caught up on industry gossip a little and wandered back into the arena about 7:30.  I was able to grab a spot to lean by the FOH rail and even chat with the house engineer to pass a message to him from a mutual friend.  He said he was loving the new K1 rig they were using, but it was so good he really had to be on his game because any mistakes were very apparent.  He has his hands full with 17 musicians on stage and after a little fine tuning early in the show I thought he did a stellar job.

Bruce and the band hit the stage about 8:15, he seems to have dropped the self-intro (which is shame) and instead they marched up to the “Theme from the Magnificent Seven”.  Without a word he launched into “Badlands”, the same song I saw him open with at my first show in 1978.  It’s a great opener and really sets a tone….and the tone tonight was that the band was going to be on fire.  It’s really amazing to see a band multiple times on a tour and for me this was seeing them after a break of a couple weeks from seeing the MSG show on 4-6.

The structure of the set was similar, but you could feel within a few songs that the musicians had shifted a little and were finding their spaces in the songs.  Izod and MSG were carried on passion…this had the same fire, but the arrangements had subtle shifts that showed an attention to detail and talent that I’ve always known you get from the E-Street Band.  They are not just one of the best bands ever, they are a huge part of what’s allowed Bruce to be one of the most respected rock performers of the past half century.  I saw him with the Sessions Band, he’s an amazing performer in any setting.  But, the backing from E-Street (appearing effortless, and yet certainly the result of tons of work) gives him the space and flexibility to do things like audible songs and swap them around without missing a beat.

My best story about the band doing that is when I saw them in Orlando in November 2002.  They played a killer show and during the encores Bruce turned around and gathered them around him.  In an instant, they roared into the “Detroit Medley” for the first time in 18 or so years on stage.  And it was near flawless….I still stand in awe of any group that can at the drop of a hat play a song in front of 18,000 people that they haven’t done in close to two decades….make no mistake, these guys are the best.

So, back to last night.

“We Take Care of Our Own” was followed by “Wrecking Ball”…I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but the football imagery and content of “Wrecking Ball” still seem to make me think of my late brother, Orville.  He was a giant (certainly in my mind) and a champion (AFL 1960 & 1961) and I just can’t hear it now without thinking of him and feeling a sense of loss.

So much of this tour is about loss.  Loss of family, loss of faith, loss of those you love who surround you for a time and then are gone from your life.  But, it’s not maudlin and actually not even that sad really.  It’s a recognition that we all (over time) lose things that mean the most to us and yet we still need to support each other, take time to grieve with each other, but then continue on down our roads.  I think that’s the most brilliant thing he’s done (and that I’ve been able to figure out) about these last three shows I’ve seen.  Like life…these shows are both happy and sad without ever going too far and  being too sad, or just mindless and oblivious fun.

From the River album, “The Ties that Bind” seemed a perfect choice to follow, then Tom Morello joined for a stomping version of the celtic tinged “Death to My Hometown”.  An introduction of the band and “My City of Ruins” followed.  The introduction to it containing the now familiar lines (to me at least)….”If we’re here, and you’re here…then THEY are here too”….referring in some ways not just to Clarence and Danny, but a more universal feeling of remembrance of all those we’ve lost and miss.  Then, the repeated lines of “Rise UP, Rise UP” echoed by the crowd reaching a fervor usually contained in a gospel church service.

Maintaining that fine balance, they shifted back towards the fun side with a rollicking “E-Street Shuffle” before Tom Morello came back out  for “Jack of All Trades”.  Next came a trio of lesser played songs that seemed like a nod to the fanatics like me in the crowd.  “Something in the Night”, “Candy’s Room” and “She’s the One” with Jake Clemons once again filling his uncles huge shoes flawlessly on the later.  He’s been a revelation and seems to be carving out a larger and larger role for himself each time I’ve seen them.  Hard to imagine he’s so young and yet so confident.  It seems he must have spent a lot of time learning from his uncle…he’s not Clarence and not trying to be…but, he’s an amazing kid taking on a huge legacy without flinching and with great style and grace.  In some ways, his presence alone is another subtle reminder of both our losses and yet our ability to somehow continue on.

“Easy Money” featured a nice duet with Bruce and Patti center stage followed by “Sunny Day” a song that some hardcore fans aren’t thrilled with, but yet is a crowd favorite and at each show now features a sing along with a child pulled from the crowd.  I suspect there’s a bit of a deeper message that may be hidden here as well, but at it’s center it’s a song that breaks the tension, lets the crowd sing along and again keeps the show in balance for fans of all stripes…new, old, hardcore, casual…there’s room for everyone on this train.

Next up was the “Apollo Medley” with it’s taking intro about how soul music was how a band in New Jersey survived playing dances in 60’s….”The way you do the things you do” and “634-5789” are brilliant choices and a pair of cover songs I don’t mind hearing night after night by this band.

