Report: Bruce Springsteen Live San Jose

 

No, that wasn’t former Baltimore
first baseman Boog Powell playing San
Jose’s H.P. Pavilion on April 26. It was
“Bruuuuuce” Springsteen.

 

By Jud Cost

 

The Shark Tank
in San Jose was
packed to the gills and the natives were getting antsy. Cascades of
“Boooooooo!” bounced off the walls of the cavernous building, and it
wasn’t because the San Jose Sharks had been knocked out of the Stanley Cup
playoffs. Of course not, those were 
fervid cries of “Bruuuuuuce!” reverberating from the rafters
where they normally store the huge papier-mache shark-head the local hockey
team skates through before every game. The Bruce Springsteen concert was
supposed to start at 7:30, it had just turned half past eight and the fans were
in the mood to shake some action.

 

Suddenly, there
he was, dressed in black (you expected avocado?) with the always superb E
Street Band in tow. With a rear phalanx of brass and reeds now added, its ranks
have swelled to the point where they are almost uncountable (at least 16, maybe
as many as 20). This mighty unit is still driven by the muscular drumming of
Max Weinberg and the twin guitars of Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren. In a
nice touch, Jake Clemons has been added for those familiar lead breaks as a new
tenor saxman, ably taking the place of his uncle, Clarence Clemons, who died in
2011.

 

One thing hasn’t
changed: Springsteen lights up a building like very few entertainers. Only Tony
Bennett (whom Springsteen vaguely resembles) comes to mind as having a similar
effect on a crowd this large. Springsteen bursts into “We Take Care Of Our
Own,” and “Wrecking Ball,” the powerful opening salvo from the
new album,  Wrecking Ball (Columbia)
and that’s all it takes. You will not resist. He’s gotten under your skin for
the rest of a mammoth set that’s taking dead aim at the three-hour mark before
it’s all over.

 

To prove how
much they love the guy, the standees at the front of the main floor,
reverentially return Springsteen’s prostrate body to the stage after passing
him hand-to-hand for about 25 yards, deep into the crowd. Most stars of this
magnitude would never think of attempting
a potentially risky maneuver like this. But with Springsteen’s true believers,
there is almost no chance that he will be injured by an over-zealous souvenir
hunter.

 

After recalling
the days when he once played “VFW Halls, CYO dances and supermarket
openings,” Springsteen brings up a more recent career highlight.
“Last month we played the Apollo Theater in New York, where all the masters once
stood,” he says before saluting Motown legends the Temptations with their Smokey Robinson-penned 1964 hit
“The Way You Do The Things You Do,” then capping the medley with the
Marvelettes’ “Beechwood 4-5789.”

 

It’s a tribute
to Springsteen’s staying power that some of the best tunes he played tonight – “We
Are Alive,” “Shackled And Drawn” and the Irish penny
whistle-flavored “Death To My Hometown” – in a set list that always
seems like a career retrospective, come from the new longplayer. He even
manages to put a brave face on a national job market that may never completely
recover, with “Jack Of All Trades” (“I’ll mow your lawn, clean
the leaves out your drain/I’ll mend your roof to keep out the rain/I’ll take
the work that God provides/I’m a jack-of-all-trades, honey we’ll be all
right”).

 

By the time the
sand begins to fill the bottom half of the hourglass with familiar flagwavers
“Born To Run,” “Thunder
Road” and “Dancing In The Dark,”
the building begins to levitate like a NASA booster rocket. The sheer
exhaustion of such a full night may have crept
into your body like that of a long-distance runner. But a Springsteen show also
has the restorative powers of a visit to Lourdes
or the Vatican
by the afflicted. Just point one hand in the direction of Brother Bruce and
place the other one where it hurts. It’s bound to make you feel better.

 

 

 

 

 

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