I Will Follow


So, a few buddhas of my youth have been touring on their laurels a bit. Both Bruce Springsteen and U2 celebrated or are celebrating albums from 30+ years ago. Initially I was of mixed emotions about this. Both are quite capable of putting out worthy brand new music and have new records in the can, but chose victory laps for highly regarded records from sometime in their past.

While initially I was in the “but the new record…” camp in both places, I’m shutting up. If a band can play like they mean it, I guess we should sit back and enjoy that. If the passion is there, it remains a sight to be seen. It’s our classical music. I mean nobody is upset that there isn’t any new Beethoven floating around.

When Bruce announced a tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “The River,” I thought fine. The companion album of outtakes from one of the prolific periods of Bruce and E Street Band was a nice treasure and musically the band hasn’t lost a step. The steeple chasing spectaculars are definitely a bygone era for understandable reasons but these cats can play. The show wound up being a top to bottom playing of the River, an introductory outake and a mix of other stuff. I was fine with that. They were great. Treated myself to another show, and it was more historical as Springsteen released his autobiography. It’s a good book and again, hearing songs that don’t get much airplay get well played was great.

But….you get a little further away from new music.

I guess that is okay, as the group owes its fans nothing, having given their all for decades. Bruce’s upcoming Broadway (and likely West End) solo offering makes you think the end is in site, but you know he’s got more to say. The selfish fan hates to admit it, witness everybody calling into E Street radio to grouse. You hate to see the fear that the mass audience of the 80s might not be there be the reason. As the man himself said “what’s to be afraid about playing the new stuff? They’re not going to clap as much?”

I remember thinking, watching a show in Pittsburgh on this tour as Bruce and the band started “Incident on 57th Street,” that there was a noticeable increase in beer aisle activity. I thought if those philistines leave during “Incident” to get overpriced beer, they deserve to be stuck in line for the “Rosalita” that followed.

Stevie Nicks was quoted in Rolling Stone as not being interested in making a new Fleetwood Mac record because she is afraid nobody would buy it. I say if you have the muse, turn it loose.

This brings me to U2. I first saw them in 1983 on their tour for the “War” album. I “blame” their current tour on the success of the River tour. They are also celebrating a record I’ve purchased in many formats with “The Joshua Tree.” It is a great work. There is part of me that wants to go see them just so I can hear “One Tree Hill,” a long time favorite song of mine. They have always taken a long time between albums, so it was a little maddening that this victory lap was undertaken, but ever was it thus. A new record is coming. While I’m still deciding what I think of “The Blackout,” I’m happy they got a new record ready and when it is released, I’m sure I’ll snag a copy.

When Bruce puts out any of the finished records fans have heard about, I’d snarf that up as well.

People talk of nostalgia or greatest hits shows like they are bad things and I guess the shows shouldn’t be seen that way. Billy Joel tours regularly but hasn’t put out a new record in 20 years. Because he has such a vast catalog and plays like he means it, folks go to the show and have a grand time. I guess that would kind of be the point, wouldn’t it.

It’s our classical music to be sure. The seemingly endless supply of music related deaths over the past year or so makes a rock fan feel his mortality a little bit, that some of things that have always been there from when you first started looking in the racks at Twin Fair, National Record Mart, Cavages and the mighty Record Theatre are always going to be there in the mass quantities that they were. Even the music stores are going by the way side.

You feel your own musical mortality a bit as a rock fan when one of your heroes takes up a 12 week Broadway residency so he can go home each night. I can’t blame him. I just hope we meet again along E Street as Broadway is a little too pricey for this working stiff.

So hopefully U2 has a great show tomorrow, I’ll look forward to the bootleg, er, the download.

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A Good Night for a Ride


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When Bruce Springsteen’s current tour was announced earlier in the winter, I had a little anxiety. Our live relationship goes back to 1978 and I was a little concerned. At the time, I was between fulltime gigs and spending precious dollars on a show seemtwo hoed too much of a stretch. I’ve been ushering at the downtown arena for sometime and hoped to get the call. An vet of a number of Boss groups and collectives, I knew there might be a ticket drop of some kind, but the worry was alleviated when I got my usher assignment lists a few  weeks ago and it consisted of two hockey games and Bruce Springsteen

This seemed like nice karmic payback for sitting through cartoon characters on ice and faux-metal Christmas rock. I was a hired gun for my favorite. Like most folks with this affliction, I’ve been following the tour online and listening to a few shows. When it is your favorite, you pay more attention to everything when you report to work. When I checked in, the band was onstage soundchecking songs that hadn’t been played yet on the tour. All I could think was “wait until the gang on RMAS rebooted on facebook hears this,” momentarily forgetting that many of said group were going to be in the building.

