Sunday, August 31, 2008

Springsteen, Harley Melding One For The Ages

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: Aug. 31, 2008

Two American icons - Bruce Springsteen and Harley Davidson - met at an intersection called Magic Saturday at Veteran's Park.

This was probably the most anticipated Milwaukee concert of the year. Extravagant expectations often unfold in moderate payoffs. On Saturday night, Bruce Springsteen lived up to every measure of his considerable legend. The display of physical stamina alone from a man who will turn 59 in slightly less than a month was astounding. Springsteen has a reputation for fitness but this was amazing. Twenty minutes in, his dark blue working shirt was soaked with sweat. By the time it was over he had been on stage for three and a half hours without a break. And this was not a leisurely three and a half hours. This was 31 songs, many of them pounding, pedal-to-the-metal rock and roll. After a show that would have exhausted most men half his age, he wound up his regular set with a frantic "Seven Nights to Rock" and then came back for 10 encores. I put my notebook away four times because I thought the show was over only to have Bruce and E Street roar back to life.

This was Springsteen running and sliding on his knees to the edge of the huge stage. This was Bruce throwing his body on top of the front rows. This was Bruce laying flat on his back and pulling himself to this feet by gripping the mic stand. This was Springsteen pulling a young woman out the crowd in an echo of the long-ago video to "Dancing in the Dark," dancing with her and then picking her up and carrying her in his arms across the stage.

This was Springsteen the populist hero reminding his nation of forgotten workers in "Youngstown," or soldiers' lives needlessly squandered in "Last to Die." This was Springsteen the renegade of the highway on "Thunder Road," "Born to Run," and "Racing in the Streets." This was Springsteen the prophet of the redemptive power of music on "The Rising" and "Spirit in the Night." This was Springsteen and E Street as the ultimate garage band on "Wooly Bully" and "Born to Be Wild."

It was an evening richly laden with exhilarating, funny, touching, and sublime moments. These are a few of them:

Reverend Springsteen's rock 'n' roll revival introduction to "Meet Me at Mary's Place," exhorting his fans to meet him at the River of Love, the River of Hope, the River of Joy, the River of Life, the River of Faith.

Springsteen spent several minutes patrolling the front of the stage collecting a couple dozen fan song requests written on cardboard - and then playing a bunch of them.

During "Spirit in the Night" he once again threw himself into the crowd. When he got to the line "She kissed me just right like only a lonely angel can," he bent over for a kiss from a young lady in the crowd. She was so obviously thrilled she looked almost dazed.

Bruce and Little Stevie trading comic ad libs on "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)."

Springsteen dedicating "Racing in the Streets" to Harley father figure Willie G. Davidson.

This was the first tour the E. Street Band finished without keyboardist Danny Federici who died earlier this year of cancer. For the first encore, Springsteen played "Sandy," dedicated it to Danny and brought his son Jason out to play accordion on it.

As everyone seems to understand there is a natural affinity between Springsteen and the Harley brotherhood. They share a restless love of freedom, and a devotion to the core values in American life. Saturday all those elements came together in one of the most special nights in Milwaukee concert history.

Saturday night's Harley Setlist:

Gypsy Biker
Out In The Street
Radio Nowhere
The Promised Land
Spirit In The Night
Wooly Bully (Tour Premiere - Sam The Sham cover)
Darlington County
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Darkness On The Edge Of Town
Murder Incorporated
She's The One
Livin' In The Future
Mary's Place
Working On The Highway
Racing In The Street
The Rising
Last To Die
Long Walk Home
Seven Nights To Rock


4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Glory Days
Born To Run
Bobby Jean
American Land
Thunder Road
Dancing In The Dark
Born To Be Wild (Tour Premiere - Steppenwolf cover)

No comments: