Incident on 7th Street Redux

And the band played on.

The second half of the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's double-header was a very slight letdown after Sunday's terrific opening salvo.

Nothing wrong with Monday's performance, per se - just that the intensity seemed to be off early in the show. Less energy flowing from the audience to the stage, perhaps, giving Bruce and the band less to work with. On the other hand, the sound was much better - to the point that you could clearly hear most of Roy Bittan's piano lines. And the band (and crowd) did dial it up eventually. The encore was pure fire.

The set was shortened by a song (and exactly six minutes), and there were a few new entries - some wholly welcome ("Thunder Road"!), some absolutely not (Patti's "Town Called Heartbreak"). There was a new face in the crowd, too, at least in my section: Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, who emerged from the backstage area with a copy of the set list, which he flashed to the folks in the free-for-all G.A. section of the floor just before the show began.

In case you missed it, here's how it went down:

Radio Nowhere: The song doesn't crackle quite like it did on Sunday. Could just be me, having already been here, heard this. But I think there's an energy issue in the room. Sunday's crowd was exceptional from the start. Monday's: Less so. Is anybody alive out there?

The Ties That Bind: A big change from the first night, when "No Surrender" filled this slot - and "The River" wasn't represented in the set. "Now you can't break the ties that bi-yi-yi-yi-ind!" Bruce sings. There's something charmingly wobbly about this performance. There's something wonderfully indulgent about a five-guitar attack, too.

Lonesome Day: Attending a Springsteen concert is a little bit like going to a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening, as you really have to know your cues. Here, it's "it's all right" repeated three times - at which point, the lights flash the crowd, whose members are supposed to raise their arms in the air and scream "YEAH!" in unison.

Gypsy Biker: Another strong performance, once again highlighted by Bruce and Little Stevie's searing, tangled riffs.

Magic: You'd like to think that Springsteen doesn't work from a script, but he's recycling his banter from the previous night's show almost verbatim. He does, however, do something new in the introduction, dedicating the song to D.C., which he jokingly calls "the city of magic." A brief blast of feedback during Bruce and Patti's tandem howling is deflating.

Reason to Believe: Love the piano fills and Nils Lofgren's explosive riffs. These guys could be a pretty fine blues band if they wanted to.

Jackson Cage: Another new addition - and a second song from "The River." But Springsteen sounds somewhat flat. "Night" was significantly better in this slot on Sunday night. (Speaking of Sunday, here's Jersey boy Scott Galupo's first-night take, from the Washington Times.)

She's The One: The energy seems to surge during this arena-rattling stomp that's driven by Max Weinberg's drums.

Livin' in the Future: More recycled banter as Bruce riffs on civil liberties and a Constitution under attack. This time, he says there's something about D.C. "that reminds me of the handle on the screwdriver." Danny Federici's Hammond break sparkles.

The Promised Land: Sunday, Springsteen talked about wounded soldiers from the Bethesda Naval Hospital in introducing this one. Monday, he turns his attention to Walter Reed and notes that "we're humbled by their service and sacrifice." The performance is, once again, deeply soulful.

Town Called Heartbreak: Patti's song takes over the space that previously belonged to "I'll Work For Your Love." It's heartbreaking, indeed, that this filled one of the set's 23 precious slots when so many great Springsteen songs were left out. Good for household harmony perhaps, but not for Bruce Springsteen fans who go to a Bruce Springsteen show to hear Bruce Springsteen songs. Strangely enough, Wenner, who's been seated for the entire show, stands up for this one. Perhaps his leg is cramping? Or maybe he's tired of me looking at his argyle socks, which were clearly visible when he had his feet up on the rail.

Backstreets: An inspired choice, taking over for "Tunnel of Love." Inspired performance, too.

Working on the Highway: A joyous reminder that as serious as Springsteen can get, he can also flat-out have fun.

Devil's Arcade: The lyrics are too vague for my tastes, but I love the way the song closes with that kick-drum heartbeat.

