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Magnus

My Hershey Review (long)

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Darkness on the Edge of Hershey

I was never quite sure what to expect from Hershey. I had fun at the show there in 2008, but was in the pit for that, and my seats for this one were up in section 26. I knew those were pretty good seats, but I also knew that no seat at Hershey is remotely close to the stage. The weather looked ominous, and after my chilly night in VA Beach I was envisioning a freezing rainy night. In the end, the weather worked out well enough - overcast at first and very slightly wet by the end. Not bad enough to ruin the show at all (we also missed the huge storm that could have postponed this show until after Mohegan, which would have been interesting, haha). I got to my seats and I decided they weren't so bad. Not close to the stage, but the venue seemed to work better for a rock show than those ballparks he was playing back in 2012.

The band came onstage (no Patti tonight) and opened at 7:55 as people were still streaming into the stadium, with a loud, aggressive Clampdown. I liked the way Bruce and Tom traded off calling the roll call at the end of the song; "Working hard in in Harrisburg!" "Working hard in Scranton!" "Working hard in Hershey!" Clampdown was dark, intense, driving, unrelenting and set the tone for the evening. This was not going to be a fun party show, and moments of frivolity or humor would be few and far between. Bruce didn't seem angry with the crowd, but I got the sense he might have had a bad day - for one reason or other, he seemed driven by his darker muses for the duration of the night. It wasn't a night for political commentary or painful explorations of relationships in trouble or anything like that. We got angry intense Bruce for three hours straight - imagine the mood of a 2007 early Magic tour show but less political, a little longer with more rarities, and combined with a dash of 1978.

In the '78 vein, Bruce followed his opening cover with Badlands. It is leaner and meaner than it has been in recent years, the audience participation is a little truncated, making the song less of a communal sinaglong ritual, and brings it back to its roots as primarily a call of defiance in the face of your personal demons. Keep pushin' til it's understood.

From there on, he barely slowed down for breath. With Wrecking Ball and Hungry Heart inserted into the early set, he soon ventured much deeper into his songbook, and to its credit, the Hershey crowd followed along as best as they could. Despite the generally unpleasant weather, despite the lack of anything genuinely lighthearted, despite the plethora of songs only familiar to the fairly serious fan, despite the fact that much of the audience was probably over 100 yards away from the stage, I thought they did OK.

Bruce returned to the stage after Hungry Heart with a few signs and held an "I Want Candy" sign up to get the requests started. Whatever the sign writer intended with this, Bruce interpreted this as a call for "Candy's Room" and it was a furious and no holds barred version - followed at once by a thunderous Roulette. I don't know what was on the written setlist, but these two songs follow the same beat and I am sure that Bruce had this in mind when he picked these two signs in particular from the crowd.

Then we got Death to My Hometown, which I am not a huge fan of, but I do like more now, and I think Tom adds some much needed fire to this one. High Hopes - I dunno - it's interesting and different and all very percussive. It's a showcase for Tom and Everett, but it's probably the least E Street sounding song in the show right now - I'm glad he isn't doing lots of songs n this style since he's touring with what he still calls the E Street Band. Not my thing - I think I prefer the original version from '95 actually. High Hopes is lyrically one of the few covers that reads lyrically like Bruce could have written it himself. It's very unE Street, but very Springsteenesque.

Be True had been soundchecked and was nice to hear again. I'm partial to the version from the ToL tour, but this was a tight delivery of a song that always deserved a little more recognition than it got. E Street Shuffle was one of the few happy songs, but even this was performed at an intense pace. Not funky and loose like you'd expect, it was tight and focused, and culminated with a thrilling drum-off between Everett and Max, emphasizing their different respective styles. It was cool to see a song make space for two drummers and really flow well.

Lost in the Flood was great as always. I don't remember much about it to be honest, but by now it was night time dark outside and that made the stadium seem just a little less spread out I think. The light show throughout the night was solid.

For You solo piano is a song I've seen live a number of times, and it had never done much for me in the past. I just never really got it. Always prefer the fast band version. But tonight somehow it was different. I think this was the first time I've heard Bruce actually sing the lines, as opposed to "speak them" - it was an intimate delivery and a highlight of the night.

It was followed of course by another special number - Roy started that piano and I held my breath for a moment, not sure if we were getting Because the Night or Prove it All Night - and then after a few seconds it became clear - and then Bruce revved up his six string chainsaw and sawed his way through the next couple of glorious minutes before crashing into the familiar piano intro of the song. Prove it '78 is a song that almost always gets defined by that instrumental intro, but my seatmate pointed out that he was "singing the last verse in the old fashioned way" - ie less speaking, more singing, without slowing the song down as much after the mid song solo. And after that, Nils got a chance to shine on the guitar. These are the moments we keep coming back for more.

