I know, I shouldn't complain so I won't. Even if I'm up here in the bleeder section with all the losers. I mean, there are people who'd give their right arm to see Springsteen and here I am with a free ticket. I should just kick back and chant the magic word:
"B-R-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U-U-C-E..."
Bruce and Steve Van Zandt|
(Photo © Columbia Records)
I grabbed a beer, stuffed a couple wads of cotton in my nostrils, in case the blood came gushing out owing to the altitude, and waited for the opener. I wondered if Bruce would be in prime shape for performing or if he had slowed down from woofing down all that pink champagne and French food over the past few years at his Beverly Hills estate.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed.
"B-R-U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U- U-U-U-C-E..."
With the E Street Band in tow, Springsteen opened with his newly penned "Code of Silence" and followed up with "The Ties that Bind." It wasn't until song #3, however, "Adam Raised a Cain" (from 1978's Darkness at the Edge of Town), that the full force of the man they call "The Boss" truly exploded. And any doubts that I had previously harbored about his vitality quickly vanished.
I don't want to get all misty-eyed, but Springstreen appears more passionate than ever. I may be speculating but, like all aging rock stars, he's coming face-to-face with his own mortality and upon close inspection of the grim reaper, he's decided to give Ol' Mr. Death a swift kick in the nuts. Like the rest of us poor slobs, he knows he can't win but he'll go down fighting.
About an hour into the set, after doling out some lesser known ditties like "Mansion on the Hill," and the Amadou Diallo commentary, "American Skin (41 Shots)," Bruce launched into the more familiar terrain of "The Promised Land," "Badlands" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out." In between, he managed to crank out a Motor City medley consisting of "Light of Day," "C.C. Rider" and "Jenny Take a Ride" (a '60s hit for Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels).
Soon the crowd which appeared to be freshly attired from some recent jaunts to Banana Republic revved into high gear. With the audience swirling in a spell of collective euphoria, Bruce began preaching like a Southern minister, albeit with his tongue firmly lodged in cheek. "We're having a rock-and-roll baptism, a spiritual revelation a Bar Mitzvah," the Boss announced. "I want to find the River of Hope, the River of Salvation, the place where I can buy beer at a reasonable price." (The stuff at the Garden cost upwards to $10 a cup.)
Soon closed fists began swiping at the open air. Khaki-clad legs began pumping up and down. I could swear that I felt the walls of the big stadium starting to creak from the strain. It may not have been the Rage of Youth, but the vibe in the Garden was decidedly good and the energy was as frenetic as any young whipper-snapper could ever muster. Thank God for all you baby-sitters out there, without you, nights like this simply would not be possible.
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