'The Boss' inspires with 9/11 hymns

The Indianapolis Star, 2002-12-18, by: David Lindquist
Let's say you're the musician who's better than the rest at writing modern fanfares for the common American.

What's your move when the world is turned upside down for all of them -- and most critically for the ones in your back yard?

If you're Bruce Springsteen, you press ahead with new hymns drawn from a highly attuned and humanistic perspective.

And one more thing: You make sure the old band is intact for the ride.

Playing song after song from Sept. 11-inspired album "The Rising," Springsteen & the E Street Band elevated the spirits of 12,000 concertgoers Tuesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

They did it with tunes such as "Into the Fire," a rousing eulogy for public servants lost at the World Trade Center.

When the concert's momentum swung from early rave-ups "No Surrender" and "The Night" -- important moments in establishing audience attentiveness -- to "Rising" ballads "Empty Sky" and "You're Missing," it mirrored that day's inconceivable shifts in reality.

Flowing from ethereal harmonies sung by Springsteen and Patti Scialfa, "Empty Sky" couldn't make its twin towers references any clearer. There's more personal mourning within the lyrics of "You're Missing."

As its title suggests, however, "The Rising" isn't a work of pessimism or resignation. In fact, two of the album's tracks have become rock' em, sock' em show-stoppers in the grand Springsteen tradition.

"Waitin' on a Sunny Day," which resembles John Mellencamp's "Lonesome Jubilee" era more than a little bit, ascended from acoustic guitars and a fiddle to a signature sax solo by Clarence Clemons and a dynam"Waitin' on a Sunny Day," which resembles John Mellencamp's "Lonesome Jubilee" era more than a little bit, ascended from acoustic guitars and a fiddle to a signature sax solo by Clarence Clemons and a dynamic audience sing-along.

In the case of "Mary's Place," this unhinged party anthem (and Springsteen's introduction of band members across its bridge) provided more entertainment than many entire concerts I attended this year.

Regarding the evening's sound mix, it's safe to say the bad-job memo from 1999 made its way to the Boss. After Springsteen played the inaugural concert at Conseco Fieldhouse, many upper-deck patrons exited with complaints of harsh echoes and muffled vocals.

On Tuesday, the sound crew raised the PA speakers high and cranked the volume higher. This adjustment aided balcony listening, even if some teeth rattled in the lower level.

But this was a rock 'n' roll show after all -- one made unforgettable by moments such as "Born to Run" under full-house lights, Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt trading flubbed lines during "Two Hearts" and the thrilling audience participation of "Badlands."

This was the group's final show of 2002. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J."

No worries. By all indications, Springsteen is fully fueled to keep the faith.

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2002-12-17 Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN