Bruce rises to occasion
Ottawa Sun, 2003-04-19, by: Denis Armstrong
Springsteen still has it after more than 20 years
ON A weekend for big religious epics, Bruce Springsteen didn't seem out of place.
For the 19,000 faithful who packed the Corel Centre, it really was a good Friday.
If the timing of the gig seemed, well, sacrilegious, in the end it turned out to be inspired scheduling. After all, Springsteen's about as close to saintliness as you'll find in this secular world.
It's been 22 years since the Boss last played here. Ottawa wasn't in the mood to wait any longer.
The gig starts almost an hour late and overheated fans start to sour. But the crowd picks up as soon as Springsteen and his cohorts pluck the first power chords of The Rising in a darkened Corel Centre.
In the wake of 9/11, Bruce is back with The Rising, his first release of new material with The E Street Band since 1984.
It's an epic journey of tragedy, hope and desire that's given him the voice and heart to play live again.
The gospel according to Bruce, it's a rich lyrical metaphor for his country and Springsteen himself.
It's a good role for Springsteen. America's angry these days, and Bruce is great when he gets angry. Just as that old rotter Johnny Lydon once sang, "anger is an energy."
He might have been singing about Springsteen's performance last night.
The Boss gets right to it as if he has to make up time, starting with the new stuff -- Lonesome Day and No Surrender.
It's quickly obvious that Springsteen's in great game shape. Older, perhaps a little less reckless, he picks his mark, perched just out of reach of the crush of outstretched hands in the front row.
Then he's gone, behind drummer Max Weinberg, serenading the obstructed seats with Prove It All Night.
The old stuff works the best, particularly with The E Street Band back together -- Roy Bittan, Patti Scialfa, crowd favourite Clarence Clemons, Danny Federici, Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg -- with new member Soozie Tyrell.
It looked like old times on Badlands and everyone taking a vocal turn on Out In the Street.
About an hour into the show, band members look like they're just warming up, a chorus of BBBBBRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCE!!!! following every song. A grandfatherish-looking man doing a solitary disco at a 300-level entrance.
"You've got to have two things for a good party," he yelled with the zeal of a preacher. "Ya need music and ya have to get up off your ass."
Springsteen coming back to The Rising, conjuring a quiet duet on Empty Sky with his wife Scialfa before picking up steam with Waiting on a Sunny Day and a 10-minute spin on Mary's Place.
Even if they played nothing but Flock of Seagulls covers, it would have been worth the price of admission to see Springsteen and Clemons collide mid-stage without losing a note.
Or letting those lucky stiffs in the front row strum his guitar on the encore of Born To Run.
After two hours, about the time he should be winding down, Springsteen cranked the pace even higher with a ferocious medley of Devil With a Blue Dress, Good Golly Miss Molly and CC Rider, before finishing his encore -- almost an hour later -- with Dancing in the Dark.
In the end, it didn't matter what Springsteen played. The real juice was in watching him and his band.
And it looks like they'll be doing that for a long time to come.
Sun Rating: 5 out of 5
2003-04-19 Bell Centre, Montreal, Canada