The Rising: Lofgren's slide guitar, the churchy vocals, the pounding beat - they all move the song skyward. By the by, listen closely to the drums the next time you hear this one in concert and think of "Billie Jean." Yes, the Michael Jackson song. It's uncanny.

Last to Die: Strangely enough, the symphonic intro to this one sounds a lot like a Smashing Pumpkins song. Namely, "Tonight, Tonight." I'll take Bruce's growling over Billy Corgan's nasally bray any day. The rant doesn't sound quite as fiery as it did Sunday, but it comes close.

Long Walk Home: Springsteen's furious riffing is a highlight.

Badlands: Hearing 20,000 some-odd people shouting "I don't give a damn!" at high volume is a thing of beauty. The energy clearly issue isn't an issue anymore. This is one of the night's clear highlights.

ENCORE

Girls in Their Summer Clothes: If Don Henley and Brian Wilson wrote a song for Bruce Springsteen, this might be it.

Thunder Road: The opening harmonica line sends a shiver through the crowd. "He just made my night," the fan next to me says. When Bruce beings to sing, accompanied only by The Professor's piano - it's over. A total gimme, but it's a great performance of one of Springsteen's greatest songs. It's a painful trade, though, as "Thunder Road" stands in where two songs existed on Sunday: The 1973 tracks "Growin' Up" and "Kitty's Back."

Born to Run: The house lights are cranked up, and you can see clear across the arena, and people are going absolutely ape. There's something funny about everybody diving into the "tramps like us" line as the crowd doesn't seem to be particularly trampy. But who knows what lurks beneath...

Dancing in the Dark: The lights are still up, and the audience is still going ape. The band is really attacking this song. So much momentum in this encore.

American Land: Another unbridled performance as Springsteen et al make one final, boot-stomping statement before leaving the stage after just under 2 hours and 10 minutes.

The crowd hangs out - and on - hoping for at least one more encore, but it's not gonna happen.

Eddie, Rosalita and the little dolly with the blue jeans on will have to wait until another night.

By J. Freedom du Lac |  November 13, 2007; 8:35 AM ET Concerts , Set Lists , Springsteen
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Great insights. So if you had to put together a 23 song set for these two nights not using any of the songs Bruce sang what would it be? What song do you ned the regular set with? And the 5 song encore would be...

Posted by: Stephen | November 13, 2007 8:53 AM

I had seats in the upper arena behind the stage. The energy came through, but the sound was atrocious. Couldn't understand a word he said and few that he sang. I don't think there was a single speaker pointed our way, but could be wrong, of course. Maybe that's why people were talking and text-messaging so much during the concert up where we were.

Posted by: AlbertHall | November 13, 2007 8:58 AM

in response to that 1st question:
atlantic city
growin up
blinded by the light
lost in the flood
jungleland
born in the usa
im on fire
glory days
brilliant disguise
seeds (acoustic)
streets of philly
streets of fire
nothing man
kittys back
the promise
the angel
factory
tougher than the rest
secret garden
because the night
ghost of tom joad
prove it all night

Posted by: mike | November 13, 2007 9:05 AM

Bruce rocked it last night. Beginning to end.

I find the review above way too metric in its analysis, i.e. last this song substituted for that one and he played six minutes less. Who cares? The concert experience so much more about what the performance did for you, rather than about what you didn't hear. Sure, we all have a dream set list, but the chances of hitting all those in one show is pretty slim. Be glad you were in attendance on either night for Bruce running on high octane.

Posted by: B-town | November 13, 2007 9:14 AM

I noticed the difference in the crowd on Monday immediately. On Sunday, whordes of fans from NY/NJ/Philly came down for the show. They fueled the energy level. Last night, the crowd was distinctly Washingtonian - staid, reserved, wearing sweaters instead of concert tees. I was the only person in my section who knew the words to Jackson Cage.

The Monday show took on a new life when Bruce dedicated Gypsy Biker to the wounded veterans in attendance. I've been to 3 shows on this tour and that was the best Biker so far. I hated to see that Blinded by the Light was bumped from the encore setlist, but having been bumped for Thunder Road, I can't complain much.

The Springsteen Web site announced spring shows this morning, and I'll be going when he returns. Remember that the early tour dates tend to be loaded with many of the new songs. By the later portion of the tour, Bruce knows what works and what flops. You'll see old classics return and perhaps 5-6 new songs in the mix (remember that Rosalita surfaced in Europe in 2003 and found its way into the summer tour). Summer, stadium tailgates, and Bruce. It's going to be a great 2008.

Posted by: mikeschim | November 13, 2007 9:28 AM

For what it's worth Mikechim, the St. Paul and Anaheim dates are on the current concert tee, so there's nothing too new so far. He did say we'dsee him again next year, so I'm going to assume that there's going to be a stadium tour again over the summer.

I thoguht the set ripped pretty well through the night. I think I would have prefered to have had patyt doing her own set liek she was supposed to be doing for the tour rather than taking up a slot on Bruce's part of the night, but I thought the sogn they sang was perfectly fine.

Albert, I think we were sitting in the same area. I guess that what we get for being low rollers in the "cheap" seats, if 65 can really be cheap, but I didn't think it was totally awful. I've heard much worse. His mic only seemed to drop out completely twice.

Posted by: EricS | November 13, 2007 10:14 AM

I was in angel city,on monday night(the rafters."Thanx Ticketmaster".).
The sound got a little garbled,but I still enjoyed it.
Whats with the long wait?2 hours?Allot of missing favorites,too?
Thank God he didn,t sing "Born in the USA",I wouldn,t want that one to be misinterpreted,again.
I really wanted to hear the songs from 73',but the "Magic" songs were a nice change from the otherwise disappointing last few albums(yes,albums.Im a geezer!)
It was also my first appearance in the Verizon center,for a concert.The place seems comfortable enough,but do we now serve alcohol at concerts?
I saw a few over indulged people swan dive into the rows below,with some nasty results.
I never saw this insanity at the Capital center,and from such otherwise "grown up" fans.
May I suggest no more sales of hard liquor,please?
As for the prices,Bruce better give me 3 hours for this kind of money,next time regardless of his age.
Oh,and no more on-line ticket sales.You only help the scalpers,and the fans lose out.Word!

Posted by: Charlie | November 13, 2007 10:45 AM

...have been seeing Bruce since 1974, many 70s & 80s shows, last night was excellent IMO and I enjoyed "Town Called Heartbreak" ... was in Sec. 218, perhaps the best sound I've heard at any Bruce show since the small venue days of the 70s, crisp vocals, Nils too low in the mix at times, but a great, great show IMO>>>

Posted by: fendertweed | November 13, 2007 10:56 AM

A brilliant concert last night, happy times! I have seen Bruce over the years in Sweden, UK and US.........and while all shows have been great, to see him and the band still crank that energy when now in their latter years is great. Had great seats but do agree the sound let them down at times, as just not clear enough and should have been.

Posted by: Eamonn | November 13, 2007 10:59 AM

does anyone know who "andrew" was -- the person he referred to at sunday night's show, saying "he was always welcome at any e street band event"? just wondering if it's my ex, who introduced me to all things bruce many moons ago, and harkens from a neighboring town to freehold.

Posted by: carolyn | November 13, 2007 11:16 AM

In response to the previous post, I sure as hell hope it was me he was referring to, although I doubt it. I was there on Sunday night, and I am from new Jersey! I contacted Columbia Records to see if I could e-mail Bruce before Sunday's show to let him know that Childe Harold just closed. I guess just wishful thinking on my part!

Posted by: Andrew | November 13, 2007 11:38 AM

enjoyable show with lots of energy but I thought the sound was pretty bad-overloud and distorted. I was in a suite on the same yard line as the sound board so would think sound would be optimum. God to see the Boss again but more from Nils and less Stevie please.

