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Bruce Springsteen San Jose Magic: review and set notes

April 12, 2008
Ron Wells wrote these notes for friends and fellow fans following the San Jose Bruce Springsteen show Sat. April 5:
Sometimes after a Springsteen show, your mind just wanders off into areas you might not otherwise think about. This happened to me as I flew home from San Jose while staring down at the sometimes desolate strata of rock formations that one can occasionally see in parts of California. For whatever reason, the late, great Lester Bangs came to mind with his quote: “In a time of squalor and belittled desire, Springsteen’s music is majestic and passionate with no apologies.”
He wrote this in 1977. Over 30 years have come and gone and Bruce continues his own passionate, personal fight against the desolation that life sometimes provides.
In San Jose on Saturday night, Bruce and his band brought their roaring, snarling,and often quiet form of majesty into the lives of 18,000 or so people. He made his case for fighting back against the squalor with nothing but sweat drenched desire, his own personal fight to open the door and let people dance away their own demons with a physically demanding show that was touched with stirring intellectuality and spiritual hope, all in guise of a rock and roll show.
From the opening connection of Out in the Street, the audience knew you couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the performance, as Bruce used the echo and call to get them to respond to him. Lonesome Day may not have been everyone’s favorite song, but again Bruce sang, “It’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right,” and the audience threw up their hands and yelled back “yeah,” a positive confirmation to counter this world of pain and negativity.
Something in the Night was a fan’s request, and everyone can relate to at one time or another finding “the things we loved/They were crushed and dying in the dirt.” It’s the same darkness of the night that covers up the deathly horror of The Gypsy Biker and leads into the broad daylight of lies that is “Magic.” With that, he swiftly kicked into the powerful and dramatic Trapped, a song that acknowledges the prisons that somehow hold us as he sings, “Seems like I’m caught up in your trap again /Seems like I’ll be wearing the same old chains / But good will conquer Evil /And the truth will set me free /And I know someday I will find the key /I know somewhere I will find the key.” The stage goes from dark to brightly lit as he sings softly and then screams his defiance as the audience sings and pumps their fists in defiance with him.
Bangs would then have been proud of Bruce reaching into the primal blues of Reason to Believe, kicking ass as he ponders why in the hell anyone would put up with all of this stuff life throws at us if weren’t for that goddamn beat that keeps us shaking our hips and moving forward whether we want to or not. Yeah, so let’s see if you can Prove It All Night, and just in case you don’t think you can, you better listen to Nils, who now has been freed to shred his guitar, bend the notes, and basically play guitar for the gods as Bruce encourages him on. The shriek of understanding splits the arena like lightening bolts.
She’s the One, and she better be, as that mythical beat handed down from Zeus to Bo Diddley has everyone up on their feet, because this one never goes out of style. Promised Land offers enough hope that during Fire, Bruce and Clarence face off in dead silence after the music stops in mid-song, and the joyous screams of the audience fill the void. Hey, maybe there’s some fun around here after all. This seems certain for Bruce too as he runs back three times throughout the show to douse himself with water and then goes up on Max’s drum kit and squeezes the water down the back of Max’s neck, surprising even the drummer.
Bruce acknowledges his audience all night long, connects with them, talks to them, as they grab his legs and he grabs their signs and so we get Spanish Johnny riding into town, a song Bruce once said was about “the search for redemption.” In the spiritual church of Springsteen this better be true because in the Devil’s Arcade you’re going to “lie adrift with the heroes of the devil’s arcade,” where the only redemption that matters is the “Beat of your heart, the beat of your heart, the beat of your heart,” with Max pounding this understanding as the lyrics fade away.
Come on up for The Rising where there’s a “sky of blackness and sorrow ( a dream of life)” and ends in a “sky of fullness, sky of blessed life”. Wow, how did he do that? How did he take us from that hell to this blessed life. Maybe he’s just showing us the possibilities.
And now it may be time for a Long Walk Home through a town where things aren’t as they once were, and thus one must take this walk alone, so loved ones needn’t bother waiting up. But Lester Bangs could have predicted what would come next as Bruce and the band bring forth the anthem for all souls here on earth to “spit in the face of these badlands” and the choir sings along in approval and fills the building, fists raised, hearts pounding,
But the show’s not over. Bruce and his magnificent band of blood brothers (and sister) return and respond to a request for the Detroit Medley by way of Mitch Rider and before that, Little Richard. He then squeezes in his own Born to Run so that even the casual fans can feel they’re part of the larger group, a member of the community. Glory Days reminds many in the crowd that they may not be as young as they once were, but what the hell, it’s bouncy, you can dance to the beat, and some guy wrote the song title on his bald head so he must really want to hear this. Bobby Jean follows and seems to take some of the wind out of the arena, coming after such an adrenaline rush of the previous three songs, but Bruce looks especially determined as he sings this song of friendship that lives on no matter what the circumstances. To him, it matters a lot.
American Land rings in my ears as I look down and see the land about which he sings, a land holding men and women split into factions, fearful of what may come, a land once filled with such hope and dreams and now a land splitting like the fissures I see below. Yet into this land steps Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band trying to hold us all together with their music and passion, asking us to the see this country, this continent, this world, as one we can believe in if we’ll only believe in ourselves and each other.
As Lester Bangs might have said, “What could be more majestic.”
Could not find a good video for Trapped, so here’s Paris ‘85:
(I tried to post the video but the new wordpress dashboard is still causing me problems with posting video and images!!! argh, the art predator)

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