METLIFE 1: Something in THIS Night

My favorite moment of Bruce and the Band’s final-leg-launching first of three nights in their home state of New Jersey actually occurred hours before the crowd was let into MetLife Stadium. Don’t get me wrong – this proclamation is in no way an indictment of the actual concert, which was rife with memorable moments of all shapes and sizes. Rather, one of Bruce’s song choices during the extended soundcheck[1] seemed to hint at the Boss FINALLY adhering to the wishes of a plethora of his fans that he put a little more thought into his construction of the setlists on this tour.

Here’s the soundcheck’s setlist:

  • New York City Serenade
  • Back in the U.S.A.
  • Wrecking Ball
  • My Lucky Day
  • None But the Brave
  • Mansion on the Hill
  • Jack of All Trades
  • I’m on Fire (partial)[2]

Surprisingly, the highlight of all of those – and really the whole night for me – was “Back in the U.S.A.” I almost always prefer to hear Bruce songs at a Bruce concert,[3] but the fact that this Chuck Berry classic popped into Bruce’s head as a way of acknowledging the circumstances of this specific concert – namely, that he and the Band were finally back in the U.S.A after a summer abroad – seemed to convey that Bruce may finally start factoring into his setlists the unique characteristics of a concert on any given night. Though most of the criticisms lobbed at this tour have been unfairly subjective and rooted in ignorant selfishness – for example, one person says, “I’m bored of The River!” while another simultaneously complains, “I want to hear MORE of The River, since that’s the name of this tour!” – one of the few fair criticisms has revolved around Bruce’s unwillingness to change up his setlists from night to night to comment on what differentiates one night from the next, be it the specific attributes of a city or an unusual occurrence during the actual concert.

IMG_4297
The inside of MetLife Stadium, undoubtedly one of the ugliest monstrosities in the world.

For example, he played at the base of a giant ski jump in the middle of a forest in Trondheim,[4] but he mostly regurgitated this tour’s generic setlist makeup without any regard for his rather special surroundings.[5] Similarly, the freaking power cut out during the encores of his first night in Paris, and yet he failed to cater any aspect of the rest of the setlist to commemorating such a crazy occasion, even though a song like “When the Lights Go Out” would’ve been too perfect. In addition, he had the opportunity to perform a concert atop Circus Maximus but refused to play a single song to honor its rich history, not even such obvious fare as “My City of Ruins?!” Fans – including myself at times – were asking themselves, “What happened to the Bruce that thought to bust out ‘In the Midnight Hour’ as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1980 during the original River Tour? Had he just gotten too complacent – not in his performance quality but in his song choices – to think outside of the setlist box that he has created for himself on this River Tour?”

I got so excited when I heard “Back in the U.S.A.” not because of the song itself but because of the answers that it seemed to provide to the above questions: respectively, “He’s still here,” and, “Fuck no!”

Though he ended up not playing the song during the actual concert – quelling any hopes that he would blow the setlist wide open on a rare night when no one knew if he was simply going to either continue to rely on the setlist structure from the end of the European Tour or create an entirely new one – “Back in the U.S.A” ultimately foreshadowed the most remarkable aspect of the night, one that will hopefully persist over the next month: for basically the first time all tour, he modified the setlist from beginning to end to speak to the conditions of THIS night – namely that he felt “good to be home,” as he said shortly after the Band took the stage to no musical accompaniment around 8:05pm – but also to the current state of America in general.

IMG_4288
The official poster. I don’t particularly like this one – I’d always prefer concert photos to this shoddily photoshopped design.

Yes, the rarities played here can be classified as nothing more than mostly a collection of the ‘greatest hits’ of special moments from the European leg inserted into the typical setlist structure from the end of the European tour, but almost all of these chosen rarities connected to New Jersey in some way, as he explained in the happily voluminous number of stories with which he prefaced many of these songs.[6] These stories conveyed how inspired he seemed to be by returning to his tristate environment, and he in turn delivered inspired performance after inspired performance – 35 to be exact – over the course of the concert’s gargantuan three hour and 53-minute duration, the longest ever in America and tied for third-longest anywhere in the world.

