Bruce Springsteen takes Vancouver down E Street
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
At G.M. Place on Monday, March 31
The teenage heshers looked out of place. Were their long hair, scruffy leather jackets, and crudely customized T-shirts an ironic put-on or the real thing? And what were these Wayne’s World rejects doing at a Bruce Springsteen concert?
Because, let’s face it, the Boss isn’t exactly targeting Avril Lavigne’s—or even Panic at the Disco’s—market these days. The audience filling G.M. Place for Monday night’s show seemed, on average, old enough, and possibly flush enough, to be thinking about their next SUV purchase.
That didn’t stop the people on the floor from rocking out, or the people in the stands from getting in on the action during a rousing mid-show sing-along on the unfortunately titled “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”. And the E Street Band, now well into its third decade, didn’t lack for energy. From the opening song—a stirring, gargantuan “Atlantic City”—to the final notes of Celtic-flavoured closer “American Land”, the energy of Springsteen and his eight cohorts seldom flagged.
Gratifyingly, the Boss didn’t do a clichéd, momentum-destroying acoustic set in the middle of the show; only a couple of songs scattered throughout the set, like the title track from his latest, Magic, and “The River”, which he dedicated to his son, skirted unplugged territory. Instead, Springsteen seemed to let his fury at American foreign policy dictate part of the set list, as well as his furious performance. A cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped”, a long-time E Street concert standby, and Born in the U.S.A.’s “No Surrender” didn’t have to reference headlines to bring to mind the conflict in Iraq. He did indulge in a little Bush-bashing in his intro to “Livin’ in the Future”, which ticked off the guy next to me. “Enough with the politics, just play the fuckin’ music,” he said in no uncertain terms.
“None But the Brave”, an obscure outtake from the Born in the U.S.A. sessions, slowed things down a bit. But it was still a treat to hear something Springsteen and the band were playing live for the first time, and at a fan’s request.
Nonetheless, the concert was basically a love fest between performer and audience. Springsteen’s wife and vocalist Patti Scialfa and organist Danny Federici were MIA, but violinist Soozie Tyrell and keyboardist Charles Giordano ensured they weren’t missed too much. Guitarist “Miami” Steve Van Zandt is by now more of a comic foil for his boss than an integral musical element, but the E Street Band is impossible to imagine without his mugging. The same goes for Clarence Clemons, who, when he wasn’t blowing his familiar sax lines, sat on the sidelines in a gold-coloured upholstered chair. Guitarist Nils Lofgren delivered a spectacular solo during “Lonesome Day”, an otherwise ho-hum recent addition to the Springsteen canon (from 2002’s The Rising). Most-valuable-player honours belong to drummer Max Weinberg, who ensured that the energy never flagged among his retirement-age bandmates.
There may be no arena act that connects with his audience as much, or as intensely, as Springsteen does. Toward the end of the night, the houselights came on for a greatest-hits portion—“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, “Born to Run”, “Dancing in the Dark”—and you would have been hard-pressed to find a face in the audience that wasn’t lit up. The mood wasn’t even broken after the group left the stage, and one of the heshers got on his cellphone to loudly brag, in the midst of a sea of paying customers, that he had just snuck into the show, and had seen the Boss for free.