Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Halloween Eve Show October 30, 2007

The lights went out and the crowd roared. Smoke filled the stage. Instead of circus music, eerie organ music played. Up onto the stage, 6 zombie like men carrying a coffin approached. They placed the coffin down and from inside an arm rose. It required something and Little Steven knew what it needed. He handed it a guitar. They raised the coffin and Bruce stepped out. That was October 31, 1980. And they recreated the scene last night! It was my first Springsteen show ever and this was my final Bruce Springsteen show of this tour. And what a night it was; including one BIG treat from Bruce. But, let's start at the beginning...

A friend, who I owe deeply now, got me a ticket through the band will call. I asked for a floor ticket not knowing that the band will call doesn't open until 6:30 the night of the show. When I found this out last night, I complained to one of the people who was working the booth who I knew worked for the promoter. He asked me my name and said, don't worry, you'll have one. Being a promoter, I didn't trust him, so I came early to the show. I'm still not sure why I came early, but at 3:30, there I was in the Sports Arena parking lot. I wandered around and couldn't find anyone I knew, so I went back to my car, turned on the radio and figured I would check email. No sooner do I turn on the radio then a car pulls up next to me. During Bruce's stadium tour (was that 4 or 5 years ago already?) I traveled to San Francisco with a group of strangers to see Bruce atPac Bell Park. They were friends of a friend. We sat in the pit that night (what a good omen). And there they were, parked next to me. So, I spent the next couple hours hanging with them, drinkingKetel One and eating some very good turkey wraps. Also in the group was Bill who flew in from Chicago for the show. Maybe Deb knows him. :-) They all had floor seats and should have been nervous about getting in the pit, but there was a serene confidence about them. They knew they were going to get in. As they waited for the numbers to be called, Joy, made a final karma move, selling her extra floor seat to a guy for $20. Moments later they found out they were in the pit (barely).

So, while they lined up, I went over to the will call area to wait. There I met Markus, the lead singer and songwriter of The Latebirds, a Finnish band. I plan to check them out when time allows. We had a great conversation about all sorts of things. And it turned out he was even a huge Sam Phillips fan. I didn't have time to tell him about how I proposed to her though. At 6:35, the window finally opened, I got my ticket, looked inside and... I WAS IN THE PIT!!!!! Putting on my wristband I headed inside (okay, the truth is that there was a long line to get in if you had floor seats so it was a good ten minutes before I actually headed in) and met up with Joy and all her friends. We were having a great time, but I was thirsty. Because we were all late getting into the pit, there were no real spots that needed to be saved so I could easily come and go as I needed. Wandering around the outside area, I walked past a section that probably needed to be guarded, but there was no one there. So there I was. And there was Nils? And Max? And Roy? And And... Little Steven!!! I ran back to the pit, grabbed Joy and Bill and said, "Little Steve is right over there (pointing) RIGHT NOW". We ran back to the spot and... He got a big hug from Joy, and a handshake from me. Bill got his picture taken with Roy and well, could the night get any better? YES.

So, Bruce comes out of the coffin and just like every other night on the tour yells the perfect Halloween yell, "Is anybody alive out there!" And on went the show. This was my first real pit show and man was it good. Bruce was having fun the band was alive! Nothing compares when you're that close (I may have been standing on the equivalent of 8th or 10th row). He did Tunnel of Love and Nils just ripped the solo. Everyone was talking about it afterwards. Reason to Believe just exploded. Patti's "Town CalledHeartbreak " was so intimate, with Bruce and Patti so close exchanging vocals. It was a great show, but we wanted a gift. And during the encore we got one. Bruce said, "Here's apre -Halloween treat for Los Angeles". It only took two notes for the place to go crazy. I was told by a good authority he has never played "Kitty's Back" in Los Angeles. If he has, it's been a long long time. And man! They played it like it was a regular on the set list. Bruce's solo kicked ass and the band was so tight. I still haven't come down. So, how do you top that? The only way you can, segue it into Born To Run. I may never recover. Soon the show was over. We all stood there, dazed. What an amazing night. What a great show. I sure hope someone taped it.

Setlist (from www.backstreets.com):
Radio Nowhere
The Ties That Bind
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason to Believe
Night
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Tunnel of Love
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Kitty's Back
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bruce Springsteen Los Angeles Sports Arena October 29th 2007

This is round 2 of a 3 rounder for me. We had seats in the upper level, but row 8, and in the corner. It turns out that it is actually closer then the back of the lower level in Oakland. I love the Sports Arena!

