So if you're not a Bruce Springsteen fan, this is going to be one long geeky, driveling gush of a blog post, so feel free to avoid having to roll your eyes at me.
Combining two of my favorite things ever, a Bruce Springsteen concert and downtown Cleveland (shut up, for real), Tuesday already had a strong chance to be one of the better concert-going experiences of my life.
If I concede that Springsteen will likely always occupy four of the top five slots, and if you take for granted that I saw him perform acoustically at the Oval on the Ohio State campus from about four feet away, plus the fact that the first Springsteen concert you see live will always live on indelibly in your mind as a cornerstone of your temporal existence (this would have been in 2001 on “The Rising” tour, also in Columbus), I’d say this ranks, probably third, among the dozen or so times I’ve seen him.
It also helps that his latest album “Wrecking Ball” is totally fantastic and hearing the title song as well as instant classics like “Shackled and Drawn” and “We Are Alive” didn’t hurt. Whenever he plays in Cleveland, he always plays the angry version of “Youngstown,” which as far as I’m concerned is one of the best songs of American industrial decay ever written. Other favorites that got on the set list included “The Rising,” “Waiting on a Sunny Day,” “Promised Land,” and a really phenomenal version of “My City of Ruins."
It was also heartening to hear the crowd of politically sympathetic Springsteen fans from the heart of the Rust Belt whoop up a frenzy when he shouted the opening salvo for “Death to My Hometown,” which could be written about Cleveland or just about any other town in Northeast Ohio.
Still, you can’t understand—and I won’t even bother to attempt to describe—how incredible a Springsteen concert is until you’ve actually been to one. Even in his 60s, the guy still puts on a better show than 99% of the musicians today. He crowd surfs, he dances on top of the piano (capture via cell phone above), he pulls people on stage to dance with him, he asks constantly for call and response from the audience, the band pours out a noise like the fist of the Almighty smacking you in the head, heart, and sex organs. Perhaps what made this particular concert so moving and electric, however, was the missing presence of legendary sax player and E Street Band mainstay Clarence Clemons, who died last year.
Replacing him was his nephew, Jake Clemons, who played his uncle’s solos expertly, and it was impossible for all of us to not shout our silly little vocal chords to pieces when in the first song, “Badlands,” Clemons stepped into the spotlight and launched into the solo. The show closed with the classic “10th Avenue Freeze Out” and that immortal line about the change that was made uptown when the Big Man joined the band.
If you are any kind of Springsteen fan, you owe it to yourself to see him on this particular tour just to witness the love and rebellion and joy that remain at the heart of the E Street legend.
Wrigley Field, here I come.