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A DEBT OF GRATITUDE.
on April 8, 2005
Q: What transforms a guy who formerly shrugged off Springteen into a die hard fanatic in one lighting-bolt of an electric moment?
All of a sudden, I "get it."
Let me set the scene: I came home, dogged and tired, from work. I turned on the TV which, thanks to my roommate at the time, was tuned to MTV (I mention my roommate was watching because I despise MTV, both for what it has become and its contribution to; scratch that; its LEADERSHIP of, all that has become wrong with pop music today). And to add insult ot injury, who's video was on? Creed. Without getting off on a rant of what is probably a hundred reasons why, I'll simply say I hate f**king Creed! For the purpose of the story I do have to mention perhaps the biggest reason why: they are laughably fake in their stupid posturing and are poor performers at that. Their standard riffs and the laughable b.s. that is their overly-rightous lyrics simply enhance this disgusting sherade. So I let out a sigh of contempt, because I can't do a thing about their stupifying success, and move forward to HBO to see if I can catch a movie; and what's on? Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band Live in New York. Towards the end of a song (later I would come to know and love it as "Out In the Street") Bruce was prancing around the stage as the crowd chanted a chorus of, "Oh-oh-oh-oh!" I watched for a minute, smiled at the fun he and his band, whoever these guys are, were having, and decided to move on. Then a funny thing happened. All of a sudden there was a close-up of Bruce's sweaty face. His face red, he stood at the mic and shouted, "New York City!" The crowd screamed. He yelled it again. They screamed louder, drums thudering in the background. One more time: "New York City!!!" The crowd reached near meltdown. "Lets Go! One! Two!" A crisp piano plays the opening notes to "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," as the audience "sings" along to the melody. Bruce walks the stage, throwing his arms in the air, pointing at every section of the audience, an I-Mean-Business look on his face. I gotta see what happens. After a long work-up, he jumps off the piano he has now taken to, runs back to his mic, and again: "One, two, three, four!!!" The band busts full-force into the song and I am feeling something very exciting. As I watch Bruce rip through this song with more vigor, passion and flat-out rock chops than maybe anyone I've ever seen, I think to myself, now this is how it should be! This is ow its done! THIS is why I hate Creed and all their ilk! I flip back to MTV for a split second. Creed is still on (it must have been more than just one video - treat!). I flip back to Bruce. And back to Creed again. The difference is staggering. I'm flipping thinking, "rock star, douche bag. Rock star, douche bag." Back to Springsteen one last time and I say there. How could it get better. He hadn't introduced the band yet. After the band intro I was giddy with excitment from all the energy the was radiating out of Bruce, his band, the obvious love and comrodere between them; and the audience for that matter, and myself. The song is coming to a close, still at full force and Bruce, obviously tired, but somehow more vitalized than when he started, throws up his hand and yells, "Save me somebody!"
As it turns out, Bruce saved me. I finally understood why he is so popular. I never got the whole "Church of Springsteen" thing and never thought his biggest songs I heard growing up were anything so special. I liked them fine, but I like a lot of songs and artists. I only regard a handfull as beign something more; something special. Turns out I never gave Bruce enough of a chance.
Since 2000 when this all went down I have become a die hard Boss fan. I have all the albums, I've been fortunate enough to see him a few times (thanks to "The Rising" and its tour coming right on the heels of my new found love and respect for the Boss as a performer and his lyrics), I've found quite a few songs that have inspired me in one way or another, I've gotten others into him and, God help me, I even karaoke his stuff. I consider myself on board with those who have been with him as far back as they can remember, because I feel like I have been too.
"Tenth Avenue," which is roughly 3 songs from the end of the HBO version, was what drew me in. The concert would soon be over and, obviously, I had fallen hard. Both for Springsteen and this live performance. I was kicking myself for not coming to this realization sooner, but I could not wait to right this terrible wrong. I rushed out and picked up the DVD and watched it over and over. At the same time I bought the cd version and listened to it over and over. This, other than previously purchasing "Greatest His" in '95 when I was 16 (even as a non-die hard Bruce fan I knew then that it was severly lacking in many a great songs; I just didn't realize how many), was my main introduction to the Boss. Years later, I wouldn't have the introduction any other way. Knowing what I now know about Bruce, his songs in various versions, and his live performances, the stuff captured here ranks among his best. At least in terms putting someone-new-to-Bruce's jaw on the floor.
So after going back and listening to all Bruce's stuff, falling in love with much of it, and driving everyone crazy who doesn't share my fascination with him (although most who watch this and have heard some of the stuff I told them they just had to hear, do see what I'm talking about; even if it doesn't convert them the way it did me, they can see there is so much more to Bruce than they ever thought and now understand why he is a legen to so many), I can honestly say that "Live in NYC" improves on many of Bruce's best works. And that's not an easy thing.
I've read some people complain about a relative lack of hits and standards here, but what is here is as good as anything he has ever done. To see the setlist does not do the quality justice since Bruce improves on so much and does so much differently. Emotionally, every song benefits from his live energy. Besides "Tenth Ave..." standouts include "Atlantic City," which completely reinvents the song. Bruce's vocals are so tight, so emotive, they send chills. Ditto "Youngstown" and "Lost In the Flood." All three of these songs best their album versions here. Only the DVD contains performances of "Backstreets" and "Darknes On the Edge Of Town," and its a damn shame there wasn't room for them on the CD because they too fall into the better-live category. Again, its the emotion in both the vocal quality as well as the all around playing; from Bruce's guitar work to the band's playing as a whole. I've been trying to get these audio versions ("Darkness" apears on the "Waiting on a Sunny Day" single along with "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" from these NYC shows; but "Backstreets" remains MIA). "Light of Day" works in the same vein as "Tenth Avenue...," with Bruce takin' us to church and baptising us with his gospel of rock n' roll. It is an energetic, frenzied moment that will get you on your feet as if a you were just hit with 1,000 volts of electricity. Most concerts should be so lucky as to have one moment such as this. This show has (at least) two.
And I can't begin to explain his guitar chops on "Prove It All Night" and "Murder Inc." He is phenomenal to watch work that axe. Both the DVD and CD give all the guitar solos a big, blistering, stand out sound. You've never heard Bruce like this in the studio (this guitar-hero-greatness extends on an equal, and maybe larger, scale on the Barcelona DVD, if only because there are more chances for him bust it out on that set).
For that legendary E-Street comrodere, you can't beat "Tenth Ave..." here, but "Two Hearts," the super-chardged, cut-lose fun of "Ramrod," the block party that is "Out in the Street," and the emotional bond of "If I Should Fall Behind," are all a thing of beauty to behold - especially during this reunion phase. This crew needs eachother. Just look at Bruce's "Plugged" from his E-Street departure days - they are not the same apart. Yes, Bruce is a solo artist and the songs are his, but he is never better than when he is with his brothers (and first lady) at his side. Together they make his songs theirs - and ours. This is a band - not Bruce and some backing band. They are not replaceable. Even "E-Steet Shuffle," which plays over the end credits, sounds so good and so fun, I wish we could see the performance and I wish it were included on the CD.
So maybe there was a reason I had to stomach Creed after all. Oh yeah, and as far as this item, if I didn't mention it; get it! Both the DVD and CD.
It may just change your life.