Posted by: Jay | November 13, 2007 11:45 AM

Attended both shows. I liked Sunday's show a lot, but Monday's show was off-the-charts spectacular. I agree with the poster that said that Monday's sound mix (even in the uppers)was the best I've ever heard in an arena venue, whereas Sunday's sound mix was downright off-putting. Maybe it's all about where you're sitting, but last night I clearly heard all the instruments and I was as far away from the stage as one could be without being under the Chinatown arch.

Musically, the band seemed like they were on fire all night. Versions of "She's the One," "Long Walk Home," "Reason to Believe," "The Rising" and "Backstreets." threatened to take the roof off the place. To these eyes and ears, Bruce also seemed much more fired up than on Sunday. (I know he's always fired up but last night he seemed like a man possessed.)

The crowd was collectively as spectacular as the band. Maybe you could argue a drop-off in energy, but I'd like to think it was more about being in presence of something musically amazing. Simply put, Monday's show seemed more about the musics than the crowd. Not only could you hear a pin drop during "Magic" ... but you could have knocked me over with a feather when Bruce said "sssh sssh" in time with the opening strains of "Reason to Believe" and people actually stopped clapping! Simply put, I've never been under roof with a better bunch.

I guess my Springsteen concerts number in the 20s since 1975 when I saw him at Carton Barron Ampitheatre. Monday night's show was one of the top three shows I've ever seen by anyone, be it Bruce, Stones, Prince, or otherwise.

People can carp about setlists, the relatively short duration of the show, ticket prices, alcohol sales, et. al. From my vantage point, it was all beyond amazing -- a fabulous rock 'n roll experience.

Posted by: LarryLev | November 13, 2007 11:49 AM

Does anyone know why he kept the audience waiting for over an hour on Sunday and Monday's performance? It left me a bit bitter. Having years of experience working with performers, I realize situations arise but are usually followed by an apology or explanation. Does Bruce lke to play the "keep em waitning" game? I once witnessed Neil Young stomp off stage becuase he claimed the crowd wouldn't be quiet enough for him.
I think the crowd was not energized because he did a string of new releases that many people were not familiar with - those wanting the "old Bruce" had to wait through the song list. Maybe better had he sprinkled them in earlier.

Posted by: Sue | November 13, 2007 12:03 PM

Sue --

I haven't been to a concert that has started on time in 30 years. Evidently, the crowd on both nights understood that --the arena wasn't even half-full at the time printed on the ticket.

What's more, I wouldn't blame the "lack of energy" on new material. The Sunday crowd got the same new songs in the same order (and even got one additional Magic song, "I'll Work For Your Love") and there seemed to be no such energy issues on Night #1.

Posted by: LarryLev | November 13, 2007 12:35 PM

Good to see that Tim Russert and George Stephanolpolis made the Gossip page as being spotted at the Springsteen concert on Sunday night. Now I know who was jamming up Ticketmaster to sell the show out before it went on sale. Ever get the feeling you've been cheated.

Posted by: I am Better than You | November 13, 2007 12:38 PM

If you are going to whine about ticket prices,stay home and count your pennies.As for the play list complaints,Bruce would have to play for two days without a break for us all to hear every song we want to hear.Excluding the fake Boss fans, both shows were typical Bruce....AWESOME !!

Posted by: Bruce | November 13, 2007 1:06 PM

Hey Charlie, if you can't hold your liquor don't drink in public. For those of us who can, a couple cocktails with the Boss is a great nite.You whined about every part of the evening, I feel sorry for your date. That is if you even had one. Maybe you should stick to listening to records in your mom's basement!

Posted by: Bruce | November 13, 2007 1:11 PM

What did Patty do with all that money Bruce gave her ? What money ? The money he gave her for singing lessons !

Posted by: Bill | November 13, 2007 1:22 PM

Charlie, may I reccomend that yo urent Heavy Metal Parking Lot sometime to see what people were like back at the old place? Granted, that was in the parking lot and for a Judas Priest show, but there were plenty of people totally hammered.

I think it was kind of nice that the band has figured out how to work a lighting rig a bit more than they used to for a more dynamic visual presence. I also thought the energy was great last night, especially for the encore. Most DC crowds don't get that jazzed up at big shows. I remember the Clapton show last year and the crowd was completely dead.

