Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Open 2009 World Tour | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

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Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Open 2009 World Tour, April 1st, 2009

Apr 02, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band launched their 2009 world tour at HP Pavilion in San Jose on Wednesday night with a 26-song show that opened thunderously with the 1978 anthem “Badlands” and featured five songs from Springsteen’s much-debated latest album Working on a Dream.

A year ago this week, Springsteen and the band were at HP Pavilion supporting his 2007 album Magic. It’s notable because Springsteen used to be notorious for long intervals between albums—he released only one studio album between 1984 and 1992—but Working on a Dream is his fifth studio album this decade and third with the E Street Band. The ‘70s was the last decade to see three albums with the E Street Band. Springsteen’s increased productivity has been met with mixed opinions from fans and critics, and Working on a Dream has been treated the harshest, primarily for Springsteen’s sub-par lyrics and producer Brendan O’Brien’s heavy-handed touch. Five songs was a paltry showing for Working on a Dream on Wednesday night (unless you count bonus track “The Wrestler” as a sixth); by comparison, the tour opener for Magic featured eight of that album’s 11 songs. But since Working on a Dream gives Springsteen cause to keep touring, his loyal following won’t hold a grudge—Wednesday’s opener was three songs and 20 minutes longer than the Magic opener.

Over the years, Springsteen has cut the storytelling that made his epic concerts in the ‘80s legendary. Although the shows now seem less personal, they are tighter musically. The Magic tour included some scripted sermonizing that criticized the Bush administration, but on Wednesday night Springsteen didn’t have much to say to the crowd until the encore, when he urged fans to donate what they could to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, who had tables set up in the lobby. Springsteen talked about riding his motorcycle in the hills and by the coast of San Mateo, where his mother lived. This was followed by one of the evening’s highlight’s, a poignant full-band version of Stephen Foster’s 1850s song “Hard Times Come Again No More.” Hard times and economic despair have been a topic in Springsteen’s shows ever since the mid-’80s Born in the U.S.A. era, and at Wednesday’s show he broke out “Seeds,” a non-album song introduced on that tour. Sample lyrics:

Parked in the lumberyard freezin’ our asses off
My kids in the back seat got a graveyard cough
Well I'm sleepin’ up in front with my wife
Billy club tappin’ on the windshield in the middle of the night
Says "Move along man, move along”

Although an up-tempo take on the bleak Nebraska song “Johnny 99” sent mixed signals, a smoldering full-band version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” hammered home the message. Still, Springsteen’s shows always have been about inspiring people and sending them home happy. On Wednesday night, he and the band continued the relatively new tradition of taking requests—fans in the pit bring signs with songs written on them, which Springsteen collects and sorts through—and he obliged with “Growin’ Up,” a song from his 1973 debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. It’s a testament to the E Street Band that they can play, at the drop of a hat, a 36-year-old song that hasn’t been a staple of their shows since the ‘70s. Imagine Radiohead playing a track other than “Creep” from Pablo Honey, upon request, in the year 2029. Doubt it. “Thunder Road” was another request; it came in the form of a mini poster of the Robert Mitchum film of the same name, and Springsteen saved it for the encore section of the show.

Songs like “Thunder Road” and “The Promised Land” no longer have the blood-and-sweat urgency that they once did in concert, but they still sound decent. Saxophonist Clarence Clemons is 67 years old (!), and his notes don’t quite resonate like before. His role in concert has been reduced—he sits on a throne off to side during some songs—but the geriatric jokes that have plagued The Rolling Stones don’t apply as easily here. Dating back to the ’70s, Springsteen’s music has been steeped in themes relating to mortality and survival, and a year ago this month, original E Street organist Danny Federici died after three years of battling melanoma. Springsteen, who turns 60 in September, has vowed to continue performing as long as he can, and you have to believe him. In 2009, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band shows might be only about 70 percent of what they were from 1978 to 1981, but one thing hasn’t changed in 30 years—when Springsteen leaves the stage, you still get the sense that he’s just warming up.

www.brucespringsteen.net

www.secondharvestsjca.org

http://dannyfund.org

Set list:

Badlands
Outlaw Pete
My Lucky Day
No Surrender
Out in the Street
Working on a Dream
Seeds
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Good Eye
Good Rockin' Tonight
Darlington County
Growin’ Up
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Radio Nowhere
Lonesome Day
Born to Run

Hard Times
Thunder Road
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land

Author rating: 8/10




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Amanda
June 22nd 2009
8:01am

When Bruce Springsteen finally broke through to national recognition in the fall of 1975 after a decade of trying, critics hailed him as the savior of rock

wils0n
July 3rd 2009
7:42am

Bonnaroo has always placed an emphasis on local and sustainable ways of making music. ..Nice Blog.

rexson
July 10th 2009
10:24am

Saw Bruce in Philly April 28th and April 29th. ALWAYS a great show! I went with a friend who had never seen him and she said it was more than a concert, it was an event—how right she was.