I was curious where I would be watching the show, er, helping patrons from and the gods were smiling upon my pathetic fanboy self, with a good assignment, close enough and the corridor for the folks who were going to be standing closest to the stage got to enter. Seeing their joy and trading high fives, etc. was a lift, as was seeing my oldest pal – who 36 years earlier was my partner in crime in securing our tickets to the Buffalo date on the original River Tour. I got caught up with some other familiar faces and folks from my parents neighborhood, even bonding with a fellow usher type joking about our mutual plans to see the street businessmen about discounted concert shirts.

About an hour before the show began, a couple appeared in my corridor to survey their seats. He took a look then disappeared to get the obligatory $9.00 beer. She surveryed a little bit more and looked a little weepy. Me, being part bartender and usher, inquired if everything was okay. She asked if I was a fan. I said, of course, couldn’t wait for this assignment, and told what made it extra special on top of the band playing in great form, that of last year’s uncertain employment status, that it nearly amounted to me missing see Bruce and the E Streeters once more. She told me that it was her first show after the passing of her son, who had journeyed to a few shows with her and her husband.

She heard my story and that made her smile and she said “see, our faith got rewarded.” I replied yes, indeed, it was going to be a good night for a ride.

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I wanted to get the above poster to commemorate the experience. Like all concert merchandise, they were overpriced and scarce, and by the time I was finished for the night, they were gone to ebay.

34 songs and three hours + later and countless people who meandered during the ballads found on the River (some of the best pure musical moments of the show), it was indeed a good night for a ride.

While it is impossible to explain why your favorites are your favorites, they just do it for you. There is that extra bonus that those special moments not only happened, but they continue to still occur. Almost made me want to scramble for a Rochester ticket.

So, before I left the arena Thursday night, I did indeed order the download of the show.

Faith continues to be rewarded.

 

 

 

Dear Boss, (book 3)


While I wait for Amazon to deliver me the one treat I’m allowing myself this tough year (“The Ties that Bind”), I was happily greeted with the news that the celebratory tour is coming my way toward the end of February, the 25th to be exact.

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Thank you for that.

The original release of the River and that tour fully brought me into the fold. I was 16 at the time and my musical notions were maturing somewhat. It’s a great record and I loved the whole thing, without the aid of the internet, newsgroups, trolls bitching about band players, leaked videos or anything. You got an E Street show over double vinyl.

I actually still have the recording I made when 97 Rock in Buffalo played the whole thing over the air, only to get myself to National Record Mart to pick up the copy that I would tape, eventually wear out, tape again as best buds would do (my buddy had a boom box but no turntable).

When the original Buffalo date was announced, you and the gang were set to play the old Buffalo Aud. My pal and I sorted what monies we had. Between the two of us, we had the princely sum of $24.50. That was enough to cover the cost of two tickets in the building. We’d figure out how to get there later (I had it bad). Inconveniently, on the day and time the tickets were going on sale, our history teacher scheduled a test.  He was sympathetic to our plight, but not so much that he rescheduled. My mom came to our rescue and took our modest fortune and cued up for two Bruce tickets while we were being good students.  Two front row lower bowl seats….yep, coolest mom ever.

We got that needed ride to my first arena sized E Street Experience and it was one of “those” shows, one of those forever burnt in your memory without the aid of youtube, you are in the moment without overpriced concessions, every detail bullying its way into your cerebral cortex shows.

35 years later and I can still picture the house lights on, the sax solo to “Jungleland” making my sternum hum and you on top of Danny’s organ set up punching the sky. The cadillac walk in “Cadillac Ranch” was fresh and new and “Out in the Street” was definitely the place to be.

