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The Boss Thursday Night

By Tony Hicks
Thursday, October 25th, 2007 at 11:37 pm in Uncategorized.

Well, I was right to a degree. The new material off Bruce Springsteen’s new record “Magic,” sounded better after I saw him and his E Street Band play much of it live Thursday night at the Oracle Arena.

That said – it still wasn’t enough. That was a memorable Springsteen show, just not for the right reasons.

My theory was that Springsteen, who’s usually the best live rock act on the planet, would elevate the mediocre (for him) new material in a live setting. I was hoping it would benefit from the electricity (magic?) the band usually produces on stage.

But that wasn’t even the biggest problem. Yes, he played too many songs from the new record without enough classics to balance out the songs people didn’t know. But, at two hours and ten minutes, the show was at least 50 minutes shorter than any previous Springsteen show I’d seen. I know, most shows run a standard 90 minutes. Those are mortal bands. Sorry, but when you’re as good as Sprinsgteen, and you usually work that hard, you create expectations.

But what was really troubling was, while still better than 95 percent of the rock shows you’ll see in your life, this was disjointed. People were sitting down – definitely not the norm at a Springsteen show. The rock and roll preaching, the high-fiving, the connections that make the E Street Band one of the world’s greatest rock bands, was missing Thursday.

It was all very perfunctory. For them, anyway. The show only got going once they ripped into “Badlands” about 90 minutes in. Suddenly, everything was right. But the lights came up way too soon for “Born to Run,” which usually closes the show. And, though there were still a few songs afterward, it was obvious that something wasn’t right.

Maybe Springsteen is getting tired. He’s been working mighty hard the past six years, including last year’s triumphant “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Seesions,” after which he toured one of his best shows ever. It seems that “Magic” was pushed out too early. It could’ve benefitted from another year of cooking and some better songs. I don’t care that Rolling Stone and all the usual music mags say it’s a 5-star record. It’s not even close. Anytime one of the usual “genius” artists (Springsteen, Dylan, Radiohead, whomever) trot out something new, some critics feel it’s their job to explain why they know it’s brilliant and you don’t. Only this time, they’re wrong, and that was proven Thursday night. When a show relies heavily on newer, mediocre material, the show can’t help but be mediocre. Which, for Springsteen, is unacceptable. His career has lasted too long, and been too brilliant, to settle for anything less. The usual effort just wasn’t there, nor were the results.

I know a lot of people going to tonight’s (Friday night’s) show. Hopefully, for them, Thursday was an aberration. Maybe I’ll wake up Friday morning with a clearer perspective on Thursday. But I doubt it.

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7 Responses to “The Boss Thursday Night”

  1. Mike Says:

    You really seem to be writing what many people have been thinking but are surprised that no one is writing about. That is: The album and show are good, but we son’t expect good from Bruce, especially in his live show. This may be the last tour with the E Streeters, because I don’t plan to go if they tour again…

  2. Larry Levinson Says:

    Mr. Hicks: Get your facts straight before they hit the paper. “This American Land” not “Born to Run” has closed the show on every stop on this tour.

    Second, you can’t say the concert was better than 95% of the shows you’ll see in your life and THEN say it didn’t really get going until they played “Badlands” which ended the primary portion of the show.

    Third, your statement about the new material being mediocre is very subjective but your certainly entitled to your opinion; what’s interesting is that you don’t extend to other rock critics … “only this time they’re WRONG?” Why … because YOU say so?

    Most people feel “Magic” is Springsteen’s most accessible album in years. I’ve seen the show in two cities and nothing I heard proves your theory about the material bogging down the concert.

    Finally, acknowledge that Bruce and the E Street band are mostly in their late 50s-early 60s and the physical energy that got them through four-hour concert marathons just doesn’t exist anymore, which doesn’t make their 2 hr. 30 minute show any less compelling.

    I almost never write comments like this. But considering that what I read in your column was contradictory, factually incorrect, and opinion passing as gospel, the time and effort seemed only appropriate.

  3. Jon Says:

    I don’t think Badlands “ended the primary portion of the show.” I thought it started the only really great portion of the show, which was the last twenty minutes. For me, it was less the material than the energy level – they seemed flat and a little perfunctory to me, too for most of the concert (and yes, that is a subjective opinion). The last Springsteen concert I saw was at PacBell Park and pretty much a waste, the sound quality was so bad. But I still remember the first LA show of the Born in the USA tour. Maybe that was a once-in-a-lifetime-experience, and not a fair comparison. But I was a little disappointed in the overall experience last night. And at the very end, that was the first time I’ve heard actual “Boos” (and not “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce”) at a Springsteen concert when it ended waaaaaaaay too early.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Its funny, every show people want the same old songs…River,Darkness,Thunder Road, Jungleland, etc…The dude is 58 years old..do expect the same 4 hour show like BintheUSA when he was 35…I mean cmon…5 songs out of 12 off the new album and thats alot…i dont really believe you are a true rock critic…also 2 hours and 20 minutes…$100 face value..what do the police, Van Halen, etc charge for the same exact show every night, $200 for top seat $125 for cheap seats…The Boss is still best in the business

  5. Larry Levinson Says:

    Your article said the “concert was still better than 95% of the concerts you’ll see in your life. “Badlands” was the 18th song in a 23-song set. So what you’re saying a concert that was still better than 95% of the concerts you’ll see didn’t get going until 77% of the show was already in the can. Sorry … in my book anyway, that’s contradictory.

    And, for the record, Oakland shouldn’t feel cheated. All of the shows on this tour have been pretty much the same length. One rock critic actually stated that the shows on this tour were much more intense and far less inflated with empty patter. I disagree with that guy as well, but … different strokes, eh? Music is as subjective as anything — even music as simple and rockingly straightforward as the stuff on “Magic,” which, by the way, I didn’t need to have a rock critic explain to me.

  6. woujie Says:

    Not going on Thursday, I can’t comment on that show..HOWEVER FRIDAY WAS AWESOME!! and the crowd was ecstatic. Yeah the sound sucked but so does the sound on most of his albums and stadiums don’t make for good acoustics anyway. When all is said and done, Bruce and the E-street guys are the best in the business and have been for fourty years!!! Can anyone else say that?

  7. Tony Hicks Says:

    I love Springsteen fans.
    Mr. Levinson – I never said “Born to Run” closed the show. Go back and read my post. I only indicated that it came after “Badlands” and the lights came up, which they always do. I didn’t say it closed the show. So I wasn’t factually incorrect.
    And – you must be some sort of engineer. Only an engineer from New Jersey would try to disprove the logic of me saying that, while not a great show by Springsteen standards, it was still better than 95 percent of the show out there by calculating when “Badlands” was played. How do you know I didn’t mean that everything before “Badlands” was better than 92.7 percent of most shows. When combined with the part coming after “Badlands, which may or may not have been 98.3 percent better, came out as 95 percent?
    Good God…
    And Jeff, you’re right. He’s still the best in the Biz. I’m just wondering how his age fits in. Did he lose that much steam since he was 57 and playing Concord last year? Nope. I think, for him, it was an off-night.