2006-04-25, Convention Hall, Asbury Park, NJ
Seeger Sessions Tour
Were you there? Write about it!
Pete Lyden wrote: The album, as good as it its, sounds like sketches for the live stuff - very full and forceful in person. Band is tremendous - tight and swinging with a lot of punch. Lots of New Orleans touches, especially in the horns. High points (in terms of Bruce Concert High Point Everyboy Out Of Your Seats) were "Jacob's Ladder," "You Can Look," "Buffalo Gals," "Open All Night," and "Old Dan Tucker," though the whole thing was a barnburner. Only slowed down for "If I Should Fall Behind" (done as a Scottish-style waltz,) "We Shall Overcome," and "When the Saints Go Marching In." Everything else was either mid- or uptempo (even if it started slow, like "Erie Canal.") Of his originals, he did "Cadillac Ranch" in the fashion of "Iko Iko," and substituted the first lines of "Mystery Train" for the chorus; ""Fall Behind" as above; "Johnny 99" as an uptempo N.O. shuffle; "Open All Night" as a barrelhouse number with a touch of Chuck Berry thrown in, and "You Can Look" as an almost-crazed uptempo shuffle, with his patented preaching break in the middle. Whole thing ran two and a quarter hours.
Seats were directly to the right side of the stage, second row - we were eye-level with the musicians, about twenty feet away. As with the "Rising" shows, the floor was general admission. I'm too old for that.
He finally "gets" folk music. Apart from "Nebraska," I didn't care for "Joad" or "Devils." He seemed to think that "folk" means "morose." I've been to enough folk & bluegrass fests to know that it definitely is not, and I think the players he's working with finally got that through to him. He was having a grand time - even took a shot before "Fall Behind" ("I don't usually drink during shows, but I found it's good for the voice. F---s up the timing, though.")
ron wrote: What can u say, been to every tour since darkness. bruce never disapoints. this time i was fortunate to take my 18 yr old son. we had a blast! the band is amazing. bruce is having a gas on stage and the energy is incredible. you have to enter this show with an open mind. once it starts you cant believe how good 100 yr old songs can sound. each song is tight and at the same time loose...if that makes sense? audience participation was great considering the cd was released the same day as the show. like all shows some songs clearly standout. Pay me my money down, Jacobs Ladder, O Mary dont you weep were tremendous. Open all night was nothing less than amazing. Bruce sounded great, Soozie was having fun and the horn section is out of this world. New Orleans is going to love this stuff at the festival. I recomend this show and cant wait to hit one or two locel ones in june! Enjoy and thanks Bruce you have a new 18yr old nj native fan on board!
sackpersonn wrote: Great show. Bruce seemed as energetic and loose as I've ever seen him. I know he's a showman and he's 'supposed' to look like he's having a good time, but I think his enthusiasm playing this new material is genuine. The band was unbelievably large, loud, and incredible: four horns (and later six) including a sousaphone, mandolins, banjos, accordion, organ, piano, a washboard (!), two fiddles/violins, upright bass, drums, three back-up singers (but really everyone in the band sings back-up, and four-and-a-half guitars (why the 'half"? Well, they might let Patti hold a guitar, but I'm not convinced it?s actually plugged in) and a bunch of other instruments that came and went throughout the evening.
Anyway, you asked for details, so here goes...
I knocked off work early Tuesday afternoon and drove down to Asbury Park with my friend Ron and I gave him a quick tour of the still broken-down waterfront. They've made some progress down there, mostly demolishing some of the vacant buildings, but it's still a pit. There's a dive-y kind of place called Wonderbar across the street from the Convention Hall -think Stone Pony, only with more chrome and mirrors- so we met up there with Gordo, another good friend of mine who drove down from Boston. After a few watery beers and some cold spaghetti from the all-you-can-eat $12 buffet we headed over to the show.
The complex that makes up the Convention Hall is really something else. One half is the Paramount Theater, which has a seating capacity of maybe 1500-2000. Back in its day, it must have been really beautiful. It used to host some of the old-time Vaudeville Acts, including the Marx Brothers. The other half is less glamorous, basically a big boxy gym with about 20 rows of seats on three of the sidewalls and the stage on the fourth wall. I think the total capacity is around 2500. The entire floor area is general admission, standing only. That's where the action is, and naturally, that's where we were.
A little after 7:30 the lights went down and the crowd erupted. In the darkness you could make out the musicians with their instruments taking the stage. After a few more moments a single spotlight shown on the stage and settled on, not Bruce, but a little scrawny kid with big hair, not unlike my own big hair back in high school, playing the banjo. The crowd immediately picked upon the rhythm and started clapping along. This went on for a couple of minutes until a second spotlight settled on Bruce picking his guitar strings in that classic knees bent, cocked-and-ready stance of his, eyes closed, and with that one eyebrow arched high, his face contorted as he leaned into the microphone and sang the opening lines of Jesse James. After the first verse the rest of the band kicked in and what a sight... what a sound... I read a review somewhere over the last couple of days where the author talked about Springsteen's use of Spector's Wall of Sound for Born to Run and went on to describe the Seeger Sessions as Springsteen's Wall of Folk, and this was that times 10.