Tom Morello came back for “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and one of his mind blowing solos.  Although for me having seen it three times it’s lost a tiny bit of the sheer shock value it had the first time.  Nonetheless, it’s a good fit into the set and message of the show and I wasn’t unhappy to have it appear once again.  (This was the first time it was played on this tour).  “The Rising” and “Lonesome Day” came next and then “We are Alive” which still connects very deeply for me.

A few of it’s lines “…Let your mind rest easy….Sleep well my friend….It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end…” really being a big part of the core message of the entire show.  Speaking of how our “…spirits rise…to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart” one once again gets that dual sense of sadness and yet optimism.

He finished the main set with “Land of Hope and Dreams”, a departure from “Thunder Road”, and while I missed Thunder Road….Land of Hope and Dreams was another rousing plea for us all to get on board with everyone else “saints, sinners, whores, gamblers and lost souls” to find that better place for each of us.  It’s no mistake that it borrows heavily from Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”….it’s really the same message…and sent as a message of hope to end this sermon at the church of rock and roll.

The encores are generally more about the fun side.  But, they start again on a more somber note…a recognition of the challenges we’ve all faced on our own roads…”Rocky Ground”.    Again, as this was a show about balance, the serious  message of a “…shepherd  who must gather his flock to higher ground…” was followed by the rare and pure fun cover of an old 60’s gem “California Sun”, played completely for one of the few times ever.  “Born to Run” honestly never changes and will just always be there for the crowd to sing along to.  The same with “Dancing in the Dark” (the only cut he played from the Born in the USA).

To close, (as with each show so far this tour) was “10th Ave Freeze Out”.  The oft told story of band forming now taking on a higher purpose as a memorial to Clarence  with the band still stopping cold on the line “….the change was made uptown and the big man joined the band….”….followed by an arena cutting lose and cheering while a montage of photos of Clarence is shown on the screens.  It’s handled so well…it’s become a wonderful celebration and way showing of respect and love to his memory.

With that, they left the stage having played a little less than 3 hours without a pause….

I don’t really understand how he has the energy and the ability to do this at age 62.  But, every show I get to see by him is a gift, not to be taken for granted.  I’ve never seen him have an off night, or give less than 110%.

So, I’m back again tonight for one more…I’m sure that songs will swap in and out of the set.  But the over-riding message and energy will remain the same….We ARE alive…

Something old…this wasn’t played last night, but it was filmed the night before I saw him the first time in 1978, and I just feel like hearing it right now:

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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – IZOD Center 4-3-12

Reporting from New York –

My work travels brought me to New York this week and my intense fandom of Bruce and company had me dragging myself to the Izod Center on Tuesday night…even though I’d had four hours sleep, worked the previous night until 3am after traveling all day and been on my feet (and bad knees) for something like 9 hours before I even got to my bus to ride to New Jersey.

Yeah, it’s a bit obsessive…

I wanted to write this that night at 1am when it was all still so fresh,  or at least yesterday…but work demands of the day and a client dinner kept me from even starting it.  So the raw emotion of the evening has receded slightly.  But, it still remains a vivid and special night for a whole bunch of reasons that I’ll try to explain.

I have been a huge Springsteen fan since the first time I saw him in 1978.  The legendary (at least amongst us obsessive fans) “Darkness on the Edge of Town Tour”.  I’ve seen him something like 30 times and no show is ever the same.  Which I mention specifically because there was a weird sort of feeling I had at this show I’d never experienced before.

Last year Clarence Clemons “The Big Man” who was a major part of the sound of the E Street Band and Bruce’s music passed away.  This came on the heels of losing Danny Federici one of the two keyboard players a couple years prior.  So many questions….how would the band replace someone like Clarence?  Would they eliminate songs that featured him?  Who could ever try to fill his shoes if they did go on?

When the tour was announced they introduced a full horn section with the sax positions held by Ed Manion (an old friend from the Asbury Jukes) and Jake Clemons, nephew of the Big Man and the apparent heir to the throne.  Collectively folks held their breath, how would he sound?  Was he added just for his name alone?

I’d read some tour reports about this playing and it was all positive.  But, the fact remained.  My first show to see Bruce on his home ground would also be my first show without Clarence.  I just wasn’t sure how that would feel and how the show would play out.

I rushed from my work to the hotel and changed clothes.  Grabbed a cab and headed to the Port Authority Bus Terminal.  My cab ride was white knuckle as the driver darted through rush hour traffic on 42nd Street, flipped through a book and tried to convince me to pay him $100 to drive me directly to the arena…skipping the $10.00 bus round trip that I’d planned.  There is no roller coaster thrill in the world that can match a New York cabbie at rush hour on a mission…which apparently now for him was to dump me as soon as possible once he realized I wasn’t a big enough idiot to overpay him to drive me to Jersey.

