Concert Review

Bruce Springsteen Makes Everyone a Little Nostalgic at Jobing

Maybe it was the bouncing beach balls that reminded me of my first concert experiences (seeing the Kokomo-era Beach Boys) or maybe it was the inclusion of a relatively obscure song by glam-punks D Generation (the band who headlined my first-ever club concert) in the before-set house music, but something about Bruce Springsteen's show at Arena last night got me feeling nostalgic before the first note had been struck.

Not that I had any reason to be nostalgic about Springsteen: I'm not from Jersey, I didn't grow up with The Boss and I'd never seen him play before. In fact, I'm on the record saying I'd much rather see Kanye West than an act that was "last relevant during the Reagan administration." But there's certainly something about a Springsteen show that'll make anyone pine for the Glory Days -- even if Bruce didn't play "Glory Days," or much else from his mega-successful mid-80s heyday -- and no one in the crowd of 20,000 seemed immune to the charisma of the 59-year-old rock icon.

I won't bore you with the minutia of the show -- not on this, the biggest weekend of Valley music in recent memory -- but I will say that nearly everything you've heard or read about a Springsteen show is true. The fans are rabid, the set marathon, Springsteen a first-rate showman. Take it from someone who's not afraid to slag legends when their show seems predictable or boring (as I did with Elton John and Billy Joel last week), Springsteen is still worth every cent the middle-aged folks in this crowd paid to see him. From the opener, "Badlands" through the closer, "Dancing in the Dark" Bruce and the E Street Band were tight, excited and eager to make a connection with the crowd. They've done this thousands of times before, to be sure, but it also felt loose and a little unpredictable, which is what I like to see at any show, from a cover band in a bar to an arena.

Whether he was knee-sliding during "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" (that song that surprised everyone when it appeared in his Super Bowl halftime set) or kicking up his heels with the two members of his 11-piece backing band that had accordions during the penultimate offering, "American Land," Springsteen was fun to watch for the full three and a half hours he played. It doesn't take too many shows like this for an act to win over the sort of fans that'll swap stories about the times they saw them. I know I've got a great one.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Bruce Springsteen at Arena

Better Than: Billy Joe and Elton John. In fact, it wasn't even close.

Personal Bias: Actually, I prefer both Billy and Elton to Bruce, when it comes to recorded music, but they didn't match him live, even though Bruce barely touched his hits ("Born to Run," which closed out the pre-encore set and "Dancing in the Dark" were the two biggest offering) and they pretty much delivered all the biggies.

Random Detail: Want to see a full setlist? Twitter user ickmusic out together one that looks perfect to me. Check him out here or follow my twitter (random thoughts from the show were posted throughout) here.

Further Listening: Check out the solo stuff by Nils Lofgren, Bruce's guitarist, who lives here in town. He's got a couple cool songs on his MySpace.

By the Way: I exposed myself as a n00b pretty early on, when Larry Rodgers from the Arizona Republic, who was sitting next to my girlfriend and I, explained that no, they weren't booing, they were yelling Bruuuuuuuuce. Reminded me of a classic moment from The Simpsons.

One More Thing: I took a lot of flack for comparing them back in September, but, even after everything I've said here, Kanye's show at was still a little better. He should have played the Super Bowl.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Martin Cizmar
Contact: Martin Cizmar