Sunday, July 27, 2008

From the Daily News Archives: Bruce Springsteen Concerts

Sunday, July 27th 2008, 4:00 AM

Daily News
A copy of the News' review of Bruce Springsteen's 1975 Bottom Line show.

On Top at the Bottom line

This review originally ran in the August 15, 1975 edition of the New York Daily News

For two years Bruce Springsteen's fans have been predicting that his talent will explode him into rock stardom. From the looks of his reception at the Bottom Line this week, that day finally may have arrived.

Whatever forces coalesced to create the propitious moment, patrons started lining up at 2 p.m. on his opening day Wednesday on the outside chance they could buy standing room at $5 per for the 8:30 or 11:30 p.m. shows. All seats for the 10 performances, through Sunday, had been sold out the week his booking was announced. There also was a standby standing room line, and not even a brief but torrential evening rain could scatter them.

Springsteen, who comes from south Jersey, writes lyrics which have been compared to Bob Dylan's for poetic content. They run to the gritty romantic, like "...the aurora is risin' behind us, those pier lights, our carnival forever..." and "...the sages of the subway sit just like living lead, they ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread...

The Dylan association is reinforced by the fact that John Hammond, a longtime Columbia Records talent spotter and discoverer of Dylan, also got Springsteen signed to the company. He made two albums in 1973 and now, after long delay, a third is due this week.

Springsteen's voice won't win prizes for range. Most of the time it's husky talk-sing, but the sound fits his verbal images. He cultivates a romantic appearance, too. In blue jeans, single earring, leather jacket, striped shirt, cap, and scraggly mustache and beard and moving lithely and sinuously as he sang, he looked like an apache dancer.

After keeping to vocals only on several numbers, he picked up his electric guitar and joined his band: guitarist, bass, sax, piano, organ and drums. Despite Springsteen's poetic reputation, the most impressive moments were when the seven all came together, creating an integrated and exhilarating wall of music with a repeated vocal phrase used as punctuation.

Springsteen gave the impression of sensing a turning point in his career. He was definitely up, his face beaming and full of energy, a couple of times going into the audience. He did two hours and 10 minutes the first show and had the strength to come back and repeat that length.

Incidentally, one other man consistently creates lines like Springsteen's at the Bottom Line, even more so, with ticket buyers pitching camp the night before. That is Jerry Garcia, founder of the Grateful Dead and a hardy survivor of the 1960's California psychedelic scene.

Daily News
The News' review of The Boss' 1985 Giants Stadium concert.

Hail to the Red, White and Bruce

By David Hinckley

This review originally ran in the August 20, 1985 edition of the News

When Bruce Springsteen played the Meadowlands Arena last August, he took an unusually long break at one point, and the people in the private suites, who had TV sets, couldn't help noticing his return to the stage coincided with the end of the Olympic 110 men's high hurdles. Edwin Moses won that one, and if Springsteen was watching, what you got here is one terrific little hunk of symbolism. What Edwin Moses is to hurdle races, you see, Bruce Springsteen is to rock 'n' roll concerts.

He proved that again Sunday in the first of his six Giants Stadium concerts, when he had 60,000 fans eating out of his baseball cap even though the show started an hour late and getting into the stadium was itself an Olympic feat.

The problem was that the gates didn't open until 6 p.m., and since the ticket-takers were methodically inspecting for counterfeits, thousands of fans were outside, pushing forward ever more anxiously, as the theoretical 7 o'clock starting time came and went.

The resulting crush escalated from annoying to frightening, and there were residual effects of that mood inside. Although most fans were angels by rock 'n' roll standards, it was hard not to notice those who got belligerent about staying in the wrong seats, or who seemed to think everyone would rather hear them whistle and yell "Yahoo!" than listen to Springsteen singing "Jersey Girl."

Fortunately, Springsteen's sheer power generally blows such people away, and he was near the top of his game Sunday. When he introduced "Pink Cadillac," he sounded like a manic TV preacher: "This next song is about the conflict between worldly things and spiritual hell, he began, and went on to explain the Garden of Eden and Original Sin before adding, "When it comes to no sex, I prefer the state of guilt." As lines go, you could call that one another sure-fire winner.

His rendition of "Johnny 99," accompanied only by Nils Lofgren's acoustic guitar, was little short of terrifying in its intensity, and by the time he drafted a fan to join him on-stage for "Dancing in the Dark," he probably could have sung John Denver medleys and had the crowd begging for more.

Thanks to a great sound and video system, and his use of a stadium-wide platform in front of the stage, he does cut down the size of caverns he's playing. He's also recast his routines to emphasize the bits which work best in large places - and the preacher routine is striking not only because it's funny, but also because in a strange way it's real. To a lot of people out there, he is a god, to whom they look for wisdom and guidance. And you thought being a rock 'n' roll star was easy.

Springsteen tries to channel that adoration to worthwhile projects; he plugged local food banks last night and donated $25,000 himself. However, rock 'n' roll fans have a strong self-indulgent streak, so the impact of Springsteen's call may be hard to gauge.

In any case, you may be wondering about the music, which is probably best described by simply listing what he did. (If a song or two is missing, forgive.)

He began with "Born in the U.S.A.," followed by "Badlands" and "Out in the Street." Then came the searing "Johnny 99," which segued right into "Seeds," a new song that also focuses on the plight of good men in bad times.

"Atlantic City" came next, with the full band, and then "The River." "Working on the Highway" was followed by "Trapped" and "Darlington County." A mock-serious monologue about getting old, which invoked Clarence Clemons and Tom Seaver, led to "Glory Days." At the end Springsteen and Clemons fell down dead, but managed to get up to close the first set with "My hometown" and "Thunder Road."

The second set began with "Cover Me," "Dancing in the Dark," "Hungry Heart" (which stills sounds like Steve Alaimo's "Every Day I Have to Cry Some") and "Cadillac Ranch." Then, with the crowd howling and rocking, he sat them all down and shut almost all of them up with a somber, spare "Downbound Train."

"I'm on Fire" followed, with a long spoken introduction about how it feels to be a poor kid, then "Pink Cadillac" and "Bobby Jean" ended the second set. A few fans left at this point, which either means their babysitter went on triple-time after 11, or they were real rookies in the Springsteen game.

For the first encore, he came out with guitar and harmonica, Dylan-style, for "This Land is Your Land," which he called "the greatest song ever written about America... I don't know if its message is true for everyone anymore, but I know it oughta be." At the end, the band ran out and segued right into "Born to Run."

The second encore, the oldies medley, featured an extended "Twist and Shout" and "Do You Love Me." He closed with a quiet "Jersey Girls" and "Sherry Darling" - and in case you were looking for a final symbol, try this: It was a lot easier to get out than to get in.

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