May 16, 2005

THE BOSS TAKES CHARGE

Bruce Springsteen.jpg

Springsteen scores with scaled-down show

Bruce Springsteen
Xcel Energy Center -- St. Paul, Minn.
May 10, 2005

Rules ruled the night. No clapping along with songs allowed. No applause at the early recognition of a re-worked number permitted. No trips to the concession stands. And certainly no cell phones with their "idiotic jingles," according to Bruce Springsteen.

If any uninformed fans arrived at the Xcel Energy Center with the idea that this Springsteen show would be a throwback to rollicking concerts of tours past, the Boss' introduction immediately put those misconceptions to rest.

Springsteen followed his prickly welcome with a gentle, gospel rendition of "My Beautiful Reward" on the pedal organ, underscoring his expectation the somber and soulful tone of his Devils & Dust album would carry over in a live setting.

It set the stage for a largely acoustic show that became surprisingly intimate in the scaled-down 8,000-seat arena.

Singing songs almost exclusively from his later catalog and new album, Springsteen did what he does best -- tell stories of flawed people striving to overcome hardscrabble circumstances in pursuit of a better life, people who have varying degrees of success.

He delivered a haunting version of "The River" on piano and a frenzied "Youngstown" on acoustic guitar that stretched the despair of the main character far deeper than the original album version.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night, however, came when Springsteen opened the encore by dedicating "A Good Man is Hard to Find" to Sgt. Gerald Vick of the St. Paul Police Department; he was killed on duty four days before the show.

It was the first time he ever played the song live. When he quickly realized he brought he wrong harmonica onstage after a few awkward notes, he didn't miss a beat in finishing the song with a whistle that worked just as well.

Not everything went as seamlessly.

The lyrics to "Reason to Believe" were muffled and nearly inaudible by his foot-stomping and harmonica. And his stripped-down finale, "Promised Land," scuttled the emotion built by the rest of the set list.

Overall, however, Springsteen mesmerized the sell-out crowd. If it wasn't his impressive ability to shift from acoustic guitar to organ to piano to Rhodes keyboard to electric guitar, it was his masterful storytelling. In between songs, he chuckled about his disenchantment with the Catholic church, the struggles of parenting, his mixed feelings on doo-wop and current political insanity.

Before an acoustic "Part Man, Part Monkey" that far exceeded the Tracks version, he lamented the ongoing debate over evolution in Kansas and joked, "The president thinks the facts are iffy. Now, I honestly think George Bush believes in evolution, but he must be afraid of losing the monkey vote."

His light-hearted anecdotes helped balance the solemn mood of the show. Whether it was his instrumental versatility or ability to dish out witty quips, Springsteen proved a jack of all trades -- and master of most.

-- By Pete Bigelow

Bruce Springsteen’s set list for May 10, 2005:

"My Beautiful Reward"
"Reason to Believe"
"Devils & Dust"
“Empty Sky"
"Youngstown"
"If I Should Fall Behind"
"Long Time Comin' "
"Silver Palomino"
"The River"
"Book of Dreams"
"Part Man, Part Monkey"
"Maria's Bed"
"Nebraska"
"Reno"
"Paradise"
"The Rising"
"Further On (Up the Road)"
"Jesus Was an Only Son"
"Leah"
"The Hitter"
"Matamoros Banks"
"A Good Man is Hard to Find"
"Land of Hope and Dreams"
"Promised Land"

Posted by medleyville at May 16, 2005 11:00 AM
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