Oddly, it’s tied with his recent concert in Rome, which also began with one of his longest songs, no doubt played here in honor of the Meadowlands’ proximity to the Big Apple. In an almost exact reprise of their Roman performance – which was predictable given its double soundcheck AND the music stands set up behind Roy before the show – “New York City Serenade,” accompanied by a string section entirely comprised of violinists that walked on stage well before the Band, served as yet another reminder that it’s one of the most beautiful openers in Bruce’s arsenal, only slightly diminished by the hollow sound that plagued most of the night and here made the lyrics and strings almost inaudible.[7] Clocking in at nearly 15-minutes, the performance – with the exception of some inappropriately-timed yelps by a few “fans” ready to rock out more than this somber ballad allows –  worked shockingly well in a stadium setting, which can also be said about quite a few of the songs played in the setlist.

IMG_4275
The official t-shirt. This design has been used before on this tour for the other multi-show runs in cities such as New York City and Dublin. If history repeats itself, all of the shirts for MetLife will be this same design just with different colors. Simple, but effective.

 

But first, more songs chosen for this specific setting followed. Though “Wrecking Ball” gets a bad rap from a lot of fans,[8] hearing it in the spot where the stadium that the song is literally about once stood always adds extra resonance.[9] After “Badlands” brought casual fans back into the fold, Bruce went with one of the consistent highlights of the European leg: “Something in the Night.” Yet instead of just being the type of random, more somber rarity that Bruce likes to use in the fourth slot to temporarily slow down the pace,[10] the song here was directly inspired by the signature Jersey heat that felt thick in the air, as he explained over the opening notes in the first of multiple stories that he would end up telling to introduce many of the Jersey-related songs:[11]

“Back in the day, we used to stay up until 3am on the Jersey shore. We’d go to a diner, and we’d come out to nights like last week when the air was so thick with heat. It feels like nothing can move. Everything becomes so quiet. It really feels like the apocalypse is just around the corner…”

And then, he launched into an emphatically powerful rendition, no doubt fueled by his own personal recollections. The specific conditions of the night’s setting clearly took him back to when he was just a struggling musician trying to break through only a few miles away from where he was now performing for tens upon thousands of adoring fans. In a way, that memory is connected to now through songs like “Something in the Night,” since his music afforded him the opportunity to simultaneously leave those dingy diners behind yet still pay tribute to the role they once played in his life. By choosing songs that somehow connect to his surroundings, Bruce was able to tap into the emotions of these stories to enhance his performance, thus allowing the audience to feel the music so much more.

Bruce let the audience’s feelings dictate the setlist three songs later. After going with the opening two-pack from The River – only seven songs from the album ended up being played[12] – Bruce collected signs at the conclusion of “Spirit in the Night.” After picking four, he let the crowd’s cheers determine which he was going to choose: “Burning Love” (my choice), “My City of Ruins” (my third choice), “Jersey Girl” (my second choice), or “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (my last choice). Given the fact that “Santa Claus” is apparently one of Bruce’s most streamed song on Spotify AND Apple Music,[13] it was predictably the clear winner, the first indicator that this was perhaps more of a casual crowd than would be expected in Jersey.[14]

IMG_4278
New t-shirts for women, which have been severely lacking on this tour.

After Bruce turned to the crowd with a facial expression that just screamed, “Are you serious?!,”[15] he joked that this was his “favorite summer song!” In an attempt to recreate the ridiculousness of his concert in Manchester this summer where the guy who requested the song came on stage wearing a full jolly old Saint Nick costume, Bruce invited tonight’s sign-maker up as well. Unfortunately, he was only wearing a normal Giants shirt, but after answering in the affirmative to Bruce asking, “Can you sing,?” he still got to join the E Street Band, mostly taking Clarence’s old, deep-throated, “You better be good for goodness sake” part, in addition to intermittently sharing the mic with Bruce. Truthfully, the guy looked understandably overwhelmed to be on stage, even refusing to jump with Bruce. The performance concluded with another classic Boss joke: “Happy summer!”

