August 19, 2004

Bruce Springsteen, 8/18, Richmond

By: Sonny Bunch

When I wrote up the Virgin Mobile Festival, a friend dropped me a note suggesting I was way out of line. Why is that? Because I wrote that Dave Grohl is the best front man in rock working today. This is what he said:

You know I trust your judgment completely, and I enjoyed reading the Virgin Fest piece, and I went to the same high school as Dave Grohl, but aren’t you forgetting someone when you call him the best front man working in R&R today?

The omission he was suggesting was Bruce Springsteen, a man we’d both seen numerous times before, and a man I have nothing but respect for. I still think that Grohl is the best front man currently working in rock and/or roll, but to make some slight amends, here’s my break down of last night’s show at the Richmond Coliseum.

(As a brief disclaimer: I’m a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fanatic. The opinions therein must all be taken with a grain of salt.)

Bruce opened up with an absolute killer, “Tenth Avenue Freezeout,” the lead track off of Springsteen’s seminal album, “Born to Run.” It’s a great song for the faithful, and a good way to get the whole audience into the show, since they’ll get wrapped up with the rest of us nuts chanting along. From there we were off to the tracks: “Radio Nowhere,” “Out in the Streets,” and “Prove it all Night.” “Prove it all Night” was particularly good, but it was nothing compared to “Spirit of the Night,” two songs later. “Spirit” was especially enjoyable because the boss pulled a kid out of the crowd to sing the offbeats for him. I don’t know who that kid was or what his deal is, but he did a damn fine job as Bruce’s backup man.

The highlight of the show for me, though, was almost certainly “Backstreets,” a set-closer that came halfway through the first set. It’s one of his epics; a show-stopper that tells the tale of two young lovers living apart from each other. As great as “Backstreets” was, it was rivaled by “For You,” a deep cut off of “Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ”‘; Springsteen mounted the piano and belted out a solo, acoustic version–one that was clearly aimed at remembering Danny Federeci, the E Street Band’s recently deceased organist. It got a little dusty in the Bunch seat when “For You” was playing…

“Youngstown” and “Murder Incorporated,” back to back, in their live versions, are always a highlight: I’d pay good money just to see Nils Lofgren wail on the guitar during “Youngstown.” He’s damn talented, that one. Oddly enough, it was a bathroom break for my crew; they’ve seen it often enough that there’s nothing new. Fair enough: it is repetitious. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s kind of awesome.

The only moment of political preaching came during the leadup to “Livin’ in the Future,” and Springsteen promptly started the song on the second verse, laughing that he’d forgotten the words. Perhaps he wouldn’t forget them if he stuck to the music.

Great show, all in all. Some deep cuts; some great cuts (“Rosalita”!); some odd choices (“Crush on You”). Set list follows:

Tenth Avenue Freezeout
Radio Nowhere
Out in the Streets
Prove it all Night
Lonesome Day
Spirit in the Night
Stand On It
Cadillac Ranch
For You
Murder Incorporated
She’s the One
Livin’ in the Future
Mary’s Place
I’ll Work for Your Love
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
(Set Break)
Crush on You
[Motown Sumpin’, the name of which I didn’t catch]
Born to Run
Bobby Jean
Dancing in the Dark
American Land
Twist and Shout