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Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – April 27, 2012 – LA Sports Arena

Of course I started this a week ago and work commitments got in the way.  I hate to keep apologizing for being late, but better late than never….and I will ultimately get them all done!

It’s always interesting to see an artist that your familiar with on back to back nights.  And, since Bruce changes his set from night to night there are always the inevitable questions about how the show will differ.  Night two was a somewhat different experience, but for a variety of reasons, not really having to do with the band or the performance.

For night two in LA, I went with one of my oldest friend’s (Dave and his wife Karen).  I was really lucky that out of the four Bruce shows that I saw in April that I was accompanied by good friends to three of them.  And, that does have an effect on how (at least for me) the performance comes across.

Night one in New Jersey was the most emotional show for me (and to me).  It was my first show without Clarence and that empty spot at stage right hit me the hardest on that night.

Night two (which I still need to do a full review on) was with my friend Tere and a couple of work friends (Paul and Micah), it felt more celebratory and fun than the first night had.  But, we’d also just wrapped a challenging work show of our own and I think were in a mood to celebrate.  Like a lot of life, I think you do often get hat you’re looking for out of show, the first night I brought baggage, the second I brought a more relaxed attitude and had a more fun experience.

Night three, I’ve covered recently, but it was with a friend who has a long history of his own seeing Bruce.  And with whom I often have some very deep philosophical discussions of work, politics, the economy, you name it.  So, I ended up being a bit more analytical and also being in a bit of pain with trying to stand for 4+ hours on my bad knees….that was NOT a good idea on my part.

So, with all that I headed to the Sports Arena on Friday with Dave and Karen.

They arrived a little faster than I’d expected and we rushed out the door and onto the freeway.  As we neared MLK off the 110 Fwy, I realized I’d left the tickets on my computer keyboard at home.  UGH.  We called Ticketmaster and sorted out with them canceling the tickets and picking up new ones at Will Call.  We were laughing about how technology has affected our lives and how in the old days we’d have been making the long trek home.  So, things were off a shaky. but not horrible start.  We missed the drawing for pit wristbands by a few minutes.  So, we walked over near USC to have dinner at a pizza place.  When we got back, Dave bought a ticket for Karen (she’d joined us last minute).

I decided that I just couldn’t handle standing in GA again for a second night and went to the box office to see about ADA seating.  Of course the box office is only set up to make you…(wait for it)….stand in a long line to see if you can get a seat because you can’t stand….(They could take a few tips from Coachella on that system).

However, things worked out okay when Dave was able to collar a fellow from the band who was helping sort out VIP tickets and he said he’d take care of getting me a seat.  As good as his word, he came back a bit later to where I was leaning with a nice aisle Loge seat to exchange for my GA.  It was really nice of him to handle it and gives me the feeling that the team supporting Bruce are a pretty nice group of folks.

Bruce was very late starting (almost 8:45), but it was a heck of a great show once again.  Here’s the setlist:

No Surrender
We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Badlands
Death to my Hometown (Morello)
City of Ruins
Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Jack of All Trades (morello)
Youngstown
Prove it all Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Easy Money
Sunny Day
Apollo Medley
Racing in the Street
The Rising
Lonesome Day
We are Alive
Ghost of Tom Joad (Morello)
Land of Hope and Dreams (Morello)
Rocky Ground
Bobby Jean
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
10th Ave Freeze Out

I was much more comfortable than standing the night before.  But, the music still carried the same impact and passion.  This may have been the best balanced show of the four for me.  Good friends, a comfortable seat with a good view…it was the full package.

“Prove it all night” into “Darkness on the edge of Town” was as brilliant as when I heard it in 1978.  “Racing in the Street” had it’s wonderful solo by Roy while Charles did his best impression of Danny’s original organ parts that wove in and around the piano.  From the Born in the USA album, “No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean” made somewhat surprising appearances into the set as well.

And those ghosts that I saw around me in NJ (sort of a movie of my life) back when I was alone on the very emotional first show without Clarence were still around me here in LA.  But, I can recognize them now and have a better sense of why they exist.

We all carry them and we all bring them to life in different ways.  Since music (and in specific Springsteen’s music) haas been such a constant for me since I was 18 years old.  It makes sense that hearing those songs in a show that rather pointedly reflects on both loss and celebration would open those memories up and remind me of my personal losses and victories.

As we all age, things start to become a bit more limited and finite for us…we hope for another day, but we have no promises.  So, we reflect, mourn, celebrate…and as always look to an uncertain future.  I certainly hope that Bruce will be back in the fall and maybe I can see him again.  But there are no guarantees in this life…so I have to keep my faith and hope, but allow it to still be tempered with experience and knowledge.

In the 34 years that I’ve watched Bruce, we’ve both grown older (and hopefully a bit wiser).  We are touched by loss, and still thrilled by the things that give us joy.  So, as he sang at at each show (and the core message that I’ve taken away from them)

“We’ve Been Traveling Over Rocky Ground”….but, make no mistake about it.  “We Are Alive”.

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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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Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band – Staples Center – December 28, 2011

….”Come back baby, rock and roll never forgets…”

I had another interesting story (well, to me anyway…) connected to seeing Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.  I thought it was 1982, but after an internet search I suspect it was April of 1983 when Bob Seger played the Forum in LA.  I had tickets, but I also had a job at KEZY radio that required me to be at work at 10pm.  I begged and shuffled and was able to coax that I could arrive at 11pm.  But, anyone who live around here knows you how long it takes from Inglewood to Anaheim.  So, I went to the show…and spent the whole night checking my watch, pushing it to the very last moment and finally leaving about halfway through the show to head to work.  “Oh well I thought….I’ll see him next time he comes through town….”