I ended up on the bus having a great conversation with a psychologist…<insert joke here>

We pulled up to the arena and spilled into the parking lot.  Entering the closest door I found myself in a mad crush of people trying to pass through the numerous beer lines.  It took about fifteen minutes to get halfway around the arena and to my aisle.  I headed down and found my seat (aisle seat!  score!).  I plopped down and had just enough time to send a couple texts before the house lights dimmed.

Bruce did a fun sort of spoken word intro of, himself…good natured, it included things like “…his most recent album was number one for ONE consecutive week…”

With that out of the way, the band tore into “We Take Care of Our Own” from the new album.  He followed that with “Wrecking Ball”, a song written about the very ground we were on, it was debuted a couple years back just prior to the tearing down of Meadowlands Stadium which is now just a parking lot for the newer Met Life Stadium.  This was my first emotional moment of the night.  For some reason while running at the gym a few weeks ago this song came on and I connected it with my late brother Orville.  He was a giant of a man and former pro football player.  We were distant in age, but had connected over the decade or so before he died.  In fact, the only show we ever went to together was Bruce in Houston in 2002.  It was the first time of the night I’d find myself a little choked up, but not the last.

“Badlands” was up next and it featured a solo by Jake Clemons…listening to it, I realized that there were going to be a bunch of ghosts in the room that night…my brother…Danny….Clarence…and now with this song the ghost of my 18 year old self arrived and took me back to the first time I heard the song live when I was just a kid back in 1978.  The show continued like that for me.

“Death to my Hometown” gave way to “My City of Ruins” which reminded me of the awful days around 9-11 and all the uncertainty that came with that time.  “So Young and In Love” was an obscure song front the Tracks Box Set that I wasn’t able to buy for a while after it was released due to having a bunch of bills to pay in the 90’s…

“E Street Shuffle” was a brilliant romp that a 20 year old me had discovered 30 years ago as I worked my way back through Bruce’s catalog and from an album that for a long time I considered my favorite of all of his.

The ghosts weren’t all mine though.  In the song, “Jack of All Trades” I see as the ghost of the kid from Thunder Road and The Promise who is now older, sadder, wiser and forced to scrape along to survive in an unforgiving world.  “Seeds” was next and the band tore into it fiercely.  It’s not one of my favorites to be honest, but that was the best performance I’ve ever heard of it…and it fit perfectly alongside the songs that framed it.  “Prove it all Night” featured a great couple guitar solos and “Easy Money” wrapped the sort of message part of the show.  I’ve always admired how he builds a set list, and the thread that ran through those four songs was clear an unmistakable in it’s look at the recent economic crisis we’ve all lived through.

“Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” is considered lightweight by some hardcore Bruce fans, but the audience loved it and it featured him pulling a little girl up to sing (pretty well too) and then take a slide with him across the stage.  It was great fun and also an important part of his show….there may be a message or a point to songs…but, there’s also going to be some flat out fun and you’ll never forget you’re there for music with some messages….not just to be hit over the head with them.

“The Promised Land” was next followed by a great a-capella start into a full band medley of Smokey Robinson’s “The Way you do the Things You Do” then Eddie Floyd’s & Steve Cropper’s “634-5789″….Both songs taking me back to my early days listening to the radio and the wonderful soul music of the 60’s and 70’s.

“American Skin” was next, followed by “Because the Night” with a blistering solo by Nils.  “The Rising” lead into “We are Alive”…another standout track from the new album.  It’s clear message of hope and love speaking of how our bodies may one day falter, but promising that our spirits rise…a bit like the lump that rose in my throat as I thought of all those ghosts hanging around me there in New Jersey.

He closed with “Thunder Road”, the first track that he’d played from the Born to Run album that night.  Now some folks might find fault in that, but that’s the beauty of a Springsteen show, the set lists vary, the moods vary…it’s a ride you can never predict 100%.  Sort of like life in many ways.

The encores were “Rocky Ground” with it’s gospel sound and rap verse…”Out in the Street” which allowed a bunch of pent up emotions in the crowd to burst out with a massive sing along.  “Born to Run” with (as always) the house lights up full and the entire crowd in full voice.  “Dancing in the Dark”, the only song he’d play from Born in the USA, his biggest selling album (see what I mean, his setlist is about a story and pleasing himself as much as meeting any crowd expectations when he plans a show.)  “Land of Hope and Dreams” which took me back to the Reunion Tour when I was heading into unknown personal territory during my divorce…it’s message of hope for a better day ahead still resonating with me more than decade later.

