Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bruce Springsteen at The Greek Theater, Los Angeles

So many things went racing through my head as I watched Bruce Springsteen and his 17 piece band perform last night at the Greek. I was reminded of the power and fun of watching Lyle Lovett and his Large Band playing in Austin last year; all top notch musicians and everyone taking solos. Memories raced back to the earlier days when Bruce and the E Street Band would finish off their sets playing a half hour of dance music with everyone up dancing and singing along. The chandeliers reminded me of The Last Waltz; a film/concert that washed across the musical landscape bringing us great music from so many different directions. And here was Bruce, doing all of that and even more.

There is an old theory: Put two drummers on stage and you will have one powerful performance. You could probably add a theory that says: Put more than a dozen people on stage and you don’t really need the extra drummer. So, take that theory and then add BRUUUUCE and it was an evening to remember. We were up dancing and singing along throughout the two and a half hour performance. Bruce was a bit leery about getting an L.A. crowd to sing along, and early on we didn’t disappoint him. But after a few tasty remarks about just how bad we were, the crowd built up some energy and by the time Jacobs Ladder came around, even the record company stooges, were singing along.

Most of the music was from the Seeger Sessions CD, but Bruce would throw in a song of his own every so often. With a unique band like this you can’t just play the songs straight up, even if they fit that way. If I Should Fall Behind was done in a waltz tempo, giving it a mid 1900’s feel. Ramrod was reshuffled with a Cajun beat. Even Johnny 99 was reformatted to fit the full band.

Probably the biggest star of the evening (outside of Bruce) was the horn section. Many of the songs, even the more folk ones, ended up as New Orleans Dixieland jam sessions with the horn section providing the power. With some powerful gospel influences thrown in, Bruce pretty much covered twentieth century Americana; although with more power than most of the original writers of these fine songs could have ever imagined.

It was a great evening all around. Bruce shows are always a time to renew friendships and make new friends (A few friends of mine actually ended up in the same row, just 4 seats away. How funny is that?). It is and always will be as much a musical experience as it is a communal gathering. I took my brother-in-law to the show. He has been a Pete Seeger fan for over 40 years. He loved it. I don’t think he was prepared for a Springsteen performance (and I know he wasn’t prepared for my Springsteen friends who are all Springsteen all the time, when there is a tour). If you have the chance to see this show somewhere, do go. You will have a great time. I promise.

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