Bruce’s repeated references to the ill-suited nature of the song for this night was further proof of just how much Bruce was trying to craft a setlist that somehow spoke to the specific conditions of this concert. He got back on that track with “Independence Day, the most surprising song played off The River given the stadium setting. Yet based on the introductory story that he told – which was almost identical to the one he shared during Oslo 2 – he was once again clearly inspired by being so close to the place where he was trying to break free from back when he wrote the song:

“I grew up in a town not far from here. It was a place where trees lined main street. I now understand that it can be very welcoming, but it didn’t feel that way at the time, especially if you didn’t fit in. So I wanted to get away – born to run, you know. This was one of the first songs that I wrote about my father. He was a non-communicative guy. I felt the only way I could have a conversation with him was through my music. So I’d make my records and bring them over to my parent’s house. My Mom forced my Dad to listen, so I knew he was listening…but he wouldn’t say anything to me about it. Years went by, and I would write another song, and then another, and then another. Nothing. No response. Nothing at all. 40 years went by, and when he was close to his death, I asked him, “Dad, what are your favorite songs of mine?” He said, “Oh, the ones about me!” I guess you gotta take your satisfactions where you can get them. This song is about two people sitting around a table during the summer, failing to communicate.”

This was the first time on this tour that Bruce specified the song was set during the summer. Once again, explaining the connection between the song and this night added so much emotional power to his performance, further proof that catering a setlist to the conditions of a given night can only improve a concert. After the expected stadium-pleasing two-pack of “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street,”[16] Bruce spotted a sign that read: “I’m 13 and Growin’.” He brought the sign on stage and responded, “I remember 13, but I’m not gonna tell you why. BUT…‘I stood stone-like at midnight…’[17] It’s always nice hearing this oldie in the state where Bruce literally grew up.

IMG_4274
A new sleeveless t-shirt!

Yet more than just being an ode to Jersey, the setlist also – some would say finally – seemed to comment on the current state of America. Considering how vocal Bruce has been in the past regarding his political views, many fans have been disappointed in Bruce’s relative silence on that front during this tour. Though he didn’t directly reference the shit show otherwise known as the current Presidential election, the stretch that began with “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and ended with “American Skin (41 Shots)” definitely felt like a commentary on a few of America’s most pressing contemporary problems.

“Wait…” you may be shouting at your computer/iPad/cell phone/tablet/etc, “…did you just claim that ‘You Can Look’ – one of the slightest tracks on The River that seems to have nothing on its mind except sex ­– was a part of Bruce’s intended political statements?!” Yes, yes I did. It’ll all become clear in a few paragraphs.[18]

To explain, I’m going to start with the story that Bruce told to introduce “Mansion on the Hill” two songs later:

“When I was five or six or seven living with my grandparents, our entertainment would be taking a drive and stopping at Jersey Freeze. [Huge cheer from the crowd] Who’s been to the Jersey Freeze?! [Ditto. He laughs] They only had two flavors: chocolate and vanilla. But I didn’t like either; I only liked the cones. This guy who worked there would save them for me. We’d stop there, and then go home along a back road with a big telephone pole over it. There were lights shining on its side. The road led to the foot of this hill with a big mansion on top. My father would stop, and we’d LOOK at the mansion, but we’d only ever see the outside never the inside. It’s a memory.”

More than just a memory, the story and song – released during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, who some blame for introducing policies that ultimately led to many of the problems with America’s economy today that inspired the likes of Magic and Wrecking Ball – beautifully captures the current, stark financial divide between the upper and lower classes in this country. The characters that populate the song can only look at, but cannot touch the world of the wealthy people who live in hilltop mansions…

And that’s why “You Can Look” served as a pretty fitting introduction to this stretch. The song that followed – “Death to My Hometown” – tells a thematically-similar story of the rich who bring ‘death’ to towns by looking to make an easy buck off their poor citizens.

“Mansion on the Hill” – previously only played in Belgium – was given a gorgeous treatment in the return of the mid-set acoustic slot sometimes reserved in Europe for Bruce’s darkest songs. But Patti joined Bruce here, adding a haunting second voice that seemed to represent the mystery of the contents of the mansion, a fitting symbol given the fact that Patti first entered Bruce’s musical life in a public way during the Born in the U.S.A Tour when Bruce had undoubtedly made enough money to buy a mansion – or a few – of his own.

IMG_4281
Another new t-shirt for this leg – front and back pictured.