Posted by: EricS | November 13, 2007 1:22 PM

I don't know for sure what it was, but out of the 40 or more times that I have seen him, last night was not up to par. Granted, it could be that the 400 level experience (still requiring being extorted on eBay) leaves a lot to be desired, but a few additional rants:
The hour delay till start was way too long. 30 minutes is typical for Bruce, so what was up with that?
Painfully loud at times with occassional feedback issues
A Patti song?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
2 hours?

I'll still take a Springsteen show over any other living artist any day, so I feel a little guilty offering up any criticism. It's just that it ain't like it used to be (and I know, it is possible that this has more to do with me getting older). But I'll be back to the tent again the next time around for sure.

Posted by: SheriffBart | November 13, 2007 1:36 PM

Everyone in the men's room line appreciated Patty's song. It was like a quick intermission!

Posted by: Jake | November 13, 2007 3:01 PM

Did a big fat bump just before the opening. Radio Nowhere never sounded better.Rest of the concert was awesome, just tried to keep up with Bruce's energy level even with the help i had. Bruce can still rock out !

Posted by: Cheech | November 13, 2007 3:09 PM

I'm baffled by earlier posters who claim to have seen 20-30 shows, yet complain that he played too much new stuff. If you just want to hear the same old songs over and over, stay home and listen to the albums (and save a lot of money). People with that kind of "I just want to hear what I know" mindset annoy me almost as much as chatterboxes who pay $100 to go to a concert, then sit and yak during the show. Having attended every Bruce tour since 1978, I want to see him performing songs I've never experienced before, whether it's new stuff or seldom-played "deep cuts" (like "Kitty's Back," a highlight of Sunday's show). Frankly, I don't care if I ever seen him play "Born to Run" again. As an earlier poster noted, one of his most artistically rewarding shows was the "Devils and Dust" solo tour. And as others have pointed out, any TRUE Bruce fan knows that when he's touring behind a new album, he's gonna play it!

Posted by: John | November 13, 2007 3:32 PM

I was at both shows. Sunday was much, much better. I was in section 411 last night. It was a zoo. Too many people completely plastered. Two guys fell in to the row in front of them because they were so wasted! One guy fell right on to a dad and his 10 year old daughter - poor girl was crying her eyes out. Some other people a few rows in front of us were smoking pot the whole night. I'm not a complete prude but it was just over powering. All in all the crowd in section 411 really ruined the night. There was so much commotion around us that it was impossible to really get in to the show.

Also is it just me or is the sound at Verizon Center terrible? I saw Bruce during The Rising tour last time at Verizon and the last two nights and the sound was *terrible* all three shows. Impossible to make out what he was saying between songs. Maybe I'm getting old but it just seemed way way too loud.

Posted by: Corey | November 13, 2007 3:35 PM

I could tell Patti wasn't lip-syncing cause my ears were bleeding. I wonder what it is that she does sooo well to/for Bruce because we know it isn't singing.

Posted by: Ouch | November 13, 2007 3:41 PM

Springsteen shows have been starting 50 minutes after the time on the ticket for years. Deal with it--clearly most fans do, and know not to show up until well after 8 pm for a 7:30 show. It is what it is. If you don't like it--or Patti, or the sound (fine where I was sitting), or the setlist there are many, many people who'd be glad to have your ticket.

Incidentally, Darlington County and Blinded by the Light were both on the written setlist as alternates, but not played.

Posted by: 45 shows and counting | November 13, 2007 4:00 PM

Several have commented about the abbreviated length of the shows. I was at the Aug. 2002 Rising show, which I think was only the 2d or 3d show of the tour. It was also brief. However, when he came back from Europe and did the stadiums in 2003, he added the 2d encores. He also mixed it up more during the main set. More songs, more energy. I think he and the band are still a work in progress for this part of the tour, and the next part in 2008 will be different. I'm still waiting for "The Price You Pay."

Posted by: Leonard | November 13, 2007 4:27 PM

if you want to determine the ticket price, what time the show starts and what songs are played then start your own band; only don't bother telling us about it. You already suck !

