Friday, March 21, 2008

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band; Monday, March 3/08 Copps Coliseum, Hamilton

If there is one Canadian city Bruce Springsteen has never visited, but should play at least once, it’s Hamilton, Ontario. The city shares many traits with American rust belt towns; places where too few employers wielded too much influence over an entire region, before leaving behind a trail of toxicity and unemployment lines.

Luckily for local fans tonight, scalpers were taking a big hit outside Copps Coliseum. The rain didn’t help them, nor did the fact that upcoming tour stops in Rochester and Buffalo kept many American fans at home tonight. This was to be a show for local fans, which was most promising, after a less than brilliant performance by Springsteen in Toronto last October. While Toronto has its share of Boss fans, we also have too many well connected people who end up attending big ticket concerts, only to talk through the show and spend more time coming and going with food and beer than actually watching the concert. While the alleged aloofness of Toronto audiences is overblown, quite a few music fans who regularly attend shows in other cities have described the A.C.C. as a cold place for concerts. Tonight, in Hamilton, the vibe would be different.

Copps Coliseum slowly filled up until the show began. The Boss led the temporarily reformed E Street Band on stage at about eight thirty. They kicked off with a one-two punch of “No Surrender” and “Radio Nowhere” which have been prominent on this “Magic and Loss” tour. “Magic” was sung with a subtle falsetto, reminiscent of Roy Orbison. This is usually performed as a duet with Patti Scialfa, but Springsteen’s wife and E Street back-up singer was absent on this stretch of the tour as was Danny Federici. Bruce explained Patti had to “make sure the house doesn’t burn down” and that Danny’s spot was being filled by keyboard player Charles Giordano. Giordano recorded and toured with Bruce for “The Seeger Sessions”, so he was naturally familiar with the material and a good fit with the band.

Bruce wailed on his harmonica introduction to the souped-up boogie of “Reason To Believe” which kept the crowd on it’s feet. A searing version of “Because The Night” followed, which featured some of the most intense guitar playing one still hears from Miami Steve and Nils Lofgren. Bruce is a fine guitar player too, but he doesn’t play those shredding assaults that he used to pull out. After “She’s the One”, Bruce introduced a new song, “Livin’ In The Future” with a few words about the rapid erosion of civil rights in the United States these days. The song itself borrows liberally from the classic “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” on the 1975 classic “Born To Run” album.

“The Promised Land” and the title track of Springsteen’s 1978 “Darkness At The Edge of Town” record followed. There were a few more vintage songs about disillusionment during hard times, which went over well in this crowd. Much of the audience kept sing along with tunes like “The Promised Land” and especially “Badlands” while they kept quieter for songs like “The River”. Bruce sang in his mournful falsetto for end of “The River”, to a great response from the audience.

After the sing-along blow-out of “Badlands”, Springsteen dedicated “The Girls In Their Summer Clothes” to the ladies of Ontario, although it’s been hard to imagine anybody wearing summer clothes around here, lately. We were treated to a rare performance of one of Bruce’s seminal finales from the old days; “Kitty’s Back”. The old time fans recognized the opening immediately, and those who were unfamiliar with this song caught on soon enough that this song is works really well in a live setting.

Baritone sax player Clarence Clemons, “The Big Man”, has kept a lower profile on recent tours, resulting in much speculation about his health. The man is 66 years old, but when he sauntered out to centre stage for jams like the middle part of “Kitty’s Back”, there was no doubt the man can still blow. Much of the “Wall of Sound” that people mention when describing the production and band sound of the “Born To Run” album borrows as much from the Motown sound as Phil Specter’s style. The follow-up to “Kitty’s Back”, “Born To Run” kept Clarence and the audience busy. While the days of three and four hour concerts are behind them, the E Street Band still brings an amazing amount of energy to the stage. They played encores of “Dancing In The Dark” and the tour’s finale “American Land” before the house lights came on. The show lasted almost two and a half hours, and the crowd was thrilled through out tonight’s concert. The E Street Band should come here more often. If only…

1 comment:

Stephane Pinoteau said...

Are you the Eric Twight that use to trade tapes in Montreal?