Greasy Lake
Bruce Springsteen show review , 2009-05-07
By Ben Sellers

Going to a Bruce Springsteen show is no easy task.

When the lights come on, fans must remain standing. Hands must be raised, and choruses must be sung on cue at the appropriate times. And heaven forbid The Boss should catch you daydreaming and point his finger in reprobation.Springsteen readies his pointing finger. (cell phone pic by Ben Sellers)

As Springsteen himself said Tuesday, early in his almost three-hour set at Charlottesville?s John Paul Jones Arena, ?We need you to build a house of noise.?

Fortunately for the audience, if ever there were a master craftsman of the concert, it?s Springsteen, backed by his E Street Band.

It was easy at first, with the opening two tracks off 1978?s ?Darkness on the Edge of Town???Badlands? and ?Adam Raised a Cain??brining everyone to their feet.

The energy carried over into ?Outlaw Pete,? the first track of the new ?Working on a Dream? album, a storytelling number that The Boss proceeded to act out, pantomiming six-shooters with his fingers and donning a black cowboy hat.

More ?Darkness? followed with the slightly less energized ?Candy?s Room,? then the title track of ?Working on a Dream,? where Springsteen delivered his house-building sermon.

E Street guitarist 'Little' Steven Van Zandt trades licks with The Boss. (Ben Sellers)By the ninth song, however, a full-band version of his 1995 folk anthem ?The Ghost of Tom Joad? about an hour into the set, even the dervish-like twirling of guitarist Nils Lofgren couldn?t keep some from slinking into their seats.

It was then that Springsteen began collecting signs.

Many of the audience members in the roughly 500-person general-admission pit were in the know, and came prepared with poster-board banners or simple sheets of paper requesting their favorite songs.

After sifting through the pile, Springsteen and company got to playing?a cover of The Kinks? ?You Really Got Me,? the early favorite ?Spirit in the Night? and the more obscure ?Gypsy Biker? (off 2007?s ?Magic?), for which Springsteen first had to figure out the chords. Springsteen caught sitting down on the job during 'Spirit in the Night' (Ben Sellers)

In a recent Q&A with Time magazine, Van Morrison (an early Springsteen influence) said that when he starts playing the more familiar material, fans know the show will soon be over. Not so for The Boss?with about 40 minutes worth of requests, he was just getting started. But as drummer c?l?bre Max Weinberg was ready for a break, on came his teenage son, Jay, and the band launched into ?The Promised Land,? with Weinberg the Younger keeping pace flawlessly.

After a few more recent songs including ?The Wrestler,? ?Radio Nowhere? and two from 2002?s ?The Rising,? it was the crowd?s cue to do a little rising of its own. All the house lights came on (leaving some, perhaps, blinded by them) for the set-closing ?Born to Run.?

Had the lights stayed on, many fans would have shuffled out feeling satisfied with what they had witnessed. But Springsteen still wasn?t done?he returned for a six-song encore highlighted by ?Thunder Road,? ?Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out? and a buoyant Irish ballad ?The American Land??an outtake from his 2006 ?Seeger Sessions? album.

For Springsteen?s final song, a Detroit medley featuring ?Devil with a Blue Dress On,? the house lights were back on. While fans were grateful to be squeezing every ounce of Bruce possible from the evening, it may have seemed a bit anticlimactic to some for him to end with a medley of covers. But stand and dance they did, because that?s what The Boss expected of them.

Springsteen returns to the area Monday, May 18 to play Washington?s Verizon Center.
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