Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, John Fogerty, R.E.M., Bright Eyes / Wachovia Center, Philadelphia, PA / Oct. 1, 2004
In this very special episode of More In The Monitor, we take a road trip to Amy's native land, Philadelphia, for the Vote For Change Tour...
Will tonight be remembered as the night that Conor Oberst made the leap from well-kept secret to big-time rock star, or the night that he jumped the shark? Because once you’ve stood on stage with Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty and Michael Stipe, shaking the maracas to “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” in front of thousands of middle-aged NPR listeners, you really can’t go home again. I’d love to report that Conor held his own among those legends, but that wasn’t the case. If he wants to play with the big boys, he needs to learn that acting angry and misunderstood can only go so far. Appealing to women’s mothering instincts doesn’t work on actual mothers (i.e. the thousands of middle-aged women in the crowd). Also, he totally froze when Stipe handed the mic off to him for a verse. It was quite sad. Fogerty had to jump in and cover for him, while he hugged Stipe for dear life. Then Springsteen patted him on the back, as if to say, “Hey, kid, I know what it’s like to be playing to small crowds full of men who want to be you and women who want to do you, only to be suddenly thrust in front of the whole world. Think this is bad? Wait until they slap your mug on the cover of Newsweek.” Of course, it was only the first night of the tour. Conor’s nerves will probably quiet down as time goes on. Tonight he was hopping all over the place, running back and forth across the stage, shouting the lyrics. Hugging everybody—Stipe, Springsteen (who gave him a big, sloppy man-kiss), Clarence Clemens. I kind of felt embarrassed for him. But he was probably as ecstatic as he was nervous; I mean, if it wasn’t for
Conor fared a lot better during Bright Eyes’ opening set. The usual suspects were back, rather than the strange, ad-hoc lineup that played at Northsix last week. Once again, the new stuff sounded great, especially “Road To Joy”—that song was made to be played in arenas. Since I’m so used to people screaming “CONOR I WANT TO HAVE YOUR BABY!” or “WHERE’S
R.E.M. were underwhelming. I’ve never been that huge a fan, but I saw them play last fall at
But then...“Man on the Moon” featuring Bruce Springsteen on guitar and vocals. Holy crap. I never realized that I had been waiting my whole life to hear Springsteen sing that “Andy are you goofin’ on Elvis—hey baby” part, but indeed I had. Oooh, shivers. Then it occurred to me that R.E.M. probably spent much of the ‘80s trudging around the country in a crappy touring van, complaining about that annoying Bruce Springsteen guy who came on the radio every five minutes.
Then the E Streeters took the stage. In complete darkness save for a single spotlight, Springsteen proceeded to RIP THE SHIT out of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on an acoustic twelve-string guitar. I’m talking Hendrixian awesomeness here. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the band launched into “Born in the
Now it was Fogerty time. I was totally cool with that. I love Creedence; I think they don’t get enough respect. So I was psyched—would he start with “Fortunate Son,” probably the most poignant song for this election? Or maybe “Bad Moon Rising”—that’s how we’re all feeling right about now? Perhaps he’d just launch into “Down on the Corner” or “Proud Mary” to get everybody revved up.
But no. Oh no. John Fogerty had other ideas.
HE PLAYED FUCKING “CENTERFIELD”. As if Fogerty’s choice of the cheesiest novelty song of his career wasn’t bad enough, he played the whole thing USING A GUITAR SHAPED LIKE A BASEBALL BAT. I wanted to go puke, but I knew the line for the bathroom would be too long. How the hell did Fogerty get Bruce Springsteen to go along with this? Was that the one condition of his being on the tour—that he gets to play “Centerfield” every night? God I hope not. Fogerty also looks incredibly young, at least in his ‘40s. Botox, anyone? He also hopped up and down more than Conor Oberst. This is the same man that wrote “Fortunate Son”? Good lord. It reminded me of that Atom & His Package song, “Sting Cannot Possibly Be The Same Guy That Was In The Police”. Next he played some acoustic song I didn’t recognize, then finally “Fortunate Son.” Which, I might add, not many people in the place knew the words to. Oh how I fear for this country. Also, I’ve seen both Sleater-Kinney and Les Savy Fav play better versions of that song.
Now before I get into the rest of the set, let me just make one thing clear. You may think that I’m some hipster who does nothing but listen to hot new bands all the time. And that is partially correct, since it is my job to be constantly writing about new music. But I also woke up one morning last fall overcome by the feeling that all I wanted to listen to was Bruce Springsteen for the rest of my life. That phase lasted a couple of months, during which I bought all his albums (except Human Touch…ugh), both box sets, a DVD, a book, a poster and tickets to two of his concerts at Shea Stadium (I had already seen him play in Philly that summer.) All of my friends made fun of me, but I didn’t care. I was in love.
During that obsessive period, there were two songs I was dying to hear Springsteen play live: “