Next up was the only tour premiere of the night: “Jack of All Trades,” in what was probably the most breathtaking version I’ve ever heard thanks to Bruce inviting the string section to accompany the Band again. They joined in after the third verse, and besides going silent for the final verse, their contributions – including a somewhat extended coda – really heightened the emotional effect of the song, which was only increased by the introduction Bruce shared as they were getting into position:

“I wrote this song five or six years ago when I was angry about a handful of people taking away so much. People lost their life savings, and their houses.”

Coming after “Death to My Hometown” and “Mansion on the Hill,” it was clear those lost houses were definitely not mansions. The only off-putting, almost outdated aspect of the song was the line, “If I had me a gun, I’d find the bastards and shoot ’em on sight.” Given the sad state of America’s relationship with the Second Amendment right now, the crowd’s much more subdued, almost nonexistent response to this lyric – especially compared with the ovation it used to receive – was totally understandable.

Yet almost on cue, Bruce switched his attention with “My Hometown” from America’s financial woes to its abhorrent obsession with guns, particularly when those guns are used to hurt people of color. After “The River” brought us back to examining how a downturn in America’s economy can affect an everyday relationship, Bruce returned to focusing on race with the much-delayed but MUCH-needed American premiere of “American Skin (41 Shots).” Though I would’ve appreciated another introduction here to really drive the point of the song home, the fact that people in the pit raised their arms in solidarity with Jake’s “hands up, don’t shoot” tribute made it clear some picked up the message loud and clear.

And as it often did in Europe, “The Promised Land” followed this socially-conscious stretch, a necessary reminder that all Americans should still believe in the possibility of turning this country into a promised land, despite its many rectifiable problems. Though such a long stretch of pitch-black, slooooow ballads was wholly unexpected given the stadium setting – as if Bruce temporarily forget where he was – it was nonetheless exceedingly refreshing to see Bruce finally being somewhat political in a time when we desperately need the clarity of his voice.[19]

Even though a majority of the remainder of the night was business as usual for the now-customarily predictable second half of the setlist, Bruce still managed to mix it up a little with some more Jersey-specific references. After making her voice HEARD on “Because the Night,” Bruce launched into a sort of ‘Patti two-pack’ with “She’s the One” and the return of “Brilliant Disguise.” Opening the encores a few songs later, Bruce introduced “Jungleland” by saying, “Here’s one for Jersey.”[20] After “Dancing in the Dark” featured a few Jersey nutjobs – said with love! – dancing on stage,[21] Bruce and Stevie took us all to the swamps of Jersey with the return to the encores of “Rosalita.”[22]

The night ended with one final tribute to Jersey: the sign request from earlier for “Jersey Girl,” which Bruce introduced with, “One more for Jersey!” Since the fireworks team held off on lighting up the sky until midway through the song – which ended with Bruce singing with Patti at her mic – it probably wasn’t a real audible, but that didn’t prevent the performance from being the perfect cap to the evening, one of the first where Bruce made clear with a nearly four hour setlist that he knew exactly where he was, making the night feel that much more special.

IMG_4314
Fireworks!

And yet…

And yet…

And yet…

If we’re judging on the Bruce scale – which means we’re only comparing it to other E Street concerts since we all know seeing them is still and always will be the best way to spend an evening – it wasn’t a GREAT show, even though it may have looked that way on paper.

For a reason that I think I know, I never got lost in the rock and roll ecstasy like I always do during the truly transcendent concerts.

Perhaps it was the jarringly inconsistent pace.

Perhaps it was the distractingly inadequate sound quality.

Perhaps it was simply a rude re-awakening on my part after becoming so accustomed to the lunacy of European crowds all summer.

But honestly, I’ve felt this way for as long as I’ve been following Bruce, so I’m just going to come right out and say it:

New Jersey is the most overrated, and thus one of the worst places to see Bruce in the entire world.

Why?

The crowds.

Now before all of you Garden Staters come for me with pitchforks, allow me to qualify these declarations:

Firstly, I’m of course not damning every single fan from New Jersey. Many of the people that have loved Bruce for the longest time hail from the state, including some of my favorite Bruce Buds, a lot of whom were in attendance on Tuesday. And everyone I met before the concert seemed like amazing people, so I don’t want it to sound like I’m making blanket statements about the whole of the New Jersey contingent of E Street Nation.

