A marginally edited version of this post originally appeared on Backstreets.com, which you can read here.
At a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert, everyone expects the former’s presence to be felt more than anyone else’s in the building. Yet at their sole stop in the Lone Star state on this River Tour 2016, the Boss surprisingly wasn’t the lone star of the evening; stationed mostly around the side platforms in the pit were an overwhelming bevy of Born in the U.S.A.-styled, dolled-up Texas “cowgirls,” emphasis on the latter half of that term. These bushels of broads – who have made appearances at shows of Texas past – were indeed more girls than women, with not a single one looking a day over 30 and a majority of them probably a decade away from being able to enjoy an adult beverage. Yet even without liquid courage, these gals were complete balls of vivacity, and Bruce not only fixated on them but derived increased energy from their liveliness from the very first note, which in turn further ignited the crowd. On a night when the setlist provided no real surprises – only one song differentiated it from OKC’s two evenings prior – these young ladies helped set the night apart, mostly for the better but regrettably sometimes for the worse.
But since only those select few lucky enough to make the pit were privy to the negative side of their antics, let’s first focus on all of their positives that the majority of those inside Dallas’ American Airlines Center enjoyed throughout Tuesday night’s show. From the moment Bruce walked onstage, he couldn’t help but notice – as everyone else in the venue surely did – most of the young mademoiselles joyously waving their red bandanas at every single song. Continuing his focus on this tour on the younger members of the crowd, Bruce played a majority of the songs to them, leading to him changing up a lot of the now-customary blocking for The River performance, beginning with him leading Stevie and Jake to a side platform to successfully elicit some loud “Texas-style party noises” from them before playing to the rear seats.
He first addressed them directly at the end of “Crush On You” when he grabbed one of their signs to show the crowd: “We got on a crush on you, Bruce,” was printed on a – you could have a guessed it – pink sign. Before launching into yet another fun performance of “You Can Look,” he yelped at them, “Shake those hankies!” referring to their aforementioned bandanas. Speaking of yelping, Bruce walked to the side platform again during his youth-focused “I Wanna Marry You” introduction where he repeated his OKC question of “Do we have any cowgirls out there?” Sticking his microphone in their faces, the crowd was greeted with an unsurprising yet alarmingly loud chorus of squeals. Deviating from his OKC script, he responded, “I’m not even going to ask the cowboys because you can’t top that.”
What also couldn’t be topped on Tuesday night were the southern-style rockers on the second half of The River. After a particularly haunting “Point Blank” that felt more like a spoken word performance, a rollicking “Cadillac Ranch” – a landmark located around 350 miles away from Dallas, now less of a real ranch and more of an art installation in Amarillo, TX – turned the arena into a hoedown, featuring Bruce and Jake side-stepping and then sashaying to the cowgirls’ platform during the latter’s solo. The performance clearly put Bruce in a rocking mood, resulting in him shimmying behind the rear-pit cameraman during “I’m a Rocker.”
Yet the highlight of the night may have been an absolutely raucous “Ramrod,” perhaps the best of the tour. Beginning by imploring the crowd to “shake your ass to a little roadhouse music,” Bruce brought back a lot of his older, more extended antics for this roadhouse state. Instead of launching right into this evening’s particularly strong “boss time” solo, Bruce first revived the call-and-response portion of the song, as follows:
Bruce: What time is it?! Is it break time?!
Bruce: Is it quitting time?!
Bruce: Then what time is it?!?!
[he cuts out the Band]
Stevie: IT’S BOOOOOOSS TIME!!!!!
Before Bruce ended the song by screaming “RAAAAAMROOOOD” whilst rolling his voice, even Garry was feeling the roadhouse vibe: he pulled off an impressive “foot to the floor” shuffle, moves no one thought such a cool and collected cat could bust out.
Though the post-River portion of the set largely mirrored that of OKC, Bruce still let the cowgirls make their presence felt. The mere two “wildcard” slots of the evening went to “The Promised Land” and “Backstreets,” both songs largely told from a youthful perspective. Though the section of the song once reserved for a “Sad Eyes” interlude is usually met with respectful silence, Dallas cheered the way from Bruce’s repeated, “Swore forever friends…until the end” back into the final build. The added vitality that the cowgirls instilled in Bruce throughout the night obviously had a powerful effect on the crowd, for they were much more vocal than those who were greeted to basically the same show in OKC. Bruce complimented the crowd multiple times, from proclaiming, “Dallas rocks” at the beginning of the encores to exclaiming, “You put on a hell of a show” at the end of the evening.