After all these dark intense and somewhat deep cuts, no one could begrudge Bruce for playing mostly tried and tested crowd pleasers for the rest of the main set. Main impressions from this part of the show:

-We got four songs from The Rising - he's clearly really really proud of that album.

-In the whole main set he hadn't played a single song from either of his two best known albums.

-I'm glad Light of Day is back on a semi regular basis. It's been a rarity for too long.

-Not having a standard song to close the main set is somewhat novel, and I like it.

As for the encores - I believe he introduced the first number as a request - or certainly dedicating it to someone, and then we got Surprise Surprise. I like this one. It has a sort of earnestness to it and the corniness factor is greatly reduced when he does it solo acoustic rather than full band. Between this and Kingdom of Days in Albany, it's nice to see his IMO most underappreciated album represented in the show.

The Wall may or may not have been setlisted, but he pointed out a request sign in the audience and then talked about his inspirational hometown heroes who never made it back from Vietnam, and then dedicated the song to all the veterans (of all wars) in the audience.

The rest of the encores were pretty normal fare - BTR, DITD, 10th Ave, Shout. Bobby Jean was appropriate given the introspective mood of the evening, and we got a full band Thunder Road to close. By my clock, the show lasted pretty much exactly three hours, and finished five minutes short of the 11pm curfew.

I can't complain about the setlist from a rarities perspective - I would have welcomed something bright and fun, or even a little cathartic, like say Janey Don't You Lose Heart, but Bruce was in his samurai zone and was doing his thing. A loud, intense, no holds barred performance.

Of the three shows I've seen this spring, I'd say Virginia Beach was the most fun and had moments of the most excitability, Pittsburgh had the craziest setlist, and Hershey was probably the most focused, with the band playing hard and tight and the audience hanging in there through what honestly amounted to a pretty dark ride.

Have fun in CT those of you heading up there!



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Great Review .... I would have been disappointed with the encore...i need my cheesy rock and roll to put the explanation point on the evening ....But that was a pretty solid setlist and the only time i ever heard Lost In The Flood i didn't really know the song so I have always wanted to hear it again.

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Thank you Magnus, that was a great read. I'd love to be at a show that Be True and For You were played. I'd like to get a listen to this show, seems like it might be a pointer for things to come.

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Thanks for the great review, Magnus. Now I feel like I was there!

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Of the three shows I've seen this spring, I'd say Virginia Beach was the most fun and had moments of the most excitability, Pittsburgh had the craziest setlist, and Hershey was probably the most focused, with the band playing hard and tight and the audience hanging in there through what honestly amounted to a pretty dark ride.

The above for me typifies the three shows that I saw in Atlanta & Florida..feels like a theme / trend ....

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Great read...I have only had the chance to see Bruce 7 times, twice now in Hershey. That 2008 Hershey show I preferred to this one mainly because it was my second Bruce show and hearing that encore of Thunder Road, Rosie, Tenth Avenue, Jungleland for the first time after years of waiting was very special, getting Part Man Part Monkey...it was a fun show. This was my second Hershey show (other five have been in DC). I had GA tix so was right on the rail behind the pit (my parents and friend were at the other end of that rail....got to touch Bruce...which I will forever hear about...but he did run by us twice). The crowd on the ground was very into it. Being close to the diehards in the pit is a good thing if you know all the songs. I hate being in the stands surrounded by more people sitting or awaiting the classics than diehards. I had some very knowledgeable fans around me and we all knew every word so that always makes things even more fun. Highlights were Lost in the Floor and especially For You...which I agree with sung very well by Bruce,very passionate and saw quite a few tears...and no it wasn't just the misty rain. The weather on the ground was a huge relief and it also factored into the setlist with Bruce picking Mary's Place. I also agree with you about The Rising...Bruce really loves that album...well at least a handful of songs. It felt more like a Rising show than High Hopes. I never cared for High Hopes as a song but the live version rocks. Morello really brings a lot to that song and of course Tom Joad. Another highlight was The Wall. Best song on High Hopes and like with For You...a lot of teary eyes. Bruce truly captured and quieted the audience with those two.

I think the biggest problem was the parking lot. Holy f'ing hell was that chaos. I went like I said with my parents and there friend, who needed a wheelchair so we parked near the stadium. The parking lot is so unorganized. They have a train taking people to and from cars...that's how far a walk it is and nobody was directing traffic. Pure hell but we got out and didn't let it ruin a great show.

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