IMG_4276
Yet another new t-shirt for this leg – front and back pictured.

Secondly, I believe I’ve said this before, but I value crowd participation more than most. If you give me a choice between a concert that features ten tour premieres of true rarities but a terrible crowd, and a concert with no tour premieres but a phenomenal crowd, I’m going to choose the latter 11 times out of ten. Bruce of course always brings his A-game wherever he plays, but he also loves to feed off the energy of the crowd.

And that’s exactly what was almost entirely missing from Tuesday’s concert. One of the most important and special aspects of an E Street Band spectacular is feeling the reciprocal energy feedback between Bruce and the crowd. The best shows are those where Bruce gives his all, and in return the crowd gives him their all, and then he in return gives them even more, and they continue to up each other’s antes until either exhaustion or a curfew forces this exchange of affection to cease.

Yet on Tuesday, I felt almost no energy coming from the crowd towards Bruce. Sure, the pandering references in “Wrecking Ball” of course elicited some whoops and hollers, but those were more than offset by all the yapping and ill-timed yelps calling for Bruce to rock out during the many slower stretches, from “New York City Serenade” to all of the ballads in the middle of the set. And when Bruce isn’t feeling the contributions of a crowd, he makes it very obvious.

During “Spirit in the Night” – a song that he almost always uses to interact with the crowd as much as possible – he never loosely and jovially deviated from the lyrics as he did many times in Europe to call for crowd participation. Besides sitting on the center platform’s speaker with his legs dangling into the crowd and lying down on the side platform while singing, Bruce largely stuck to the script, probably because he knew trying to inspire any sort of impromptu response from the crowd would be futile. Later in the show, when he did try to engage the crowd in his customary “your hometown” call-and-response during “My Hometown,” he got almost nothing in return, no surprise given the fact that barely anyone audibly sung along to the chorus of “Hungry Heart” or the melody of “Out in the Street, ”two of his strongest stadium anthems.[23]

IMG_4323
Official Pit wristband and ticket. Can either be any less imaginative? Seriously, for all of the grief that TicketBastard puts us through, could they at the very least give us show-specific ticket designs?!

It was the epitome of a woefully average American crowd, and that brings me to my third qualification: the high expectations that are placed on shows in New Jersey obviously play a factor in how I – and others – assess them. There are of course many, many, MANY worse places to see him in this country, both in regards to crowd quality and the fact that he does seem to create more special moments by catering his setlists to speak to Jersey crowds in his home state. BUT, very few of those cities come with the level of expectations thrust onto his stops in Jersey. When I was in Europe, almost everyone dreamed of seeing Bruce in his home state.

And honestly, I don’t believe these expectations are unfair. People should want to see Bruce in New Jersey, and it should be one the best places to see him in the world because the state has always played such an important role in his music and career. E Street concerts have long been considered religious experiences, where a group of like-minded believers who share the values and ideals expressed in the Gospel of Springsteen can congregate to celebrate their worship of the soul minister baptizing his disciples in the power of rock and roll. As such, New Jersey should serve as the home church, since it’s where the religion was born.

A major component of any church service are the rituals, and Bruce concerts are no different, from the fist-pumping and chanting of “Badlands” to the spirit hands during “Born to Run.” If Jersey is to live up to moniker of Bruce’s home base – and it should, because it is – these rituals need to be stronger here than anywhere else. Unfortunately, a city less than 100 miles away from MetLife Stadium exceeds New Jersey in almost every Springsteen regard, and is currently the best place to see Bruce in America.

The main difference between crowds in Philadelphia and New Jersey seem to me to boil down to this: in Philadelphia, they want to outwardly show Bruce just how much he impresses them, whereas people in New Jersey look like they just sit/stand there, arms crossed, with a faint sense of entitlement waiting for him to impress them. They come across like he owes them at least that much since he’s one of them and New Jersey helped turn him into the superstar he is today. At the same time, it also feels like many people at shows in Jersey are there just to be there – to say they saw Springsteen in his home state – versus being there to enjoy the concerts as much as possible.[24] A combination of these factors prevents Jersey crowds from feeling like they’re giving themselves fully to the Boss of rock and roll, and thus they fail to elevate his game through the aforementioned energy feedback cycle in a way that only great crowds can.

