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Magnus

My Pittsburgh show review

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First off, thanks so much to LisaBruceFan for the GA ticket! I landed in the pit, and hovered between the second and fourth row by the ministage/platform on Clarence's old side. A wonderful spot from which to enjoy a great show and outstanding setlist :)

I know you can't just a show just by its setlist, but moreso than for most shows, the story of Pittsburgh 2014 was dictated by the setlist. As far as surprises go, the night was simply off the charts - probably the most rarity-studded setlist I've ever seen. We didn't get the kind of rarities I would have chosen but there was a clear sense that anything could happen and we really never knew what was coming next. The show included a pretty decent portion of material from the new album, which I, for one, really appreciated.
Truth be told, it was a strange collection and sequence of songs - four covers and two traditional encore songs early in the set (it was as if Bruce couldn't wait to get to the encores). There were no songs from Born to Run or Born in the USA in the main set - I am guessing that is a first for the ESB, since those albums were released. That's one for the statisticians out there to confirm.
Perhaps this setlist was a little challenging for the crowd that might have been more responsive to songs they were familiar with. The Pittsburgh audience was a little tame compared to what I had expected - maybe they would have responded more to a show with more well known numbers? But even during the encores they seemed somewhat reserved comparatively speaking. And even in the pit, surrounded by diehard fans with two digit shows under their belts, the energy never level bubbled over.
Bruce and the band played perfectly well - never quite reaching sixth gear, as they did for moments in Virginia Beach, but also never dropping the ball at any time. It was a tight, hard rocking show for just over three solid hours. Just another day on the road for the Legendary E Street Band. But if the current stretch of road they are traveling has seemed a little flat and predictable to some followers of late, it seems clear that they are having the time of their lives, old hands and new travelers alike. Pittsburgh really showed that you never know what you're gonna get songwise.
Clampdown sounded good, but it was obscure enough that even most of us in the pit had no idea what we were getting. It might have worked better if played later on once the crowd was warmed up a little, but it is an upbeat number that gives Tom some extra visibility and is always nice to see the band try out something new and unexpected.
A handful of the regular songs have been streamlined just a little - Badlands still has the audience singalong but not for quite as long, and Johnny 99 may be slightly shorter than it was in recent tours. This works well when these songs are played early in the set, and helps get the show going without dragging too much.
Stand on it and Seven Nights were two songs no one had expected on this side of the encores. The performance of Seven Nights was starkly different from its encore appearance just two weeks ago in Virginia Beach - Bruce surprised Patti as well as the audience when he brought her over to the mike to sing with him. She improvised a verse of her own "a different boy in a different place" to much amusement all around.
Just Like Fire Would was honestly a little less powerful than I had expected live - this would get really good and tight if the band played it a few more times - and the same applies for that matter to Frankie Fell in Love which showed up later in the set. All the same, great to see songs from the new album get a well deserved airing, and hopefully this won't be the last time this spring.
Hungry Heart had Bruce grab a balloon sculpture of himself and he carried it with him back to the stage - this was one of the truly priceless and unique moments that almost got lost amidst all the highlights of the wild setlist.
I Wanna Be With You appeared to be a sign request - now this was a rarity that holds a special place in my heart, as it was the song that opened my first ever ESB show back in 1999, but despite over 90 shows since then I hadn't heard it again until now. Bruce claimed they "didn't know it", but it sounded pretty damn tight and convincing to me. UIt turns out this was soundchecked, but if he needs a teleprompter to pull this kind of thing off more spontaneously, I'm totally OK with that.
Back in Your Arms - I first heard this one at a show in Pittsburgh in 2000, and it sort of brought me full circle hearing it again. The song now includes an improvised spoken intro that showcases Bruce as a live entertainer and really sets up the song, for anyone in the audience who isn't familiar with it. The performance and vocal delivery on this was stunning as well. This is one you'll want to check out on Youtube.
The second half of the main set followed a slightly more standardized format, but no complaints from me. The band sounded great (sound quality throughout the show was excellent from where I was standing). Lots of regular songs were missing - No Death to My Hometown, no Darlington, no Shackled and Drawn, and of course no Sunny Day (hehehe...) I certainly didn't miss these, but it's possible that they could have pumped up the crowd a little.
But there were few slow moments. Mary's Place, trimmed down to size, worked very well towards the end of the main set. Both Promised Land and Lonesome Day sounded tough and muscular, and the geographically appropriate Youngstown gave Nils a chance to shine. TGOTJ is great to watch as well as listen to - the most jawdropping moment is when Tom pulls out the plug from his guitar and starts tapping on that as well.
The main set closed about two hours into the show, and I wondered whether we might be getting a slightly shorter show, but Bruce was simply setting us up for a monster encore set.
As far as song selection, this was one of the most exciting encores I've ever seen - ten songs in all, at least five of which we weren't taking for granted. The Promise solo piano was totally out of left field, and I'm glad to see The Wall finally rising above obscurity and becoming what seems to be a setlist standard. Following it with BitUSA was a long time coming but worked as well as anyone would have anticipated. I hope this one-two combo stays for the rest of these spring shows - it's a great way to connect a newer song with a clear poignant message with an old crowd favorite that still probably has a few "misunderstanders" out there... Keep pushing til its understood, Bruce.
Light of Day was another highlight - it was a long, gritty, guitar heavy version with Joe G and his son onstage, and lending a hand. And Frankie Fell in Love (again, with Joe G.) was great to hear as well. I'm not sure the mid-encore is the best place for a mid tempo new song, but by all means keep this one in rotation.
At some point Bruce made the announcement about two upcoming shows at Soliders and Sailors, to much everyone's delight - the announcement really felt like the feather in the cap of a special night for Pittsburgh. Sure, it's always nice to hear "We'll be seein' ya!" but when Bruce is like "Oh yeah and by the way, I'll be back in five weeks, and tickets go on sale tomorrow!" that's a really awesome thing to hear.
BTR-DITD-10th-Shout - I've seen this portion of the show seem a little more high octane in the past. If Bruce was suffering from a cold, as I've read sincs, this would be a moment where he might have shown it just a little. This late encore last chance power drive didn't feel rushed, it just wasn't as drawn out as it sometimes can be. That said, this is a tried and tested combination that gets the job done of getting the crowd up and on its feet for the final moment of the show. Right before things slow down for just one more.
Dream Baby Dream was a wonderful closing to the show. It's a song I always felt belonged back in 2005, and its inclusion on the new album puzzled me a little, but it retained its stark majesty and worked remarkably well as a measured and deliberate show stopper.
Between this and Virginia Beach I've seen between 40 and 50 songs played. I wonder what he'll pull out in Hershey. The band are on fire, and have rarely, if ever, been so unpredictable. If you are on the fence about these shows, get to one or two if you have the chance.

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