Friday, April 29, 2005

Dallas Morning News: Springsteen Concert Review

Springsteen's subject matter familiar, songs not during Nokia show
08:41 AM CDT on Friday, April 29, 2005
By THOR CHRISTENSEN / The Dallas Morning News

GRAND PRAIRIE – Technically, it's the Devils & Dust tour. But Bruce Springsteen's solo acoustic show Thursday night at Nokia Theatre could have been subtitled the Family Values tour, considering all the new tunes he sang about the ties that bind.

In "The Hitter," he told the tale of an aging boxer trying to reconcile with his mom. In "Silver Palomino," he sang about an orphan trying to fill the hole in his life. Two more new tunes were about parent-child dynamics: "Jesus Was an Only Son" and "Long Time Comin'. "

The Boss said he wasn't sure why the topic dominates his new CD, Devils & Dust. But he admitted he was partly singing about himself and his own kids: When he had his first son, "You think he's Jesus ... but then 13 or 14 years later, Jesus thinks you're an idiot."

The near-capacity crowd of 6,000 or so laughed, but humor and hits were in short supply. Serious and challenging – with tons of unfamiliar tunes – it was a show for hard-core Bruce fans, not the folks dying to hear "Dancing in the Dark."

Four boozy young fans near the front of the stage actually bolted halfway through the two-hour-and-15-minute show, muttering about the absence of the E Street Band. But it was their loss.

Amid all dour tales about "people whose souls are at risk" – as he described the Devils tunes – there was no shortage of great music, like his gorgeous Spanish guitar playing in "Palomino" or the ghostly near falsetto he used on several tunes.

He began the show on a question mark, singing through his harmonica in a strange Tom Waits-like version of "Reason to Believe." But for all the creepy songs, there were moments of pure jubilance, like his gospel-folk version of "The Rising" and the rousing encore, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day."
He did whip out one wacky tune – the rarity "Part Man, Part Monkey," with a new introduction about a certain resident of the White House. And during the encore, he brought out Texas-Oklahoma singer Jimmy LaFave for a lovely version of the Woody Guthrie song "Oklahoma Hills."

Earlier, the Boss unstrapped his acoustic guitar and moved to the piano for a pair of well-loved oldies: "My Hometown" and the Dylanesque "For You." And he ended the show with another: "The Promised Land."

Yet it was most definitely not a greatest-hits concert. During the new tune "Maria's Bed," he pretended he had a full band and yelled: "C'mon Boys! 1-2-3!" – as if to show fans that he, too, missed the E Street.

And maybe they'll be back next year. But for now, Bruce is just fine on his own. In a pop world filled with one-trick ponies, it's nice to see an old legend who has depth and range.

E-mail tchristensen@dallasnews.com

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