IMG_4286
Self-explanatory…

And yet, I still hope that this was merely an off night, and deep down I do believe that Jersey crowds can live up to the expectations. In fact, a moment during Tuesday’s concert gave me such faith. I was lucky enough to be standing near Obie, long considered to be Bruce’s first and best fan.[25] Even though she’s probably attended an untold number of concerts at this point, I was deeply touched to see how consumed she was in Jake’s rendition of the “Jungleland” solo. She literally turned away from the stage, closed her eyes, and completely lost herself in the music with her hands in the air, as if she was in the midst of a deeply spiritual, religious experience. She’s been listening to this same solo since before I was even a glint in my parents’ eyes, and yet she appeared to be having a far more profound experience than anyone else in the stadium.

If she can still find new ways to appreciate some of Bruce’s oldest music, and if Bruce himself can still find new ways to inspire and be inspired by his music through all of the new stories that he told here, then I’m confident that Jersey crowds can find it in themselves to reverse their recent trend of less-than-stellar participation and instead transform their state into what all fans around the globe want it to be: one of the best places to see Bruce and the Band in the world. For how many memorable nights he’s given his home state – including this one – he deserves to come home to nothing less…

Click here to read my thoughts on night 2.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] I have a feeling this soundcheck may cover all three Jersey shows, kind of like how the songs played during the similarly lengthy soundchecks in Donostia/San Sebastián and Dublin ended up making appearances over the course of multiple concerts in the subsequent weeks. Unfortunately, if the history of this tour is to be repeated, that probably means those “lucky” fans waiting all day to get into the Pit won’t be treated to another soundcheck in Jersey.

[2] Some people reported that “Atlantic City” was also included, but I’m 99.9% sure it was merely a recording from a previous concert that the tech team almost always plays to get the sound levels as right as possible before Bruce and the Band come out for the proper soundcheck, thus allowing them only to need to make slight alterations while the Band is actually onstage. They usually go with “Atlantic City,” “The Ties That Bind,” or “Sherry Darling.” As such, if you hear any of those songs – especially if they’re repeated OVER AND OVER again, and ESPECIALLY if you hear crowd noises in the background – then it’s almost definitely merely a recording and not Bruce and the Band live. Another good indicator: real soundchecks are rarely held before 4pm, whereas the tech team will play these songs way before then. Truthfully, I initially believed that “New York City Serenade” was a mere recording because they were playing it well before 4pm…buuuuuut it’s now pretty clear they just needed some extra time to rehearse with the string section. Sorry for spending so much time explaining this – I just don’t want people to keep mistakenly believing they’re in the presence of greatness when in fact they’re simply in the presence of a compressed audio file!

[3] The exception to that rule are the covers that Bruce has basically made his own by playing them so often over the course of his career, from the “Detroit Medley” to “Trapped.”

[4] Which is in Norway, for those of you – like me – who had never heard of that city before this tour.

[5] I must admit that he DID open with “Who’ll Stop the Rain” because it had been raining all day, but that’s hardly specific to Norway and definitely had nothing to do with the massive ski jump inside the venue.

[6] The man is clearly in an autobiographical, Chapter and Verse mood, if you will.

[7] Caveat: I always hesitate to comment on sound quality because I’ve become more and more aware that your opinion will be largely based on where you’re sitting/standing. As such, I’d love to hear if others agree with my negative assessment. If most do, I find it absolutely confounding that Bruce’s team can deliver near-flawless sound quality at Circus Maximus – basically a giant dirt field surrounded by ruins in the middle of Rome – yet can’t seem to work out the kinks on Bruce’s home field.

[8] It’s actually a good song that’s simply been overplayed on recent tours. I wouldn’t mind hearing it every once in a while, but not over so many of Bruce’s other tunes that he largely – and bafflingly – neglects.

