I don’t normally do this kind of thing, but I’ll be real with you in saying that seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert will probably be better than most (if not any and all) of the movies I’ll be reviewing for this website this year. I also like to pride myself in thinking that this website is a little more than just “Movie Talk”, as I occasionally delve into television and other forms of media. And as many would know, I like to occasionally talk about music. I’m a big music fan, and that’s why I write a lot of reviews for music documentaries that I catch in the theaters, on Netflix, or at film festivals. And as a birthday gift this year, I got tickets to go see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play in Dallas, Texas, which has always been on my bucket list of concerts to see. Being from Austin, I’ve been familiar with Springsteen’s music for years now, but it wasn’t until high school when I really started to get into his catalog, and begin to appreciate the New Jersey-bred artist for the talent that he is. This is Bruce’s first concert appearance in Texas in two years, so I had to jump on this opportunity. Let me give you an insider’s look into a Bruce fan’s first Bruce concert. Enjoy.
30 minutes after he was scheduled to come out, The E Street Band makes their way to the stage with all the lights in the American Airlines Center still on. After everybody gets in their positions, The Boss himself comes out, with the crowd going wild and hardcore fans yelling “BRUCE!!!!”. Immediately after his entrance, he opens with his first song of the night, “Meet Me in the City”, an outtake from his River box set. Even for an outtake, it’s a terrific live song, and really got the crowd and I going for what was going to be one helluva night, even if the acoustics of the venue weren’t all the great.
We’re then treated to a full rendition of Springsteen’s “The River”, which he’s vowed to perform live in its entirety at every performance on this tour. A terrific idea that of course has its woes here and there. We begin with rousing renditions of “The Ties That Bind”, then a terrific early moment of Bruce interacting with the crowd with “Sherry Darling”, the quick and rocking “Jackson Cage” and “Two Hearts”, with the first side of the album ending with the ballad “Independence Day”. Bruce begins to tell a story to the audience how it was the first song he wrote about a father and son relationship. It was the first slow and moving moment of the night, and a nice way to sit down and take a break from the first electric couple of songs.
That all changed when Bruce began “Hungry Heart”, the most popular song from “The River” and one of Springsteen’s most timeless songs. It’s so timeless that Bruce didn’t even sing the first verse, he had the audience sing it for him. After singing a verse or two, Bruce then goes into the thick of the audience on the floor, and eventually dives onto them as the hands of his audience members sway him back to the stage. It was a pretty fantastic moment, and easily the highlight of the evening up to that point (there were many highlights). After more terrific and fast paced renditions of “Out in the Street”, “Crush on You”, and so on, Bruce finally got to the title track from “The River”, which begun to slow things down big time. It was a great version of the song, but he followed it with “Point Blank”, the first song from the second disk of the album. I love “Point Blank”, its one of Springsteen’s best ballads, but its a song that doesn’t transition well to an arena setting.
I’ll be completely honest with you at that point the concert became a little bit sluggish, but the concert then got back on its feet with “Cadillac Ranch”. And after this moment, there was no turning back. Even the rest of the ballads on “The River” had more energy and spunk to them than they did on “Point Blank”. After a fantastic and rousing rendition of “Ramrod”, Bruce went on to do “Drive All Night”, one of his best songs period. The 10+ minute version had everyone in the AAC whip out their iPhone’s and wave them and gave off this really spectacular and beautiful effect across the venue. Bruce then ended “The River” album with “Wreck On The Highway”, with Bruce telling the audience that the entire album had a theme about time running out, where everybody was growing up and getting married. This was my first taste of Bruce audience banter in person, and it was pretty moving and powerful stuff. After that song, Bruce exclaimed, “that’s ‘The River’!!” to a roaring standing ovation. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be sitting down for the next 90 minutes.
We were two hours into the concert, and most people would assume that the concert would either be over or be wrapping up soon. But Bruce doesn’t roll like that, and gave the audience 90 more minutes of his greatest hits. We began the hits with two songs from “Darkness on the Edge of Town” (my personal favorite Springsteen album), “Badlands” and “The Promised Land”. “Badlands” is a concert staple for Bruce and it lived up to my expectations. I didn’t know Bruce would play “Promised Land”, which is one of my very favorite songs, so that really rocked me emotionally hearing that one live. We then moved on to more of the late-70s Bruce era with “Backstreets” and “Because the Night”, another highlight in the evening thanks to a fantastic guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. That was probably the best or second best song Bruce did the entire night. God, that’s a good one.
And then Bruce followed that one with “The Rising”, which is probably in my top ten all time favorite Bruce songs. This was his song he did in response to September 11th, and it’s just a masterpiece of a song. Its rousing, its inspiring, it’s rocking, its everything you could want in a Bruce Springsteen song, and its an emotional and moving song to hear live. “Because the Night” and “The Rising” back to back was pretty damn cool, and even the most casual Bruce fan would’ve dug that too. After “The Rising”, we get “Thunder Road”, another staple of Bruce concerts, and yes I cried during “Thunder Road”.
After the first song off “Born to Run”, Bruce finally gets to the title song from that album, and it brings the house down. The house lights at the AAC turn on, and they never turn off for the rest of the concert. There’s an embarrassing video of me screaming the lyrics to that song somewhere on the internet, but I’m gonna spare any more embarrassment by sharing that with you. “Dancing in the Dark” ensues, as well as a mob of 8th graders that stormed the stage, with Bruce and the E Street Band laughing and shrugging it off. We have a few more song before the night is all over, and it continues with “Rosalita”, a song I know but not as well as Bruce’s other songs, but it was a great version. After that early Springsteen gem, the one song that I was thirsting to hear finally arrived. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. I was losing it when I heard my favorite Springsteen songs played live, but I especially lost it during this one. I screamed louder than I did for other songs when the chorus came around, and I got misty-eyed when the video tribute to Clarence came on when Bruce sang about The Big Man coming into town. It was fantastic, and Bruce had two more rousing songs left in him.
He began with a cover of the Isley Brother’s song “Shout”, which I danced faster and more to than other song that evening. It was just so impressive because it was another terrific example of how Bruce can command and entertain an audience, which is something he’s been doing for over four decades now. I’ve seen my share of old man rock concerts and younger artist concerts, and every single one of them pales in comparison to the three and a half experience that I shared with the good people of Dallas, Texas the other night. I’ve never witnessed or experienced anything quite like it before, and I’m pretty sure I’ll never experience anything as gratifying as seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band ever again in my lifetime, movie related or not. That’s why I had to share with you my thoughts about this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and beg my readers to eventually take time to go see Bruce Springsteen in concert, whenever that moment should be.
This post is also timely because of recent news that Bruce Springsteen has canceled his concert in North Carolina this weekend (as of writing this) due to the highly controversial HB 2 bill that passed through the NC house that discriminates against transgender people, and what restroom they’re allowed to use. It’s a bullshit piece of legislation, and I applaud Bruce for taking a stand against bullshit like this. However, there are people who are pissed off about this, mainly because they had tickets, but this is an appropriate and brave stance that Springsteen has taken. I like to think that most Americans enjoy being equal from one another, and Bruce Springsteen has validated that claim for millions, and has inspired millions and millions of people with this. It makes my seeing him in Dallas the other night all the more gratifying, and is one of the great privileges of my life to see Mr. Springsteen in concert. Thanks, Boss.