As we started to go in, I heard someone yell, "Bruuuuce". Well, I've gotten used to ignoring my name at Springsteen shows, but I turned anyway. It was Randy and Sue. I always know that at the L.A. Bruce shows I'm going to run into old friends. It is one of the many reasons I love these shows.

Things did not start out good for The Boss on this evening. The show opens with circus music playing as the band walks out. The music kept stopping and starting (not supposed to happen) with a loud scratch like they were having a connection problem every time it started back up. And later in the evening (was it at the beginning of Backstreets, I can't remember) it got worse as the low end, probably from the bass guitar got way out of hand and sent vibrations through the cement walls of the arena.

Otherwise, it was a great show. The audience started out really loud and excited for an L.A. crowd. But, watching from the upper level, they seemed to relax as the show went on. By the end though, with the Born to Run into Dancing in the Dark combo, they were up and singing/screaming.

This was a first night show, which generally has been considered not as good as the second night shows. Probably because I've spent too much time listening to the tour boots, but it seemed just too familiar. There were no tour premiers this night either. But it was an excellent show with great moments.

The heat! Did I mention the heat? We were sweating before the show even started. Bruce brought it up a couple of times and even brought water out to the crowd. At least one girl fainted from the heat (I guessing it was the heat). Bruce was very nice and even asked about her during the show.

There are lots of things I love about this tour. He has taken the folky "Reason to Believe", and turned it into a blazing blues number that brings down the house every night. Think, Chis Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Thing", starting with just harmonica and drums and then exploding with the band joining in. Gypsy Bikers culminates with Bruce and Little Steven trading blistering guitar solos. During "Magic", there are two vertical screens and the video camera picks up Bruce on one and Patti on the other. Very cool effect. Many of the new songs really come to life in concert. I especially love how powerful "Devils Arcade" comes off.

I'm crossing my fingers that I'm in the pit tonight. If not I'm going to be very pissed at a couple of SFX people who made promises last night. Meanwhile, here is the set list, brought to you by www.backstreets.com .


Setlist:
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason to Believe
Candy's Room
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Town Called Heartbreak
Backstreets
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thundercrack
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Oakland October 26, 2007

This has really been a long strange week. The first half of the week was actually pretty normal, other than the working too hard thing. But then I got the call from my friend Kim. An old friend of ours JimCreasy had died. Now Jim was supposed to die back around the end of the 70's. He had been diagnosed with diabetes and according to him, didn't have much time left. Shortly after that , he moved to Kentucky to be with family. In 1999, he came out to visit. This would be his last visit. He wasn't expected to live much longer. But live he did. He came very close to making it to my wedding, but at the last minute his doctor discouraged him from going. When we went to Nashville last month, we were hoping to meet up with him. Again, it fell through. Jim Loved The Who. To him, Pete Townsend was the closest thing to God on earth. His love of music was as great as any one I know. Back in the 90's his album collection was around 10,000. His 45 collection was twice that. Every year he made a couple dozenCDs (in the old days it was tapes) of rare weird fun Christmas music. I was lucky enough to be on the short list that received these wonderfulCDs . Last weekend Jim wrote me and asked me to send him some of the Bruce boots from the tour this year. He wasn't a big fan, probably because you can only have one God, but he had learned to respect him. My friend Deborah, one of the biggest Bruce fans I know, was one of Jim's closest friends. This has been really tough on her. We've been talking throughout the weekend; part Jim, part Bruce. She convinced Chris Carter to dedicate a song to him on his show today. She also gave him a boot of the only E Street Beatles cover. Meanwhile, I'm the hub for all the information about Jim. So, while I'm emotionally excited about the Springsteen shows, I'm also in the middle of... all of this.

We caught the 5PM plane to Oakland, arrived at around 6:30 (it was so nice to be breathing the clean air up there), took a cab to the hotel (he went the wrong way, of course... It was his first day on the job), convinced him to wait while we checked in and then jumped back in the cab and headed over to the Oracle Center (or whatever the name is these days). Arriving at around 7:30, we had a good 45 minutes to relax (Bruce never starts his shows on time) which allowed us to chat with Bruce fans. You can bad mouth the fans of today all you want (I'll never disagree), but Springsteen fans are a different breed. We had nice conversations with 3 different groups of people around us. One gentleman left early, but handed me his card and said, "keep this", several times.