[9] I just wish that fans wouldn’t convey that resonance by obnoxiously cheering for every single mention of anything related to the tristate area. I understand wanting to show support for your home, but it actually disrupts the flow of the song in a significantly negative way, which I never realized until I heard the more streamlined, uninterrupted versions in Europe; it transformed from a bloated, crowd-pandering anthem to a fast-paced, crowd-pleasing anthem.

[10] Though I must say that slowing down the pace here didn’t work as well as it did at other shows because Bruce hadn’t yet established a consistently fast pace off of which to build. “New York City Serenade” was obviously slow, “Wrecking Ball” picked up the pace somewhat though it’s a very up-and-down song in its own right, “Badlands” notched up everything to 11, and then “Something in the Night” slowed things back down. I personally prefer his concerts that first establish an up-tempo foundation that he then proceeds to mix up over the course of the night; I never felt like he settled into a clear baseline pace here.

[11] A note that I should’ve specified many months ago: whenever I ‘quote’ Bruce during a concert, I’m obviously somewhat paraphrasing because I can’t type as fast as Bruce talks. Plus, the woeful sound made it hard to hear Bruce, and he’s not the world’s best annunciator in the first place (thus the reason I can’t just record his speeches).

[12] Perhaps this was only due to my own personal fatigue with these songs, but it really felt like “The Ties That Bind” somewhat sapped the energy in the stadium, especially around me in the Pit. Was that just a projection on my part, or did others sense that as well? If so, I’m a little torn about how Bruce should handle the River fare going forward. The album obviously gives this tour its namesake, so in a way Bruce should be playing some of the songs that the name of the tour promises…but how many people are really going to these shows who DIDN’T attend one in the spring? If the number’s as miniscule as I expect, perhaps Bruce should feel no obligation to play these songs since most will have probably gotten their full album River fix already? I really don’t know what I’d do if I was him…

[13] I have absolutely no citation to back up this claim because a random person told me that a while back (I don’t even remember who it was!). As such, take it with a stadium-sized grain of salt.

[14] “Working on the Highway” and “Darlington County” eliciting some of the loudest ovations of the night reaffirmed this theory.

[15] I concurred with his sentiment – why would anyone not want to see the Boss covering the King of Rock and Roll?!

[16] During the latter’s call-and-response portion with the rest of the Band, Bruce actually forgot Patti was in attendance and accidentally called Garry’s name even though he obviously didn’t have a mic in front of him.

[17] This may just be my dirty mind at work here, but was that a veiled joke about the year Bruce started masturbating?! If so, it HAS to be one of the first non-“Blinded By the Light” references to an “adolescent pump[ing] his way into his hat” during one of his concerts…

[18] If you agree with me…whiiiiiiich probably won’t be the case.

[19] The only potential downside of Bruce being confident enough to play so many downtempo tracks: could he have been testing how well the crowd responded to these songs to see if they can handle the entirety of The River – particularly the ballad-heavy sides three and four – on night 3?! Ever since Bruce decided to ‘treat’ the second or third nights of multi-show stints in cities such as Gothenburg and Oslo to full album performances, I’ve believed MetLife 3 and Citizens Bank Park 2 in Philly were going to get it. Great for anyone who didn’t attend any shows in the spring, but bad for those – like myself – who love to experience that signature E Street spontaneity. I’m going to take solace in the fact that – for the first time all tour – Alison Krauss’ “Down to the River to Pray” did not end the night…

[20] Even though the song has been played way too many times in this exact spot on this tour to claim it was special for Jersey in any way…

[21] Bruce first granted a man’s sign that read, “Who wants to dance with a bald guy?” Assuming the Boss couldn’t possibly want to dance with him, the sign-maker immediately ran past Bruce to go dance with himself on stage…until he saw Bruce’s jokingly dismayed face. They ended up sharing some goofy moves. Later in the song, a woman named Frankie who was called up to dance with Charlie kept asking Bruce to sign her arm…and he kept refusing. Also, I spotted my two favorite signs of the tour during the song: one read: “I was conceived to ‘Dancing in the Dark,” and the other – right next to it – had an arrow pointing to the first and read, “Sad but true.”

[22] My favorite moment of their performance: Little Steven kissing Tony – Bruce’s security guard – on the cheek midway through.

[23] I will give credit to the crowd for adding in all of the ‘oooos’ in between lines during “Dancing in the Dark.” I always love that.

