Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bruce Springsteen / Tower Theatre, Upper Darby, PA / May 17, 2005

Well, I knew it wasn’t going to rock. I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was most of the Devils & Dust songs sounding even duller than on the record. “Matamoros Banks,” “Jesus Was an Only Son,” “Silver Palomino,” “The Hitter,” “Black Cowboys”… zzzzz. Oh Bruce, how you feel the pain of the common man. Blah blah blah. But when the common man comes home from work at the factory, she doesn’t want to hear this boring-ass shit. She wants to party.

I really shouldn’t complain. I got to see a Bruce Springsteen set from only like 20 rows back at the Tower! I sat right behind Pierre Robert! And he did play some gorgeous stuff – “Youngstown,” “Incident on 57th Street,” “Wreck on the Highway.” Definitely more than a few “well, everybody should just stop making records right now because no music will ever be as beautiful as this” moments.

But it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Two songs I was really, really, really excited about seeing—“Reason to Believe” and of course “The Promised Land”—were delivered in such radically reconfigured ways, I barely recognized them. “Reason to Believe” literally sounded like Beck’s “One Foot in the Grave”—it was just Bruce, a harmonica, and his stomping foot. No trace of the original melody. Totally intense, totally punk—totally not “Reason to Believe!” Also, “The Promised Land” was done as an acoustic dirge/lullaby. Now, I understand that it must get boring playing the same songs over and over again for decades. But goddammit, why ya hafta go and make things so complicated, Bruce? “The Promised Land” is an ANTHEM! It should be shouted from the hilltops!

More griping: Both “The River” and “I’m on Fire” appeared on virtually every other setlist from this tour, according to Backstreets. Yet they were nowhere to be found in Philly. Screw that.

Also, Bruce ended the show with a cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream,” played on a pump organ. He’s been doing that for most of the tour, and if you’re a crazed Bruce fan, you know that it isn’t actually that weird—he’s been a Suicide fan for years. (Check out “State Trooper”—sounds like Suicide unplugged, doesn’t it?) But here’s my beef: “Dream Baby Dream,” when performed by Suicide, is one of the scariest pieces of music of all time. Alan Vega sounds like he’s about to kill Baby. But Bruce turned it into a straightforward love song. No! This song is about nightmares! Not sweet dreams! Damn you, Bruce!

When the lights came up and everybody started walking out, Four Tet came floating out of the PA. Whoa. But if you look here, you will discover that yes, Bruce is indeed a Four Tet fan. Somebody get Kieran Hebden on some Devils & Dust remixes ASAP!