The Boss in Vancouver

Bruce Springsteen in Vancouver

Stop. Before you read any more of what I have to say, go read Lauren’s beautiful take on the concert. She’ll describe it much more beautifully than I. She also experienced a very different concert than I. Perhaps the one I wanted to have.

Much like Lauren, seeing Bruce Springsteen live was on my musical bucket list (& perhaps my actual list). I knew going into the show that this would be a tidy, soul-based, big-band experience. But it didn’t connect for me. Maybe it was my vantage point. I was high up, slightly behind the stage as you can see from the instagram above.

It irked me that the band started the show in “mid-concert” form – there was no warming up the crowd, we were just suppose to already be fully swayed by the awesome that is the band, and call-and-answer, sing-along and glory by the end of the first bar. I wasn’t. I don’t care you are, you earn my devotion through the course of a show, not before I show up.

Watching from above, the show seemed so choreographed,  so pre-planned that nothing felt spontaneous. I got the distinct impression that the hand gestures, the rock-god posing – it would have happened whether there was an adoring audience or not – not that there’s ever any fear of there not being an adoring audience at a stadium rock show.

What I love most about live music is seeing musicians on stage who appear to truly love being there, who are present in that moment, with whom I can share a sense of a special moment. At one point Bruce said that he loves his job. Which is great, I’m glad. But I guess I want him to pretend, for me, that playing live shows isn’t a job – it’s a passion, something he simply couldn’t exist without. Because no matter how much you love your job, you can walk away, leave it behind and get back to your life.

I can’t fault the band’s stellar muscianship, his showmanship or the effort put into the show. I cannot believe that at his age Bruce Springsteen can still work a stage the way he does. Hell, I couldn’t keep up with him, and I’m only slightly over half his age (he’s, I believe, 64; I’m 35). But the whole event felt clinical, precise to me. Cynical, even.

The Boss

Last night at GM Place, one of my life’s dreams actually came true: I saw Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band play live. It may not be the most aspiring of dreams, but it was one of mine, as I’ve been a huge fan, much to the scorn of many friends, ever since I was a little kid listening to my brother’s copy of Born in the USA on the record player at home [note: It may actually have been my folks, or my sister’s, but Stuart does seem the most likely owner of that album].

I had planned to twitter the set list as the show went on, but, 3 songs in, I was so engrossed in the stellar performance I simply forgot. It was pure, basic rock’n’roll at it’s finest. The man (and his band) may nearing 60 years old, but he plays with such, such wild abandon and such intensity that he comes across as fierce as I’ve ever seen. His voice is a little hoarser, and loud notes are shouted rather than sung, but it really doesn’t matter when he’s yelling “Baby we were born to run”.

The E-Street band are so tight it’s scary. The only act I’ve seen that is comparable is Crazy Horse, Neil Young’s sometime-backing band. It’s an apt comparison, I think, given that their stage acts are very similar, despite the very different temperaments of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

The show was your standard late-career-rocker mix of new album material (not a bad choice, as Magic is fantastic) and older fan favourites, with a pair of obscure tracks to please the fanatics (he dug up an outtake from Born in the USA for one track, at the request of someone he ran into the previous night who’d been following the tour around).

Rock’n’roll bliss!

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