He didn’t return until 1987 and I missed it.  I missed the shows on the tours in the 90’s as well.  Then, he pretty much retired from the road.  Life moved along…A 2007 tour came up, and I was on the road when the LA show happened….so, I missed it.  It seemed as if I’d never actually see a complete Seger concert.

Then, a few months back he scheduled a show at Staples Center for December 28th.  I hate Staples Center, it’s not a very good place to see any concert.  But, this was finally my chance to see a full show.

Bob and I are both a bit older and an attack of grey hair has done it’s evil work on both of  us.  But, I figured that I’d close my eyes and as long as the music and the show was good, it didn’t matter that we might both be older, grayer and a little more “filled out”.  I bought a nice single seat near the mix console at the rear of the floor and crossed my fingers I’d get a decent show that would live up to my memories of that half show 28 years ago.

First up was an opening act named Frankie Ballard.  Seemed like a nice kid….but, why does a kid from Michigan talk like he’s from Alabama?  I suspect it’s because he’s being sold as a “country” artist.  That new sort of country…the one that’s more pop and has very little in common with someone like George Jones or Waylon Jennings.  The kid and his band we competent players in a bar band sort of way.  In fact the two best songs of the set were covers….”Pink Houses” and “Fortunate Son”.  Mid-set he played his new single “a bunch of girls” and it was basically “Kenny Chesney” lite…(and since Kenny Chesney is basically Jimmy Buffet lite) it was the musical equivalent of of a third generation cassette copy of a song.  He fell back on the crutch of mentioning the headliner a couple times (as well as “the troops”) to get a few rousing cheers.  Basically, it was brief and not really offensive, but nothing that makes me think he’ll end up more than a footnote in my musical memories.  He was however very punctual…on stage at 7:30 and off at 7:59….so, he’s got that going for him I suppose.

Seger hit the stage at 8:30 exactly and tore into “Roll Me Away”…let me just say here…the man rocks f0r someone who has 15+ years on me.  He sounded great and no eye closing was required.  Yeah, he’s gray…but he looked healthy and really seemed to be using every tool in the toolbox to involve the crowd.  From the start this was not a band there for a payday (like say Kiss was the last time I saw them).  This was a rock and roll band near equal to might E-Street band.

The anchor at the center was Don Brewer (of Grand Funk Railroad) who is rock solid after all these years and kept the steady pulse that the rest of the players could build on.  Those players, (some who have worked with Seger going back to 1969) are uniformly tight and talented…just like the guys on E-Street are.  In fact, I was thinking during the show how both Seger and Springsteen built their bands with a standout sax player (in this case Alto Reed, since 1971).  Reed provided a number of highlights, with the most memorable being his excellent work on “Turn the Page”.

Bob may have some moments where his voice shows a tad bit of age, but generally it was stronger than guys I’ve heard who were half his age.  And 50 years of stagecraft and practice allowed him to cover flawlessly by doing things like having a quick crowd sing along…which the full house was eager to cooperate with, generally at the top of their lungs.  It wasn’t a young crowd, but it was one of the more enthusiastic group of over 40’s I’ve seen.  Much of the crowd were on their feet dancing and singing for the entire near two hour show.

There were three moments that stand out in my mind which totally made the night for me.

The opening of “Roll Me Away”  was so perfect that I nearly shed a tear.  So many years of waiting and to be rewarded with such a great sound brought back a whole range of memories and emotions.  From those first notes I knew it was going to be a good show.

The segue between Travelin’ Man on into “Beautiful Loser”.  To me this is the centerpiece of the “Live Bullet” album, which may be one of the most perfect live albums ever recorded.  (That’s not just my opinion, lots of critics rank it as #1 as well).  While on occasion some of his lyrics can be a bit cliche’d, “Beautiful Loser” features this:

He wants to dream like a young man 
With the wisdom of an old man 
He wants his home and security 
He wants to live like a sailor at sea 

Beautiful loser 
Where you gonna fall? 
When you realize 
You just can’t have it all 

The transition between them and a lifetime of listening to those songs flow into each other was something I didn’t think I’d ever hear live.  And it was perfect.

The last was the first encore which opened with “Against the Wind”.  As I listened to this song, my thoughts turned to my friend Jeff who we lost a few years back.  He had Detroit roots and we saw a lot of Detroit based acts together back when we were both “young and strong”.  I thought about how much I wish we could have seen this show together, and how much has changed during all those years that have “rolled slowly by”.

It was a fitting song to cap a show that I waited a long time to see.

It really ended up being one of the best shows that I saw in an eventful year of concerts.  It was a really nice way to finish the year.

Set List: Roll Me Away/Trying to Live my Life/Fire Down Below/Main Street/Old Time Rock & Roll/Rambling Gambling Man/Going Back to Birmingham/Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser/We’ve got Tonight/Nutbush City Limits/Come to Poppa/Her Strut/Real Mean Bottle/Turn a Page/Sunspot Baby/Katmandu  Encores: Against the Wind/Hollywood Nights/Night Moves/Rock & Roll Never Forgets

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