Boss Has Brass...
New York Post, 2006-06-24, by: Dan Aquilante
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN CALL it a lark, a music holiday from E Street - and Bruce Springsteen reveled in every minute he tripped the folk fantastic at Madison Square Garden Thursday.
The Boss is now the straw boss of a 19-piece country-swing band that can reach Crescent City second-line marches, Dixieland horn struts and the kind of Americana that fur trappers jigged to before Zebulon Pike got a peak.
The Garden show was much slicker than the benefit rehearsals in Asbury Park last month, but the essence of the music - centered on Bruce's "We Shall Overcome" album - was the same.
The bottom line is this: Springsteen can't put on a bad show. Impossible - he works too hard at the music, whether it's his own composition like "My City of Ruins" or "Old Dan Tucker" - two of the pivotal performances of the evening.
"Tucker" was important because it loosened up the geezer audience, who sat for most of the show, unifying them into a choir with lyrics they learned years ago in grade school music classes. "Ruins" - one of Springsteen's most poignant songs born in the fires of 9/11 - stirred peaceful, hopeful patriotism in the big room.
The impact of the Springsteen's born-to-strum edition is diminished on seeing this show a second time. The novelty of his grit 'n' gravel voice applied to classic American songs that were inspired by the lifelong work of 87-year-old folk master Pete Seeger wears off.
The show would have had more pizazz had Springsteen sent a car upstate to fetch Seeger and his banjo for a guest turn on the protest song "We Shall Overcome." This outfit does call itself the Seeger Session Band. Why not try to involve Seeger?
On the downside, there were times - especially when fiddler Soozie Tyrell was trying to be noticed, bowing with histrionics that detracted from the music - the show seemed more Branson shtick than New York - or Jersey, for that matter.
But Tyrell, like Mrs. Bruce, Patti Scialfa (who creaked through a lead vocal late in the show), was just a minor musical annoyance in a mostly stellar performance.
The strength of this band clearly lies with Bruce's vocals, his acoustic rhythm guitar work and the mighty wind of the quintet that blows brass for the Boss. That combination transformed the spiritual "Jacob's Ladder" into a Dixieland rave.
While this tour and album seem to have been loads of fun for Springsteen and company, when he gets back to being Bruce and playing Bruce, it will be welcomed.
2006-06-22 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY