Old-timer, newcomer offer 2 views of Bruce

Ties to Bruce & E Street Band still strong

The last time I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band together, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Saddam Hussein was our ally, and Michael Jackson was known as a musical act and not a miscreant.

It was 1984 and I was a 24-year-old who could sleep on the sidewalk all night in line for $18 Springsteen tickets, who could drive six hours for the four-hour show that ended after midnight, help a friend repo a stolen car and then drive all night back home (after being stopped by a highway patrolman).

A lot of things have changed since then.

The marathon concerts have been replaced with a highly charged two and a half hours (thankfully, since some of us have earlier bedtimes than in the old days).

Even "The Big Man," saxophonist Clarence Clemons, sits during some numbers.

But as Bruce announced in his opening number during his March 24 Columbus performance, "you can’t break the ties that bind."

Those ties were more than evident between the artist and his audience, who sang along with almost every lyric, even the more obscure songs.

You’re a slacker if you have attended only a handful of Springsteen concerts. Many in the crowd had seen him 30, 50, even 100 times, over the years.

Time and money have kept me away from such staggering numbers, although I have seen Bruce solo a couple of times in the intervening years (including the 2004 John Kerry rally on the OSU campus). And every new release is eagerly awaited.

It is really the words that connect Springsteen and his fans, probably more than almost any other songwriter.

Bruce and the E Street Band have 35 years of compositions to draw from, and the show at the Schottenstein reached back to the earliest albums for "Rosalita" and "Incident on 57th Street," an audience request.

The band has the ability to make the most familiar tunes sound like they were written yesterday, reworking the moody  "Reason to Believe" into a full-out rocker, without forsaking the meaning of the song.

Conversely, newer numbers, drawn from the latest release, "Magic," came across as if the band had been playing them for decades, without diminishing their intensity.

In fact, intensity, bordering on desperation, seemed to be the watchword during the entire show.

Guitarist Nils Lofgren sawed away on his ax like a diminutive Paul Bunyan on steroids, with Springsteen and Miami Steve Van Zandt adding their own blistering solos.

You had to wonder how drummer Max Weinberg has any sticks left at the end as he channeled Keith Moon.

And even if Clarence moved a little slower, he still blew for all he was worth.

From 1978’s "Badlands" to the current "Radio Nowhere," Springsteen and Company blasted out their message like there was no time to lose. There were few quiet, introspective moments.

As Springsteen commented, in an era where special rendition, warrantless wiretaps and the suspension of habeas corpus are the order of the day, it’s time to speak up.

"I think someone has been checking my passport," Springsteen half-joked.

A large part of the concert was drawn from "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

Maybe that was part of the message. The darkness hasn’t abated much since those songs were penned in the late ’70s.

Springsteen’s music has always had that dual nature, a wild joy ("it ain’t no sin to be glad you alive") tempered with a hard-edged realism ("workin’ ‘neath the wheel, baby I got my facts learned").

Underneath the rhythms of the newest rockers, from "Gypsy Biker" to "Last to Die" to "Livin’ In the Future," is the same rage, for a new generation.

My faith’s been torn asunder
tell me is that rollin’ thunder
Or just the sinkin’ sound
of something righteous goin’ under?

As always, Springsteen and the E Street Band delivered their message with an irresistible energy that refuses to give in to despair, with Bruce grinning through it all.

The concert was fittingly concluded with an encore performance of "American Land," an immigrant’s tale from Springsteen’s folkie Seeger Session incarnation that speaks as much to the national experience today as 100 years ago.

There’s treasure for the taking
for any hard working man
Who will make his home
in the American Land

These are the ties that bind, the hopes and hard truths that Springsteen understands and articulates more profoundly than any other contemporary artist in any medium, and certainly more than any politician of any party.

Bruce Springsteen for president, anyone?

– John Matuszak is managing editor and eastside editor for the Columbus Messenger.

First foray a positive experience

August of 2000 marked the last time I went to a concert, at least one of my choosing. I went to go see Pearl Jam and had a terrific time.  

The past eight years have held many concert opportunities, but honestly, I just do not want to go to them. I feel so awkward. With CDs you can dance and sing along and pretend you are in the band, and I suppose you can do that at a live concert.

However, at Christmas, my sister bought my mother tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Value City Arena on March 24. Since I didn’t have to work that night, I went with mother, and had a surprisingly good time.

Before the show

We arrive around 5:30 so we could fight off traffic from the basketball game and the start of the concert. We end up spending 35-45 minutes on line because they wouldn’t let anyone into the doors yet. (Concert was supposed to start at 7:30.)

Someone in the line said, "This is a Bruce thing" because he probably didn’t like the sound check. I think, "Ah, Bruce is male diva."

We find our seats (nosebleed section) but there is a curtain blocking the section off. The ticket lady shows us a place where we can get new ones. We find new seats and they are right behind the stage!

Granted, during the concert we could only see the back of them without aid from performance screen, but Bruce Springsteen is known for his tight jeans, so the view will be very good.

I’m watching all the comings and goings from the backstage, and I think I see Bruce. I nudge my mother and tell her and I see her eyes zone in on the curtain. I think she was willing the curtains to part, because the next thing I know, he’s walking out, smiling and waving at us.

Now, I’m not a big fan of his, but that was a slice of awesome. I look at my mom and she was blushing and had the biggest smile on her face. She’s so in love with him.

It’s close to 7:30 p.m. and the show doesn’t look like it’s going to start soon. Am eye flirting with red shirted stage crew guy to fend off boredom. Good-looking man sitting next to me smells as if he took a bath in beer and sewage. Too bad.

During the show

It is 8:30 p.m. and the natives are getting restless because Bruce still hasn’t taken the stage. Finally, he shows and kicks off with rousing renditions of two songs I don’t know. My mother tells me they area "The Ties That Bind" and "Radio Nowhere."

From these performances on, I have to give this band mega props for putting on a good show. They all had so much energy and were running around the stage singing songs off their new album "Magic" and even a few ones that I knew, like "Born to Run," "Glory Days" and "Because the Night."

I can understand now why my mom has had a crush on Bruce since he first came onto the music scene. During their rendition of "Livin’ In the Future," Bruce walked to the back of the stage, got on the platform and started walking and singing right by us.

At this point, I was sitting on the top of the folded part of the seat and he stands right by me (of course, there was stage distance to behold) and motions me to stand up and starts smiling at me! This is The Boss, so I jump up and do what he says. He moves on to work the rest of the area, so I nudge my mother and we’re both smiling and giggling like love-struck schoolgirls.

Even though he came on late, and 80 percent of the songs on the 140-minute-plus set he played I didn’t know, I came away from the concert with a healthier respect (and like) for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and maybe, a bit of a crush.

– Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.

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