Bruce Springsteen in Vancouver – hard hitting rock and soul music, with folk, gospel and celtic influences

Springsteen surfs the crowd during Hungry Heart- only the third song of the night! – photo T. Wong

I went to see Bruce Springsteen in Vancouver on Monday night, Nov 26.   It was a GREAT CONCERT!!!  We couldn’t get tix when they first went on sale… but some seats were released and I got a single seat – 7th row – Sec 112 – directly across from the stage.  I had been checking ticket prices, wondering about going, fretting about my budget, and resolving the situation by arguing to myself that I was already attending the Paul McCartney concert.  And since I had already since Springsteen 4 times, the toss-up choice was McCartney tickets… but in my heart, I still wanted to go.

I was at the McCartney concert the night before, and as fantastic as Sir Paul and his songs were… it was controlled and planned.  But Springsteen takes it to a whole other level, unsurpassed in sheer energy and spontaneity.  At a Springsteen concert, anything can happen… and surprises usually do. Springsteen picks audience requests out from the signs that people hold up. He walks into the audience… he has a young girl sing the chorus to “Waiting on a Sunny Day”… he brings an 80 year old woman to dance along with him to “Dancing in the Dark”… and during the encore songs, he pulls a fan dressed as Santa Claus up on stage to sing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Soozie Tyrell on violin, Charlie Giordano on accordion, Max Weinberg on drums, Springsteen, and Nils Lofgren on banjo. – photo T.Wong

I love the picture above because it demonstrates the acoustic side of Springsteen’s music.  Violin, accordion and banjo are more associated with blue-grass and country music.  But that is also at the heart of Springsteen’s roots.  Listen to the Dylanesque first album of Greetings from Asbury Park, the starkness of Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, and especially the hootenanny style of the Seeger Sessions played live.  Springsteen opened with Shackled and Drawn from his latest Wrecking Ball album which has a strong Celtic influence.  It is not unlike the Celtic tunes we play in the Black Bear Rebels ceilidh ensemble.  Death to My Hometown leads with a tin whistle and a marching beat, while Land of Hope and Dreams has a more gospel feel reminiscent of the classic tunes This Train is Bound for Glory and People Get Ready.

I went with my bagpiper friends Allan and Trish who sat up on the top level.  They may have been Springsteen concert virgins, but they are stout musicians and have both seen and been in lots of performances.  They are big David Bowie fans, and we both saw him on his ’83 concerts in Vancouver – both of them!  It was only about 2 months ago we went to see The Chieftains together with some other musician friends.  This summer I loaned Allan a lot of my Springsteen concert cds, hoping to bring him up to speed.  We sang along to Thunder Road and Sandy on the way home in my car.

Max Weinberg on drums, Jake Clemons on tenor saxophone, Bruce swings his fender stratocaster around,  Stevie Van Zandt on guitar, Curtis King on backing vocals, Everett Bradley on percussion and vocals. – photo T.Wong
I have always enjoyed that Springsteen had an ethnically integrated band.  When I picked up the album cover of The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle – there was Clarence Clemons and David Sancious – two black men in a rock and roll band.  And it didn’t sound anything like Earth, Wind & Fire or any of the other R&B bands I was listening to in the 70’s and 80’s… well maybe The Tower of Power – another racially mixed band that also mixed up funk, soul and rock.  But this current line-up of the E Street Band is augmented by a five piece horn section, 3 back up singers and a percussionist.  It can play soul, rock, blues, gospel, country, rockabilly, celtic and whatever it wants, whenever it wants.  Case in point was a rockabilly version of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away that segued into She’s the One.
Springsteen took requests from the audience, and holds up the sign request for Red Headed Woman.  He tells the audience that they don’t even play this song anymore, but for this sign he will give it a try.  He started solo on the bluesy tune that was originally featured on the MTV Plugged album.  Gradually the rest of the band found their places one by one, with Soozie on fiddle and Nils on slide guitar.

This was the 5th time I had seen Springsteen, and it was fresh and exciting! The E-Street band lives up to the hype – as Springsteen himself introduces the “‘The heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making – Le-gen-dary E – Street – Band!” Incredible musicianship, that can play almost any style of music: soul, rock & roll, rockabilly, country, gospel and new wave punk (who do you think wrote the big Patti Smyth hit “Because the Night?

I remember back in high school Physics class, when my friends Mike and Chris asked me to join them for the Springsteen concert in June 78.  But I didn’t know his music then.  My friends and I listened to Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Crosby Stills & Nash, John Denver, Elton John and Earth Wind & Fire.  But it was in 1980 that I was forced to discover Springsteen’s music during my summer education tour of Taiwan.  One of my room mates, Dennis was from California, and a huge Springsteen fan – he taught us the lyrics to Born to Run and Thunder Road.  We actually formed a music group with our roomies.  Dennis on harmonica, Lindsay on washboard, Calvin on keyboard, sometimes me on keyboard or just singing along.

Here are my pictures from the Springsteen concert on my Flickr photo account

Springsteen 2012

Springsteen 2012
Here are some great videos of the concert:

Video: Bruce Springsteen in action in Vancouver | Vancouver Sun


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