Posted by: Bruce fan | November 13, 2007 4:43 PM

In the dozens of shows I've seen since 1978, none have started any earlier than 45 minutes after the posted time. It allows everyone to get in, get their drinks and find their seats.
The sound in the Verizon Center totally varies depending on your location. I was in 218 last night too, with an earlier poster, and it was crystal clear perfect. Elsewhere, not so good. You'd think science would have figured out how to mix a rock show in a huge arena, but I guess not.

Posted by: Kid TJ | November 13, 2007 5:04 PM

Been a Boss fan more than three decades since I first saw him on the Born to Run tour back in '75

"Devil's Arcade," gotta take issue with you there -- song is awesome, "the beat of your heart" chant just gives me chills.

I predict it'll be a soundtrack staple of every Iraq-related movie for the next ten years.

I was at the Sunday show, your critique of Monday made me grateful for my choice of evenings. I can die happy having heard "Kitty's Back" live.

Posted by: old 55 | November 13, 2007 5:10 PM

This was my 287th Springsteen show and have to say that his wife Linda hasn't sounded as good since Silly Love Songs

Posted by: I am Better than You | November 13, 2007 5:31 PM

I went Monday with my 16 year old son, we sat in section 408 and we had a great group of fans. The ladies next to me pulled out pics of Bruce from the 70's from Jersey club shows and my son started to see that with Bruce the feelings run deep. He hasn't developed a relationship with an artist yet and I think he was secretly charmed by it. I agree with J. Frees breakdown of the show, I was kind of suprised by the way it unfurled and when he let Patti sing I was floored. However this was still a great show, I admit I've only seen him five times, but this show was so full of complex emotions that it stunned me. The emotional texture his songs acquire live is riveting. To me it exemplifies what makes bruce such a great artist. He knows life is tough but he really does believe in the promised land of America and for a fifty year old dad to share this optimism with a typically cynical 16 year old hip hop fan and see him as excited as me by the end was truly memorable and a gift to cherish.

Posted by: winehound | November 13, 2007 10:03 PM

What was up with the Big Man? Clarence looked like he was suffering from major arthritis. His legs were bowed & he couldn't bend to bow. Anyone know what's up there? I hate to see the boys getting older, but he's the one that really looked hurting up there...

Posted by: Born in the NYC | November 13, 2007 11:15 PM

Born in NYC: Clarence had both hips replaced a few years ago. He's moving better now than he did on the Vote For Change tour, but he still takes a seat when he needs a break.

Posted by: Big Man Fan | November 14, 2007 2:05 AM

I had no idea how much I missed Thunder Road until I heard it tonight. I heard Thundercrack in Philly, love it, and looked forward to it again tonight. Then Thunder Road started and my heart soared. Best Bruce Song Ever! Absolutely perfect in everyway a song can be perfect. The crowd was overjoyed to hear it again...like seeing a long lost friend. It was a very special moment, and I'm a jaded old Bruce fan who saw her first show back in 1979.

Another highlight was Reason to Believe. I love how he's reinvented that song. Simply amazing.

Was John Kerry there? He dedicated "Last to Die" to John, who testified before Congress during the Vietnam War and asked, "who'll be the last to die for a mistake?" Another nice moment.

"Long Walk Home" is my favorite song on the new album. It makes me weepy every time. Lyrically, it's poignant and passionate.

And, J-Free, me thinks you might be correct thinking you're too old to appreciate "Girls in Their Summer Clothes." Trust me, that song is an aphrodisiac for any red-blooded, middle-aged former Jersey Girl. :) We hug our hubbies just a bit tighter, sway to Bruce's crooning voice, rejoice in his wistful grin and remember how we felt the first time we heard Bruce sing "Jersey Girl" live. That's why "Girls" is a great song. :)

I do agree with you, though, that the Seeger Sessions tour was something special. The Nissan Show was probably my favorite concert. Ever.

Posted by: Jersey Mom | November 14, 2007 2:15 AM

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