[24] If you feel like neither of these descriptions apply to you, then I’m most probably not addressing you. Remember: not every fan from New Jersey conforms to these generalizations.

[25] I once heard a story – perhaps apocryphal – that she allowed him to sleep on her couch when he was a penniless struggling musician bumming around the Jersey shore. Even if it’s not true, this tale still conveys the commitment that Obie has always shown Bruce.

 

 

SETLIST

  1. New York City Serenade
  2. Wrecking Ball
  3. Badlands
  4. Something in the Night
  5. The Ties That Bind
  6. Sherry Darling
  7. Spirit in the Night
  8. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  9. Independence Day
  10. Hungry Heart
  11. Out in the Street
  12. Growin’ Up
  13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. Mansion on the Hill
  16. Jack of All Trades
  17. My Hometown
  18. The River
  19. American Skin (41 Shots)
  20. The Promised Land
  21. Working on the Highway
  22. Darlington County
  23. Because the Night
  24. She’s the One
  25. Brilliant Disguise
  26. The Rising
  27. Land of Hope and Dreams
  28. Jungleland
  29. Born to Run
  30. Dancing in the Dark
  31. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
  32. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  33. Shout
  34. Bobby Jean
  35. Jersey Girl

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “METLIFE 1: Something in THIS Night

  1. Anonymous

    I was at the first concert and totally disagree . The crowd was electrified and engaged in every way ! NJ is Bruce’s Church and he is worshiped and adored ! Who are you to say his hometown is anything but the quintessential place for his fans to show their love. What makes you the authority on how his fans react to the shows . Your articles are long , repetitive and quite frankly your opinions mean nothing to me . You became famous for wearing a plaid shirt and showing up at concerts . That’s it . You are by no means anything more than that , so take your negativity and passive aggressive comments and ………!

    Like

    1. I am no more of an authority on this topic than anyone else, including you. We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and we can voice them in any way – be it through this website (in my case) or this comment (in your case). In fact, discussing differences of opinion in a respectful manner can often lead to both of the “opposing” parties gaining a more enlightened perspective on whatever they disagree about. For instance, I was struck by your claim that “his hometown” of New Jersey (at least I’m assuming you meant New Jersey since I’d imagine you weren’t exclusively referring to Long Branch) is “the quintessential place for his fans to show their love.” I don’t believe there is – nor should there be – ONE quintessential place for his fans to do that; fans of his in every pocket of the world can express their love in any way they see fit. I would prefer for Jersey crowds to be more outwardly enthusiastic, but they of course have absolutely no obligation to be. My definition of a good crowd can be very different than your definition, and neither of us is objectively correct because this is all 100% subjective. As I explicitly wrote in the piece, no one should feel personally offended by my opinion because, again, it’s just an opinion. There are of course bushels upon bushels of amazing fans in New Jersey, many of whom I apologized to in my report of MetLife 2. In any case, none of them should have believed that I was criticizing them directly in any way. I just wish that you had taken the same consideration when writing your post, in which you lambast my writing (“Your articles are long , repetitive and quite frankly your opinions mean nothing to me .”) and then attack my character (“You are by no means anything more than that”) even though you really don’t know me at all (and I’m by no means “famous”). I always welcome constructive criticism, but these feel like unnecessarily vindictive slights. You are of course free to disagree with all of my opinions – I always expect most to do so – but the manner in which you expressed your grievances makes them seem like they were intended to hurt me. I never meant to hurt the feelings of any fans from Jersey, so I don’t think it’s justifiable for others to try to do that to me. But hey, that’s just my opinion, and if you think your comment was totally legitimate, then that’s your opinion and you’re free to voice it in whatever way you see fit. In any case, I do appreciate that you took the time to read my writing, and I’m sorry if I upset you in any way. I hope you know that wasn’t my intention, even though I feel like upsetting me was in fact your intention behind writing this post…

      Like

  2. Jay "Fatso"

    There’s no right and wrong here, just opinons. That said, Steven Strauss, I value your opinion a lot. I think you show a lot of insight in your blogposts. Your reports from Europe was a joy to read! In my opinion the interaction with the crowd is far more important than the set list.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s