We were at the back of the lower level (the last row actually); Not bad seats. But as soon as I saw that we were under an awning, I got nervous. The sound often bounces off of awnings and makes it real hard to enjoy the music let alone understand what is being said. The lights went out and the crowd roared. This was a good west coast crowd. Although they really had no idea what to do duringThundercrack (hell, I barely knew what to do), they still came through time and again when required. Yes, if you haven't peaked at any of the set lists for the tour, Bruce has brought out a real real real oldie. One that has only been released on his Tracks box set. And the sound? It was great. Maybe the cleanest sound I've had at a Bruce show, when not up close. It might have been a bit loud, but that could have just been that I don't go to arena shows anymore.

This tour is a more compact show, clocking in usually at around two and a quarter hours; which is exactly where we ended up on Friday night. Still, he fits in 23 plus songs each night. This is accomplished by cutting out all the talking. Bruce's raps are minimal, giving interesting but quick intros to "Magic" and"Livin ' in the Future" and the shortest band intros of the E Street's entire concert life. What this means though, is that the pacing has to be different. No time for a slow middle, which he normally has. And although the pace does drop at times, the band quickly picks it up on the next song. The back to back combo of Tunnel of Love into Racing in the Streets, was excellent, but may have slowed down the show a bit too much. Had this been a 3 hour show, it would have worked much better. He did come out of that duo with a bang, rocking his way through "Working on the Highway", a great replacement for the usual Cadillac Ranch or Ramrod.

Dancing in the Dark is back as a regular on the set list. Audience participation is so important for E Street shows and throwing this one next to Born To Run really creates a tremendous amount energy within the crowd. It's like a fight, with BTR providing the deadly punch and DITD finishing us off with the knockout punch. The show always closes with American Land, Bruce's Seegerish fiddlin' rave. It is a great closer; one that keeps everyone on their feet, clapping and singing.

After the show I pulled out the card that was handed to me and read the note the guy had written on it. He had lost his wife to breast cancer this year. The Bruce shows were obviously something they shared, so this show must have, for him, been bitter sweet. We all want to share the Bruce experience with others. This was his way of reaching out.

I was so tired after the show, I literally hit the bed and was fast asleep. In the morning we headed into The City to catch up with Maria's family. In between meals, Maria did some work while I hit Rasputin Records. Rasputin in San Francisco and San Jose has a reputation for having a much better progressive rock selection then Amoeba, and I walked away with a nice selection ofCDs including some that I never had on vinyl including music from Yes, Pink Floyd, Steve Hackett and Steve Howe. I also picked up some used CDs that were on my recent to-buy list: A Fine Frenzy, Iron and Wine and The Cake Sale (really cool gathering of musicians to support world wide fare trade including: LisaHannigan, Glen Hansard, Damien Rice and Josh Ritter). And fitting the weekend and the last month, I found a live CD from Shooter Jennings who we saw at the Grand Ole Opry. The band is introduced on the CD by Little Steven. Hows that for timing.

Okay, I'm ready for the next two shows this week!

Setlist:
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Lonesome Day
Gypsy Biker
Magic
Reason to Believe
Two Hearts
She's the One
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Tunnel of Love
Racing in the Street
Working on the Highway
Devil's Arcade
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
Badlands
* * *
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
Thundercrack
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
American Land

Saturday, October 20, 2007

New Music for October

Wow. So much music, so little attention span. :-) Okay, seriously, there is a lot to cover here. I spent most of September in the South and Southwest and am so glad to be home. But there is so much catching up to do now. These CDs that have been added to the play list are in no particular order. There are some indie bands and some new bands. A couple are on their sophomore release and several are long time favorites that you all know about. Please take a few minutes and flip through the whole list. I'm sure there is something here you'll like.

Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior (2007)
This new CD from long time guitar hero and all round great artist is a rocker. Most of the songs are classic Thompson, with wonderful insights, cool melodies and sweet guitar licks.
Marshall Dabney - Crown Jewel (2006)
The great thing about today's music industry is that an artist who is willing to go it alone can create music the way he sees fit. And that brings us to Marshall Dabney, a superb guitarist who has built a wonderful CD that is part prog rock, maybe a touch jazz, part guitar fun and all very 70's; but in a good way. I really enjoyed the fun instrumentals; a reminder that you don't have to add cheesy lyrics to a song when a good guitar is all you may need.
Sun Volt - The Search (2007)
Is that horns I hear? Hmmm. Here is a fun description: Son Volt is a cross between REM and Bob Mould. That is the way the new CD strikes me. Its the same great voice with melodies to fit.
Josh Ritter - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter (2007)
From the opening chords of "to the dogs or whatever" I was hooked. I liked his last CD, but I LOVE this one. The recording feels sort of low tech, and maybe that adds to the fun. Yep, this is fun CD. Now that's not to say that the songs are lightweight, they just all feel so good. The best will have you not only tapping your feet, but will have you singing along almost instantly. Go buy this... Now.
White Stripes - Icky Thump (2007)
Back to a more straight forward sound, Jack and Meg have created another potent CD. I'm reminded of the power duos from the early 70's (what am I saying? Power duos?) except without the excess. And Jack Black is still one of the most creative guitarists alive.
Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade (2007)
It's a more modern sound with some drum tracks and maybe even some scratching, but there is no doubt it is still Steve Earle. This is a strong CD with only a minimum of outright political attacks but a maximum of strong social discovery as he talks about his move to New York City and the love of his life, Allison Moorer. She sings backup on this CD and their voices sound wonderful together. I highly recommend this CD for both old and new fans.
Eliza Gilkyson - Your Town Tonight (2007)
I just discovered Eliza earlier this year and have only seen her as an opening act. So this live CD is such a pleasure to listen to. But nothing prepared me for her rendition of her father's "Green Fields". Wow! If you are a fan of Eliza's or have wondered about her, this is a great way to get introduced.
Jesse Malin - Glitter in the Gutter (2007)
The lineage of New Jersey rockers continues and with this CD Jesse is just about ready to join the big boys. A duet with The Boss helps, but Jesse can stand on his own, thank you. Great rockin' CD.
Bill Harvey - bear sick (2007)
As Bob Schneider's guitar player, Billy played a mean guitar. But on his own, his sound is more soft, acoustic and quirky. And with each CD the songwriting continues to get better and better. At times his songwriting reminds me of Steve Poltz, without the outrageous humor.
The Section Quartet - Fuzzbox (2007)
No one rocks harder with strings and bows than The Section Quartet. Their first major label release continues where their indie CD left off: creating great quartet arrangements to rock songs. Obviously the arrangements are what makes their sound so good. But it is the song selection that makes their CDs worth buying. Rarely going with the obvious choice, they cover Bowie, but it is "The Man Who Sold The World"; not one that most people can remember the tune to. But you say to yourself, "I know that song". It really is fun listening to their CDs (or live for that mater) the first time. It is not all rarities though. Following Bowie is the 90's classic "Black Hole Sun" and then Led Zep's Heartbreaker. Too old school for you? How about "No One Knows" from Queens of the Stone Age? Eric, Daphne, Leah and Richard understand music. They can see the beauty and complexity in what most of us see as just rock and roll. And most important... My daughter, the budding artist, says it is great to paint to. So there you have it.
Luke Powers - Picture Book (2007)
When I was young I believed that the words were the song. As I got older I fell in love with great playing. But the words kept creeping in. Some of those progressive bands in the 70's sounded so good, but the lyrics? So, if you listen to words, you end up listening to singer/songwriters. And ultimately, you're going to find yourself on the fringes of country music because good country and folk music loves a good story (something beyond losing the wife, the dog and the house as the train goes by). And Luke Powers writes a good story. You're going to laugh. You're going to cry. Well, okay, maybe not cry. But whoever "Mr. Yeah Yeah Yeah" is must be a pretty pitiful person. And did Luke really see JFK driving a pickup truck? Have I peaked your interest? I hope so, because I loved listening to these folk/country/whatever stories. http://www.phoebeclaire.com/BIO/lukepowersbio.htm
Julia Albert - ...More Real Than This (2007)
This little 5 song EP grabbed my interest because... well... I know, you've heard this a bunch of times, but... there is some Kate Bush in her. And I'm a sucker for anyone who reminds me of her. This is much more pop than Kate though. Still this EP makes me want to hear more. http://www.myspace.com/juliaalbertmusic
Patti Scialfa - Play it as it Lays (2007)
