Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Bruce Sprinsteen Live at the Pantages

Rule #1: When deciding which Springsteen show to go to in L.A., never pick opening night. For some reason industry people always end up at that show, and Bruce must know it. The crowd isn’t as alive and the set list is usually pretty straightforward. Although Monday night wasn’t a typical opener for The Boss (there were 4 tour premiers), Tuesday night was one of those special nights. And this wasn’t a “reserved” crowd like Monday night’s, giving him big ovations several times throughout the night. Probably the largest ovation came after a stunning version of “The River” with Bruce on piano. The second biggest ovation was probably for… Nils. Yep, Nils Lofgrin showed up near the end of the show to play acoustic lead on “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”.

This is the kind of tour that Springsteen fans dream of. He is adding and dropping songs like crazy so far. At least six songs from Tuesday’s show were not on Monday’s set list. He dropped Black Cowboys (one of my favorites on the new CD) but brought back “Racing in the Streets” (he has done this a few times on the tour). Instead of opening with to Reason to Believe (which was moved to the number 2 slot) he sat down at a pump organ and played My Beautiful Reward. It was a less dramatic opening, but was a nice lead-in to the intense Reason to Believe.

Reason to Believe was done with just voice and harmonica with a bullet mic and Bruce stomping on a board that had a microphone attached. The voice and harmonica were processed through a filter that distorted the hell out of it, making him sound like an old blues singer. The screens went to black and white adding to the effect. I think he may have gotten a bit too excited while singing it though. The pounding on the board caused not only the water on his piano to fall (someone spent some time under the piano cleaning up the mess) but the lamp on the piano fell also and broke (“Patti’s gonna kill me”… it was okay though. He got Nils to take the blame). He used the same filter on his voice for Johnny 99 near the end of the show. I think once was probably enough for that effect.

Bruce has been really getting into that falsetto/Roy Orbison thing lately, and he is doing it really well. Several songs ended with sections of him hitting really high notes (for him) as he hummed/yodeled. I gotta say though, his need to do that twang to his voice on some songs continues to be a little annoying. It isn’t him and it only distracts from the song.

Maybe the best parts of these shows are the stories. During Jesus was an Only Son, he would stop and a la VH1 Storytellers, would describe the next section of the song. He did it so naturally though; it felt like it was part of the song. He did 2 boarder crossing songs, The Line and Matamoras Banks. During the later he made his most political speech, asking for a humane immigration law. Matamoras Banks is sung in reverse chronological order, starting with the floating body in the river that never made it across the boarder. The only real shot he took at president Bush was his public unwillingness to agree that evolution happened. During these moments the crowd would try and applaud his words and he would stop them. “Nope, Nope, stop… don’t want to be preaching to choir” (something like that). He then went on to talk about the hate mail he received after the last set of shows; which he enjoyed receiving. His favorite was a box of his records and a dead chicken. He liked that one.

The sound at the Pantages was fantastic. His voice came through crystal clear. You could understand all of his stories without straining and it was actually easier to understand the lyrics on the new songs than when listening to the CD. What a fantastic evening.

The set list, courtesy of (I believe the all cap songs are tour premiers):

1. MY BEAUTIFUL REWARD (on pump organ)
2. Reason to Believe
3. Devils and Dust
4. Youngstown
6. Long Time Comin'
7. Silver Palomino
8. THE RIVER (on piano)
10. Part Man, Part Monkey
13. Reno
14. Racing in the Street (on piano)
15. The Rising
16. Further On (Up the Road)
17. Jesus Was an Only Son (on piano)
18. Leah
19. The Hitter
20. Matamoras Banks

21. Johnny 99
22. If I Should Fall Behind (on guitar)
23. Waitin' on a Sunny Day (w/ Nils)
24. The Promised Land

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