But before the end, in a move that may have been more predictable than the first 21 songs of the show, Bruce invited the cowgirls on stage for “Dancing in the Dark.” One came up, and then another, and then more from the other platform, and then it was just a flood of females, more than making up for the lack of onstage estrogen from Patti’s absence. Though security was trying to limit the numbers, Stevie just kept imploring more and more to crowd around Bruce. And boy, did they ever. I’m no Bruce archivist, but I feel safe saying that this night featured more dance partners than any show in E Street history. Just look at this madness:
By the time Bruce and Co. managed to wrangle all of them offstage – which took an excessive amount of time, especially since none of them showed any interest in leaving – the Boss had a rare look on his face: exhaustion. “Oh my fucking God…” he concluded, using words that I’m sure the girls’ mothers would not approve of, “…that was a lot of fucking children.” Thankfully for some, Bruce mostly left the cowgirls behind for the rest of the show, only jokingly inviting them back on stage for “Shout” before finally using them in his usual, “We ain’t got nothing left” spiel by saying, “The little kids took everything out of me!” Stevie brought over a cold towel and pretended to help a ragged Bruce off the stage before launching into an increasingly customary “Bobby Jean” finale.
Yet before I reach the finale of this recap, I must briefly note the aforementioned negative behavior of the cowgirls, which the picture above sort of captures; finding Bruce is like playing “Where’s Waldo,” largely because the girls were concerned less with letting Bruce do his job and more with being in the spotlight themselves. Though up to that point Bruce probably only saw their unwavering energy, it was clear to many pit-goers that they were more consumed by getting noticed by Bruce and being invited onstage than by the music itself. Nobody wants to bemoan their enthusiasm, but it definitely seemed odd that they were waving their bandanas just as rigorously for “Independence Day” as they were for “Hungry Heart,” especially since most stopped waving them after “Dancing in the Dark.” There was even an obnoxious “I ♥ U. Pull us onstage” sign that definitely blocked people’s view for much of the night. They also didn’t help their case by loudly chatting through the slower songs, some even doing so on their cell phones. They actually may have been talking to their friends on the opposite platform because throughout the night a lot of the girls were running back and forth based on where they expected Bruce to go next, often making the pit feel more like a playground than a rock concert. I even saw a few distractingly applying more makeup in the middle of “The River.”
Though I don’t condone any of this behavior, it by no means ruined the show; anyone who may have been bothered was free to move to a different spot in the pit less overrun with cowgirls. Some may definitely see Bruce obliging the request of the aforementioned sign as almost implicit support of their antics, but it’s hard to fault him since there’s very little chance he was aware of them from his perch atop the stage.
And note how in the paragraph above I used “most” and not “all” to describe the cowgirls and their unfortunate actions. Though some may have been at the concert for the wrong reasons – and who knows, maybe their mothers really did put them up to it – these theories are basically the definition of conjecture. We simply can’t make definitive statements about their intentions, and it’s unfair to group the entire mass of cowgirls together as one unified entity. There may have been real fans in the bunch, and perhaps being on stage with their idol – albeit along with far too many others – was one of the highlights of their lives. This tour has seen Bruce time and time again focusing on the younger members of the crowd, for as he nightly looks back at his own youth on The River, he’s also looking ahead at how the youth of today will be the ones to take his music into the future. It was fitting that he changed his blocking for “Fade Away” so that he sang parts of the song on both of the cowgirls’ platforms; some of these girls will be the reason his music doesn’t fade away for future generations. It may have felt like a playground at times, but Bruce definitely played better because of them.
Even though he was surrounded by an inordinately youthful pit, Bruce showed his age twice by amusingly forgetting the lyrics to “The River” and “Thunder Road” – songs that have been played every single night of this tour. But for the most part, Dallas witnessed Bruce in spirits that defied his advanced age, largely thanks to the cowgirls. Some in the pit may disagree, but most people in attendance at any Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert would happily accept some unfortunate behavior in the name of seeing such a phenomenally lively performance.
- Meet Me in the City
- The Ties That Bind
- Sherry Darling
- Jackson Cage
- Two Hearts
- Independence Day
- Hungry Heart
- Out in the Street
- Crush On You
- You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
- I Wanna Marry You
- The River
- Point Blank
- Cadillac Ranch
- I’m a Rocker
- Fade Away
- Stolen Car
- The Price You Pay
- Drive All Night
- Wreck on the Highway
- The Promised Land
- Because the Night
- The Rising
- Thunder Road
- Born to Run
- Dancing in the Dark
- Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
- Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
- Bobby Jean