Sunday, May 3, 2009

An Agnostic at a Tent Revival Meeting

Back from Greensboro where I saw Springsteen.

Don't know what's gotten into me lately, but this is the third concert I've been to in the last two weeks. I saw the Connells two weeks ago, Mike Watt + Dinosaur Jr. last Monday, and Bruce tonight. I'd have to search back years in my memory to remember the three most recent concerts I'd attended prior to two weeks ago. Plus, I have tickets to see Steve Earle in Carrboro in June and tickets for U2 in Raleigh in Sept or Oct (I'm too tired and lazy to look up the date). At this rate, people are going to think that I'm something other than a cranky, boring old dude.

As for Springsteen, it was a good show. Not great, but good. For one thing, the show came five days after that incredible performance that Mike Watt put on: it would be nearly impossible for a coliseum-sized show to come anywhere close to the energy level of a three-piece punk band playing fast and loud in a small club.

Beyond that, when it comes to Bruce, I'm somewhere between a casual fan and a fanatic: I own all but two of his albums and like most (Nebraska being the one that I absolutely love) but am not so familiar that I know all of the lyrics. And it turns out that his concerts are sing along affairs to a surprising degree. So while most everyone around me screamed all of the words to "Badlands," "Born to Run," "Thunder Road," etc., I just sort of took it all in and wished that I was enjoying the show half as much as everyone else.

Despite those minor issues, though, it was still a good show and enjoyable enough for me to actually move some... moving in time to the music being a much more accurate description that to say I was dancing. Oh, and I clapped along where appropriate, keeping much better time than most: a coliseum of white people (there were far more black folks in the band than in the entire audience of ~20,000) can't find or keep rhythm worth a damn.

The band is incredibly tight, although I guess that shouldn't be a surprise, especially after spending a good portion of the last year on the road. I thought it was interesting that Clarence Clemons gets the biggest applause for his solos; he's quite good, but Nils Lofgren impresses me far more. And Max Weinberg's 19-year-old son, Jay, took about half of the drumming duties, and that kid is also pretty impressive.

Springsteen is every bit as engaging as I'd been lead to believe. He spent a few minutes at one point tonight talking up the Food Bank of Eastern & Central NC and an anti-death penalty group. He seemed sincere enough without overdoing it, preaching to the audience, or coming off as self-righteous (unlike Bono the last time I saw U2 many years ago... although, to be fair, I was in a rotten mood that night, so he might not have been nearly as annoying to 99% of the audience as it seemed to me... but that has nothing to do with Springsteen, so why am I bringing it up here?).

With the hour-plus drive back to Raleigh on my mind, I cut out early, a bit before 11:00, which was 2 hours and 45 minutes into the concert. That part impressed me: I knew he was known for 3- and 4-hour concerts back in the day, but I assumed they were probably a couple of hours these days (the dude is turning 60 this year, after all: that's a lot of work for someone who's been on the AARP mailing list for a full decade). So I was disappointed that I couldn't stay for the whole show but I was dreading the gridlock exiting the parking lot and trying to get back to I-40. And as tired as I was by the time I hit my exit back in Raleigh, I'm glad I did: that's not a long drive at 4:00 in the afternoon, but when you've driving back at midnight on a Saturday night and most other drivers seem to be having problems staying in their lanes and/or trouble maintaining their speed, it makes for a tense and exhausting 75 minutes at high speeds.

Overall, a good evening. Glad that I can say that I've seen him but I don't think I'd go out of my way to see him a second time unless I somehow drift over into that obsessive Boss fanatic territory where I find myself able to recite scripture with the other true believers.

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