The last song was “Tenth Ave Freeze Out”….an early and brief summation of the E Street Band history and a love note out to Clarence and Danny who may have passed but are not in any way forgotten by the fans.  When he reached the line “….the change was made uptown, and the big man joined the band…”  They all stopped cold and simply let the crowd cheer and recognize that as he had put it earlier in the show during the band introductions…”If your here, and we’re here…then THEY are here…”  It was a subtle and touching moment and handled brilliantly…letting us all share our loses together and still celebrate our victories….even if they are small ones, like finally seeing Bruce on his home ground in New Jersey for the first time.

We are alive…

Our spirits rise…

Indeed they do.

The full setlist:

We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Badlands 
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
So Young and In Love
E Street Shuffle 
Jack of All Trades
Seeds
Prove It All Night 
Easy Money
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Apollo Medley
American Skin (41 Shots)
Because the Night 
The Rising
We Are Alive
Thunder Road
* * *
Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
Out in the Street 
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Land of Hope and Dreams
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

Sorry but it took me a few days longer to get this posted than I’d hoped.  More reviews to follow soon!

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U2 – Anaheim Stadium – June 18, 2011

Back for the second night, there were lots of changes.  I went with my friend and co-worker Mike who flew in from Oakland.  We had a podcast to record earlier in the day which kept us on the run from the time he landed.  We dropped by a near to the stadium pub called the Auld Irisher and raised a Guinness in toast.  About then, my phone rang…

I hadn’t mentioned it to too many folks, but a friend of mine is friends with the Lighting Director for U2.  I’d put out a feeler to see if we could interview him for the podcast and he had time while Lenny Kravitz was doing his sound check.  We quickly finished our beers and drove to the stadium to park.  I wish I could tell you about some grand opportunity, that he took us backstage, etc…

But, in reality…we sat on a planter outside of Gate 3 and talked with him for about a half an hour about the show, the design, how to engage a crowd….stuff that would be mundane to many reading this.  But, was thrilling for me.  I’m fascinated by the “machinery” behind concert tours and this fellow has done some of the biggest ever….The Rolling Stones 40 Licks, U2 (of course) and many other really cool well regarded shows/tours like My Chemical Romance, Return to Forever and Fall Out Boy.  It was very cool for him to take time to chat and you’ll be able to find the interview int he next day or two on our company podcast site: http://www.meetingspodcast.com

We went inside and found my friend Wayne and his wife and chatted away the rest of the time before the show started.

Kravitz once again was out first.  But, to somewhat better effect.  The sound was measurably better than the early train wreck of the day before.  His set both nights ended up being better than I had anticipated.  I may not rush for tickets the next time he hits town, but I gained some respect or his music and the many hits he’s had a hand in.  Nice call as an opener.

U2 opened with “Even Better Than the Real Thing” once again, but the second song was a surprising turn to “The Fly” that carried into a very nice versions of both “Mysterious Ways” and “Until the End of the World”.  Then, things got very interesting….

Up next was the usually encore (or set closing) paring of “One” and “Where the Streets Have No Name”.  A cursory look through the U2 website revealed (as far I can see) that’s a first for this tour and the past three years.  And I totally dug it.  I really thought it brought the set alive and for all of us who’d seen the show tossed everything in the air.  From there on who knew what they might play.  With the crowd thus energized, the band went back to “I Will Follow” which had been performed the night before, but as the second song of the night.  It’s funny how swapping two songs could change the whole context of the show.  But, somehow it did.  The songs that followed were mostly the same with “Stuck in a Moment” stepping into the acoustic slot of “Stay…” from the night before.  While many were happy to hear “Stay…”, I;m more of a fan of the Elevation album and loved having “Stuck in a Moment” as an addition.

One nice touch both nights was the video written about extensively of Mark Kelly quoting David Bowie about his wife and then singing a verse of “Beautiful Day” with the band.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for an encore, but they played a somewhat conventional  (by 360 tour standards) of “Ultraviolet”, “With or Without You” and “Moment of Surrender” to close.

A very nice moment at the end was the bands tribute to Clarence Clemons who had died earlier in the day.  After brief remarks to intro the song, Bono stepped behind the amps and asked a roadie for something.  A short time later he was handed a paper which he read from to close the song.

Outside the streets on fire in a real death waltz
Between flesh and what’s fantasy and the poets down here
Don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be
And in the quick of the night they reach for their moment
And try to make an honest stand but they wind up wounded, not even dead
Tonight in jungleland

He repeated them a second time once the band had ended, then wished us goodnight and then they walked from the stage.

Here it is:

Of the two nights, I preferred the second.  Swapping a few songs, changing the pacing and then a tribute to Clarence brought it into the realm of legendary in my mind.  I think that when I look back years from now, night two will be the one that sticks in my mind.

 

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