So, it’s definitely worthy of some celebrating to be sure. Ironic that that set and tour announcements come 35 years to the day of the big occasion. That really isn’t much of a true milestone, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking forward to the original album songs, the outtakes, whatever the hell else you feel might fit. I am a little confused about the naysayers. Since the announcement of the shows, people have whined about the tour name (?), the dates all being put on sale at the same time, it’s a short run, people will show up when the time comes. I’ll drink the kool-aid again and enjoy the show. In the meantime, the blue rays will tide me over.

It all comes around when I can use the boost to be sure. You’ve had that unintended timing all along.

Looking forward to taking another ride.

Dear Boss,


I’m a little concerned. I’m a long time fan. We’ve been in concert together since 1978 and your shows set the bar pretty damn high. You’re one of my most enduring relationships. I know it must seem weird to look out on your stage and start up a new song like “Jack of all Trades” and see some folks making a beeline for beer or bathrooms. Me? I take care of both before the show as it’s a long way from the $6 I paid at Shea’s Buffalo in 78.

But the complete album shows of late? I know the European audiences are better at being at the show than American ones are. We sometimes get a little too caught up at the idea of being at the event, instead of actually being there. Playing the hits isn’t a bad thing by any measure. The Rolling Stones haven’t done anything else in twenty years easy. I’m not a fan of the complete album play. Born to Run and Darkness are one thing as they are sort of suites to a degree, but the Born in the USA recitations just feel like a good hits medley. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I dislike the record. It’s that you are still saying new things too.

The output over the past decade has been great. While I’m a little tired of Lonesome Day and it’s a little troubling watching parents force some terrified kids to sing “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day, I move past that as Magic album has some great moments, and the “lost arguments” of the Promise have a few moments that might spice things up in concert.

You’re responsible for many of my favorite in-concert moments and I know you are playing to the folks who go, that this is their one night, but you have a great catalog and reaching all through that library continues to create some special shows even this summer. I read some setlists and thought “dayam, to be there” and I’ve read a few others that made me wonder what was in the water.

I cringed a little when the signs were a regular thing as you can program this thing of ours better than we can. I just hope it isn’t a case of being out of ideas or bored, don’t be afraid to play to  some more of the recent stuff . “What to be afraid of, they’re not gonna clap as much?” You said that when making 14 out of 29 songs from the new record in 1980. I still have the bootleg, it was that good. Most recently when I watched Incident on 57 th Street dovetail into Rosalita, just like on the record, I got a chill as you indeed still got it.

Don’t get me wrong. Love Born to Run, Darkness and Born in the USA, all fine albums, but you got others and as recent shows have shown, like in San Siro and Gajin, you have a repetoire that can thrill. I recently became reacquainted with “New York City Serenade” and it currently is a favorite, not leaving the car cd player for very long.

You can still make the audience “earn their keep.”

And we’re still up for the challenge. You once directly told me from the stage that “You da man” for seeing that a tossed harmonica made it to the actual intended recipient. I bragged about that for days. The same four people got a little tired of hearing. My daughter told me she gets picked on for liking “Thunder Road.” I told her, “me, too.”

You add a few dates in the states in the fall, I’ll probably be there, hoping to hear Gypsy Biker right along with Racing in the Street.

In the meantime, thanks (but don’t be jukebox)

Mike

“I ain’t here on business…


only here for fun!” It’s hard to think of a two year old football stadium as hallowed ground, but the new Giants Stadium was pretty much that last weekend. My younger sister and I took in night number #2 of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band‘s stand at the veritable concrete bowl and had the expected fantabulous time with a great, great show. It’s fun to see your favorites in their natural surroundings

We were invited/privileged/astonished to watch a tailgate party come together with military like precision in the parking lot beforehand. The grill came out and with what seems a rapid fire succession of carnivore laden delights hit the flames. It made me think of Anthony Bourdain‘s line about how “sides are for suckers, you need that real estate.”

Sausages whose names probably ended in wurst led the hit parade. When the inferno below hit the grill, I was informed that the 6 inch by 19 inch foil collective was bacon. Okay, if you say so, sir.

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Good sense says to look away, but you just can’t. The sight of corn on the cob following that made me laugh, like checking your vegetable karma before things got serious. A few of us stopped as we had to get a decent space for the show.

