Bruce Springsteen & the E-street band
The Forum, Los Angeles, 24 August 2002
Plenty has been written already aboutThe Rising record and about the show. I just offer a regular mopes-eye-view of what Springsteen is doing this time around. What I see as brilliant in this show is the way he uses old songs to reinforce the theme that he is dealing with this time. Besides songs from The Rising, he is focusing on songs from 'Darkness On The Edge of Town'. Much as been made of the connection between the two albums.
1978 was when I first got hooked on Springsteen. I remember being sceptical of all the hype of the Time and Newsweek cover stories that surrounded 'Born To Run'. The "next big thing" and "future of rock and roll" stuff was a bit much. Then 'Darkness...' came out, I gave it a chance, and that was that. I saw him at the L.A. Forum in '78 and I joined the disciples.
I remember a statement from him back then, that was a response to questions about the bleakness of the songs on 'Darkness...'. He said that he made sure that "all four corners" (first and last songs of each side of the LP) had some hope of transcendence from despair. Those are the songs from Darkness that he is doing in this show. He played 'Badlands' and 'The Promised Land' in LA this time, and has been playing Darkness at other shows. Transcendence from despair is what he's on about. His answer, as it has always been, is that we can rise above our anguish through community; music is his means to that community, and he pleads for us to join him. The truly inspirational power of his music has never been greater. If any of you have been part of the community of a Springsteen show, you know what I mean. His shows bring together redneck hoo-ya's with folks who over-analyze this stuff (like me) into a unique group of people, celebrating what's good in all of us.
He's not just having fun when he goes into his Gospel/Preacher thing, as he did beautifully in 'Mary's Place', 'Empty Sky', and 'My City Of Ruins'. I've read that Blues is music of endurance, of enduring the pain of life, and Gospel is music of redemption from despair. Springsteen is the absolute master of mixing those two together in one song. He's never done it better than he's doing it right now. He's one of the blackest white guys around (in the league ofVan The Man).
The development of his theme was really impressive. These are some of the lyrics that flowed through the show (notice how the tide turns by 'The Promised Land' - "I packed my bags?"):
"There's spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood bind me" (The Rising)
"Long black line in front of Holy Cross
Blood moon risin' in a sky of black dust" (The Fuse)
"I woke up this morning to the empty sky"
"God's drifting in heaven, devil's in the mailbox
I got dust on my shoes, nothing but teardrops" (Empty Sky)
"I packed my bags and I'm heading straight into the storm" (The Promised Land)
"Let's throw the truth away, we'll find it in this kiss
In your skin upon my skin, in the beating of our hearts
May the living let us in, before the dead tear us apart" (Worlds Apart)
"Your loving grace surrounds me
I dream of you in my arms
I lose myself in the crowd" (Mary's Place)
"This Train carries broken-hearted
This Train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This Train carries fools and kings
This Train, all aboard"
(Land of Hope and Dreams)
Some say he should drop 'Worlds Apart' from the show. That would be missing the point. Here he raises the ante, by challenging us to reject hatred, to even love our enemies. That's not easy for Americans to hear these days. In '41 Shots' he slips in the question (about racial bigotry), "Is it in your heart?". This show isn't Ronnie Reagan waving the flag to 'Born In The USA'.
Of course this stuff isn't only about the 9/11 losses. The genius of his writing makes the music about the loss of your loved one. These songs certainly helped my wife and me get through the recent deaths of a close relative and a neighbour. These stories of the victims' families are the medium for those victims to show us the way to healing our wounds. Not many pop artists have the integrity and mutual respect with their audience to risk such a thing. Bruce does, and his humility and integrity are there, in every note he sings.
Set List - Forum, LA, 28 August 2002:
Prove It All Night
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Countin' on a Miracle
Into the Fire
Dancing in the Dark
Born to Run
My City of Ruins
Born in the U.S.A.
Land of Hope and Dreams
Check out a review of Bruce
Springsteen live in Dublin in 1999.
Check out a review of the Bruce Springsteen album 'The Essential Collection'.
Click here for a review of Bruce's album 'The Rising'.