Bruce Springsteen Plays With Fire as Devils & Dust Tour Strikes N.J.
Greasy Lake, 2005-05-27, by: Maureen Shames
It wasn't easy to stifle such cheers at Bruce Springsteen's gutsy performance during his Devils & Dust tour at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey on May 19.
It's great to finally express it now, whew!
In dark clothing, Bruce appeared on stage, a one man band without his usual accoutrements-- the E Street Band and his rock'n electric guitar.
Any fan worth her salt would have known perfectly well there would even be a certain behavior code at this all acoustic show, but I was so excited to see Bruce and initially forgot to hold back one loud Bruce call.
It was a thrill just to be here in CAA, where the entire arena was curtained right in half to bring us closer together for this more intimate performance.
The lighting complemented the music perfectly as Bruce played each instrument one at a time going back and forth from acoustic guitar, harmonica, electric piano and piano.
He played nine songs from Devils & Dust and these songs all shined, while the old ones were reinvented and sometimes unrecognizable. His execution had some exquisite moments.
"My Beautiful Reward," opened this show with Bruce playing a pump organ that breathed new life into this song from the Lucky Town CD. It is about the lifelong journey one goes through to find his heart's desire only to realize that once it is found that the search never actually ends.
"Well your hair shone in the sun/I was sohigh/I was the lucky one/Then I came crashing down like a drunk on a barroom floor/Searching for my beautiful reward."
In a harsh blues style, Bruce next played "Reason to Believe," a song from the Nebraska CD. If there was a low-point in the performance, this was it.
Bruce's vocals were muffled and the music screeched. His feet were used to stamp an amplified beat. The lyrics told the tale of people who cling to some kind of faith even if it seems fruitless.
Life imitated art in, "Devils & Dust," the title track of the latest dual disc. It is about a soldier on the battleground facing decisions in a life or death situation. Bruce reveals what it means to have to decide whether or not to pull the trigger.
"Well I've got God on my side/And I'm just trying to survive/What if what you do to survive/Kills the things you love/Fear's a dangerous thing/It can turn your heart black you can trust/It'll take your God filled soul/Fill it with devils and dust."
If Bruce were that soldier with his finger on the trigger, let's just say he did NOT trust those in his hometown state on this night. People loudly screamed their complaints about a malfunctioning speaker, but perhaps Bruce could not hear and believed the protesting might be against the lyrics.
In reality, I sat right next to the section in the low 200s where people could not hear. They were screaming, "fix your sound system." One person even made it known that he had paid $75 for his ticket, so put the mike on! Bruce finally responded, "If you don't like what you hear, your money's at the door."
This noise disrupted the show and made it impossible to hear. I was seated in the top row of the entire arena and moved away from these angry people. I wanted to hear too and wondered if there was a better remedy for everyone involved.
Maybe Bruce thought he was being heckled as had happened during his performance in Texas when someone cursed and was escorted out by security.
This tension between Bruce and the audience could have had something to do with the fact that some people had a hard time accepting his switch from rock and roll to acoustic again.
It has happened to other icons such as Bob Dylan. When Dylan switched from acoustic to electric guitar at the famed Newport Folk Festival in the'60s, his audience booed him.
I believe Bruce is a genius and his musical exploration is welcome in my book. He played an incredible performance once the audience quieted down and the sound problem straightened itself out.
Bruce won back the audience and was able to let down his guard a bit as the show continued.
"Lonesome Day" was a high point in the evening. Bruce provided it with gut-wrenching vocals, harmonica and guitar. "Lonesome Day" deals with the difficulty with coping each day after a spouse dies. The song is from "The Rising," an album about redemption and healing that came out after the tragic 9/11.
The sadness was captured, the song was beautiful.
"Baby once I thought I knew/Everything I needed to know about you/Your sweet whisper, your tender touch/I didn?t really know that much/Joke's on me, it's going to be okay/If I can just get through this lonesome day."
"Long Time Comin'" is a new song about the cyclical nature of raising children, avoiding our parent's mistakes and making our own as kids grow up. Bruce expressed hope that he won't mess up the lives of his children. He played a heartfelt guitar and harmonica here. Bruce's son may blast his music, after being sent to his room, but one day he's likely to realize the brilliance of his dad rather than treating him like someone to "tolerate," or a "silly man."
"Reno" is the song that everybody is talking most about because of its "adult imagery." Bruce called it a, "love song," then explained maybe it's about love that has gone wrong. It has a nice rhythm and it undertakes a theme that seems more suited for rap, a visit to a prostitute.
"Promised Land" was unrecognizable initially. It is among my top favorite songs as a rock song, but on this night it was played very slowly and truly emphasized the graphic nature of the lyrics almost altering the interpretation. When "Promised Land" plays as a rock song it feels like it has more of that Springsteen adventure and hope. Slowed down, I just hope that narrator can survive the pain in his heart by the end of the song.
"I've done my best to live the right way/I get up every morning and go to work each day/ But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold /Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode /Explode and tear this town apart /Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart."
I highly recommend that all Springsteen fans see a show or two on the Devils & Dust tour. Don't catch a concert in a big arena, but in a small theater that is better suited for these acoustics. You will get a look at a new Bruce, so it's best to see him in the most intimate setting in order to understand his glorious reinvented songs.
By the way Bruce, may I come along on the next exploration when your concert hits New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania again?
Next time, I promise not to "B-R-U-U-U-C-E!"
2005-05-19 Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, NJ