When the band kicked into O Mary Don't You Weep, I remember even thinking to myself that as great as it was to see this show in such a small venue, it almost felt too small to hold this band. I could almost feel the walls of the convention hall straining and bulging against the music.
The night was a two and a half hour roller-coaster ride. I'll give you the set list, and I'll try a song-by-song breakdown but there was just so much going on onstage, that a lot of it got lost in a blur.
Jesse James/O Mary Don't You Weep/Johnny 99/John Henry/Eyes on the Prize/Old Dan Tucker/Cadillac Ranch (w/ Mystery Train)/Erie Canal/My Oklahoma Home/If I Should Fall Behind / Mrs. McGrath/How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? / Jacob's Ladder/We Shall Overcome/Open All Night/Pay Me My Money Down
Encore: Turn! Turn! Turn!/Buffalo Gals/You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)/When the Saints Go Marching In
Oh Mary is still my favorite from the record and was one of the many highlights of the concert for me.
Johnny 99 - I've always liked this song and Bruce had flipped this song around and turned it on its head many, many times. Tonight, it was almost kind of funked-up. I know, that's a lame description, but I don't know how else to describe it.
Cadillac Ranch - this one was also reworked Bruce replaced the chorus with the chorus from Mystery Train. Very cool.
If I should Fall behind was reworked into a Waltz. Bruce said something like "A lot of people have told me they used this as their wedding song... But I've always thought about it as more of an emergency divorce prevention song." I think Bruce and Patti then did a shot of Tequila together. True.
Mrs. Grath - Bruce said an Irish friend of his called after hearing this song and told Bruce he was singing it wrong. In Ireland and Scotland, McGrath is pronounced McGraw. Since Ireland is the first stop on the upcoming European tour, Bruce said he decided to compromise and wanted to try it singing "Mc Grawth" But he sang it like the album and I really like this one.
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? - Bruce said he kept the first verse and rewrote "the second three". This was a great loud, foot-stomper with lots of trademark Bruce wailing, shouting and intensity. I don't remember the lyrics, but it's clearly about the people being left behind in New Orleans. He prefaced the song talking about how the largest mass displacement of Americans happened during the Dust Bowl and tragically, it's happening again in NO. This was probably the high point of the show for most people, but for me it was the next song...
Jacobs Ladder - Richie LaBamba and Mark Pender made a surprise appearance and squeezed themselves onto the stage joining the other 4 horns. I love LaBamba; he may have more energy even than Bruce... With the openings notes from the six horns, we went from concert to Church revival... Think James Brown singing in the church in the Blues Brothers movie. Remember the scene when JB says to the Blues Bros "Do you see the light? Do you SEE THE LIGHT?" and Aykroyd goes "What light?"
But Belushi starts convulsing and his feet start moving and his arms are shaking and he's transformed and screams "Yes, Yes! Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ! I have seen the liggggghhhhhttttt!" as he goes cartwheeling down the aisles. Well that pretty much sums up my reaction to this song as well. Amazing!!!
We Shall Overcome had some nice vocals. Actually that's something I haven't mentioned yet. All of the vocalists were outstanding the entire night. Even Patti, I have to admit, was terrific.
Open All Night was another completely reworked song that had the crowd going bananas.
Pay Me My Money Down featured a good amount of audience participation and closed out the main set with a New Orleans style walk-off by everyone but the drummer and the sousaphone player. Very cool.
Now for me, this could have been where it ended. I never particularly liked Turn Turn Turn and I don't think Bruce did anything to help it. I looked at my watch for the first time.
Buffalo Gals I've always disliked, going back to second grade. I really hate the word 'gals' for some reason. And if you put it in a song, it just becomes that much worse. I don't know why, I just can't stand it.
You Can Look was another completely reworked song. A lot of people loved it, but I can't drink the kool-aid on this one. If Bruce sold out and did a Broadway show like Billy Joel did, this version is what they'd do to the song. I guess you have to hear it.
When The Saints - Now with a huge band like the Seeger Sessions Band, you'd expect this to be a thunderous, boisterous and loud climax to a thunderous, boisterous and loud concert. But as I?ve read in another review somewhere, that would be too obvious for Bruce. Instead he sings it with just his guitar as almost a funeral dirge. Singing almost in a desperate growl, it comes off as a prayer. Really powerful, and a nice tribute to the people of New Orleans.
Overall it was a terrific show and I'm looking forward to seeing it again when he comes back around to MSG at the end of June.