I was on an exercise bike in Memphis a few weeks ago and put on this CD. Searching for inspiration, Patti sings, "I'm Looking for Elvis down a Memphis road". And I was hooked. I loved both of Patti's previous CDs, but they pale in comparison to this beautiful CD from a very mature woman dealing with life and her art. I went several workout sessions in a row with this CD on because I just couldn't get enough of it. I hear she sings one of her songs during Bruce's tour. I, for one, will be looking forward to that part of the show.
Graham Parker & the Figgs - 103 in June - Live in Chicago (2006)
You can feel the sweat dripping off the guitars on this CD. On a very warm night in Chicago a few years back, Graham and the Figgs rocked hard for a club full of frenzied fans. I saw them around this time and remember being totally exhausted at the end (and I was sitting). This is what rock and roll is all about. So, support your local independent record dealer, 'cause that is the only place this is available.
Once - Music from the Motion Picture (2007)
I had never followed the Frames and so therefore had no idea what I was in for when I sat down to watch this movie a couple months ago. What a brilliant movie and CD. When it is available for sale, buy it. And then pick up this CD or Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "The Swell Season". And I'm guessing you may want to pick up all of the Frames' CDs. That was the way I came out of the movie. It is passionate acoustic music that will just knock you over.
Bruce Robison - It Came From San Antonio (2007)
The title track to this short CD is an homage to The Sir Douglas Quintet, who were actually from San Antonio not Liverpool as many people believed back in the 60's. It is a great little rocker that totally captures the style and sound of the day. The rest of the CD is just really good songwriting from a man who is best known as the husband of Kelly Willis. But he has written songs for people like George Straight and, of course, Kelly. It is a short CD and can be picked up real cheap on his web site. Pick it up while you can. You won't be disappointed. http://www.brucerobison.com/
Lori Mckenna - Unglamorous (2007)
If radio were playing "music" these days, Unglamorous would be a guaranteed crossover hit for Lori. Her folk/country style is never overshadowed by over production which would allow mellower rock stations to play her music. Country stations would pick up on the great stories and overall fun spirit that is all over this CD. Lori is a really good songwriter and deserves to be listened to. I will be playing a lot of this CD on the stream.
Joni Mitchell - Shine (2007)
Joni is no longer the pop artist. She hasn't been for decades. During her big "comeback" in the 90's, she stripped her music back down to an acoustic level, but it still wasn't "pop". What it was though was strikingly social-political. Songs like "Sex Kills" still ring true 10 years later. "Shine" brings back the jazzy band sound and keeps the strong attack on the problems in this world. If you truly loved Joni for her lyrics, you will love this CD. But if you are looking for pretty melodies about lost love, you might want to pick up one of her older albums. This would be a better world if more grandmothers were as outspoken as Joni.
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight (2007)
Jenny Lewis and friends take a shot at the more straightforward and direct sound. It's easier to swallow. But don't worry. They are too quirky to be totally commercial. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.
Ann Wilson - Hope & Glory (2007)
For her first solo CD, Ann has decided to pick songs that she loves and that she feels are important in this day and age to sing for us. She has also gather some of her friends (you know most of them) to sing and play with her. The result is a strong cover CD from one of the finest voices in rock.
Bruce Springsteen - Magic (2007)
The Boss is rocking this time out. Obviously, The Promise is a big fan, so any review would be just a bit partisan. What I will say is that the CD grows on me with each listen. And as I listen to the bootlegs of his current tour, the magic of this CD really starts to show through.
Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature (2007)
His unique, flamenco inspired guitar playing drives his sound. With his soft voice on top of the guitar, you are pulled into his world. He is like no one I have ever heard, and yet his sound is so familiar. I once compared him to Nick Drake. That may be closest you are going to get.
John Fogerty - Revival (2007)
A perfect title for a near perfect return to form. John has resurrected the sound and feel of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The melodies, the syncopation, the voice... It is all here. But the CD doesn't dwell on the past. John just uses it as a launching pad for some of the best music he has written since the CCR days.
Peter Bradley Adams - Gather Up (2006)
Like floating down a calm river, Peter Bradley Adams' new CD is a continuation of his eastmountainsouth CD, providing a soft, beautiful landscape of music to rest our weary bones on. At times he reminds me of the soft side of Jackson Brown. This is a less traditional CD then the last, but it is just so darn beautiful, it really doesn't matter what's going on here.
Emiko - Here Lies Tinkerbell (2003)
Sexy, brash, straight talking, funky... All this and a beat you can dance to. Her attitude reminds me of early Alanis, but she is much more upfront with her sexuality. Enjoy this CD now, before the pop mainstream destroys her. http://www.emikomusic.com

Music Hall Link - Cowboy Junkies 4-1-1996 listen