With Springsteen, it's up to the audience to keep up
By JOSHUA LIEBERSON
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
As a fan of live music, there are some bands you simply must see, if by reputation alone. At the same time, there are bands that you enjoy for a number of years, but for one reason or another, it's inconvenient to see them every single time they seem to come around — be it due to a lack of money, a conflicting event on the same day, or you simply didn't luck out trying to get tickets. All of these things have been my excuses for not seeing Bruce Springsteen over the years. After a huge ticket fiasco with Ticketmaster that somehow landed me General Admission tickets to the Nassau Coliseum show, that time had finally passed. I was going to see Bruce for the very first time.
After considering the options, we decided to ride in by way of a private car service, which was a nice luxurious way to travel from Manhattan to Long Island, especially considering the rain that had been falling seemingly for days. And we left early on the suggestion of my girlfriend's supervisor so we could possibly get a decent spot on the floor. I found out that the policy for the front fifth of the crowd was to arrive between 1:00 and 4:45 to get a wristband, then wait for a random drawing. If your number was within the range of numbers they select, you get to be in the front with a second wristband. So we went for this, got our wristbands, and headed over to the Marriot hotel for a quick drink before waiting for the drawing, Standing in line with great odds (500 of the 650 people in line would get up front) we chatted with the people behind us. Then we won the lottery. Lots of cheering and excitement ensued, but ended in the frustrating reality that we had to wait on line again to get scanned in and wait in the bowels of the Nassau Coliseum for the soundcheck to end.
We were finally let in and quickly ran up. Give or take, we were 10 10 15 feet from the stage, almost dead center. Awesome! We then proceeded to meet everyone in our vicinity, all nice people who were shocked that this was my first Bruce show. My girlfriend was even helping other concert goers get their song request signs in order prior to the start of the show. After a few bathroom trips and drinks, the show got going.
The band opened with Badlands, and while I was concerned they would play a bunch of songs I've never heard, this relaxed me immediately. What stood out from the get go was how well they jammed together. Bruce can stretch out a song better than anyone I've seen, save for a few amazing moments here or there from other bands. In the first few songs, it was evident that what most bands do to close out a set is how Bruce treats every song. And the crowd obliges with boundless energy to keep him going. Early highlights for me included the opener, along with “Outlaw Pete” off the new album, Working On a Dream, and “the Ghost of Tom Joad.”
As Bruce and his band were finishing off “Raise Your Hand,” Bruce started collecting those signs from everyone up front. He then proceeded to play requests for the next three or four songs: all amazing songs, all amazing versions, be they covers or originals.
The rest of the set was nearly an endless highlight blur. Save for “Kingdom of Days,” by which I took a quick break from the action, each and every song through the rest of the set simply rocked. I screamed, danced, sang along, pumped my fists, jumped, you name it. Bruce wasn't alone bringing it to the show, as I was just one of thousands giving everything they had for that succession of moments. It might have been my first show, but the experience was mine equally along with the others that had seen him up to 84 times prior (not an exaggeration). The first set closed with an epic “Born to Ru;,” I had been told that there was nothing like seeing Bruce play this song. Those words couldn't have rung truer, like watching Pearl Jam play “Alive” or The Who play “Won't Get Fooled Again,” there are simply some songs you must hear live to believe it.
After less than a five-minute rest, Bruce came back out and rocked the encore, which featured extended versions of “Jungle Land” and “Dancing in the Dark.” I should note the one song I despised prior to this show was “Dancing in the Dark;” it in essence was the reason I didn’t become a Springsteen fan for a very long time. Seeing it live may have changed my mind on this one altogether. While I could never listen to an album version, I certainly wouldn't mind hearing this one again. The show closed with a very extended and energetic “Rosalita,” with the entire crowd singing and dancing along, and everyone walking away with a sense that Springsteen, the E Street Band (Max Weinberg is particularly impressive in the live setting), and everyone in attendance gave all they had.
At the end of an uplifting and inspiring three-hour set, I was tired, exhausted, beat, and outlasted by the great Bruce Springsteen. But, most important of all, I have now become what so many others already had the wisdom to be: a Springsteen lifer.
E-mail Joshua Lieberson at email@example.com
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