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My sister has become a junkie for being on the floor during a Springsteen show. That’s funny because  she sort of resented hearing the River through the second floor of our childhood home, but osmosis won her over. Given the picture above, it’s not hard to see why you’d want to be in the midst of mostly kindred spirits. I’m slowly losing my tastes for huge stadium shows because things get cartoony, like bands overreaching to fill the big space.

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I didn’t get that sense, perhaps being maybe 30 yards from the stage helps. I have to imagine the folks on the upper decks were basically watching the video screens, but it was an amiable mess of a good time.

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Enjoyed myself immensely as always, thanks Bruce (and Kate), but as a palate cleanser here you go. With Bruce holding down Jersey, we balanced the weekend by heading to the northern most portion of the isle.

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You can almost forget you are in NY at that point.

Shackled and Drawn


 

A discussion after the joyful noise that was Friday’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show let to a friend asking me what does it for me? Why do I keep coming back? Why I have I seen upteen many shows? Still beaming like an idiot from the 3 hours we just witnessed, part dance party, part political convention, part tent revival, part depraved abandon, part baptism, all I could say was “All of that.” Early on in the show, Bruce promised our feet might hurt, our backs might shake, and you might still grin about it. One of my favorite television characters once said about great oratory “can lift whole houses off the ground.” I feel the same about performance of all kinds, but especially about Mr. Springsteen.

He delivered again.

It’s always great to hear songs you’ve always loved when they are performed with such conviction. The 19,000 voice singalong for “Thunder Road” is still in my head two days later, but the new songs and additional musicians that came to bring them alive were equally essential. I was a little worried about that after not really liking the last Bruce record all that much.

I remember watching one of the televised Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies some years ago and the Mamas and the Papas were being inducted. They had so lost a step that 8 singers were needed to help back them up. Springsteen and the E Street Band don’t need the help. The horn section, extra singers, percussion added to the fact that something new was being said, and despite it all “the rich guitar player being given a pass” was still a man of the people. And this people was still all too eager to be a part of something larger than himself. Collectively, we’ve all be at it awhile, and it was nice that the folks on stage haven’t lost a step.

There were a few presents for us long time kool-aid drinkers: “Point Blank” appeared and the last time I heard it live was in 1980 at the Aud, “Rendezvous”, which has only be heard on my Ipod and “Mountain of Love“, which might have been on the first bootleg I ever purchased. It was fun to see young fans enjoying the new material and the mix of other songs was pleasing to this old pro. Apparently, we nearly got an “E Street Shuffle” according to a set list making the rounds. But, it’s all good. It’s embarrassing to want so much from music (as the man himself once noted), but you occasionally get it and when you do there are no words to adequately describe that happy, buzzing sensation of your soul getting a musical feast. And to be a part of a 19,000 voice strong chorus on “10th ave Freezeout” just seals the deal.

Back to my friend’s question, it’s the music and the way it’s performed that gets you, gives your soul a stern talking to, and takes you to places you can’t give directions back from and a night on E Street is a sure a bet as you can get.

Ticket to Ride


I went to my first rock concert in 1978. The tickets were bought over the counter by standing in line. This dawned on me on how simple it was watching how getting access to a major event is something the internet hasn’t made easier. In fact it might be a little more messed up. If you were a kid of the burbs, you could walk up to the National Record Mart (remember them?) and get tickets from somebody who acted like a rock star because he worked in record store, making minimum wage.

Inflation does what it does. Remember when a souvenir t-shirt was under $10? but the idea of if you can get through the Ticketmaster, Tickets.com, or Live Nation sites when a major show is announced, order your two seats and pay a “Convenience” fee tantamount to buying a third ticket? That is a little nutty, when the convenience means your printer at home, your toner, their lack of an actual person aiding your purchase. Who they paying with that fee? The electric bill? The good folks over at Kleinhans Music Hall have been hosting concerts of all colors once again and that is a great thing as the place is perfect. I had to laugh a little when a poster on twitter lamented how they were just using their box office staff instead of a “robust ticket selling website like Ticketmaster.” The same robust site that crapped out on numerous Springsteen and Roger Waters hopefuls earlier this week.

Give me a robust busy signal for a few minutes or a short line to wait in for the real deal over the computer freezing anytime. The net ain’t there yet.