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Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005 - 11:12 p.m.

Solo Springsteen

Saw Springsteen last night. Different and interesting, the solo performance. No E Street Band, no special guests, unless you count the ukelele or the auto harp. Or the god damned bullet mic. Just Bruce, half a dozen different guitars, a harmonica and a piano. His words and music.

I'm sure there are plenty of Those Guys at every concert, but it seemed to me like there were an unusually large number of people wearing Springsteen t-shirts. One guy had on a shirt and a "Devils & Dust" hat. C'mon, dude.

For me, the highlights included the solo piano version of "Backstreets," which didn't need the "happy anniversary" dedication to "Mr. Landau," Bruce's manager and producer on the now-30-year-old Born To Run album. The "Empty Sky" opening as well as the piano versions of "Santa Ana" and "Thundercrack" more than made up for "Born In The USA" and "Johnny 99" on the bullet mic.

I just wasn't feelin' that twist. I'm not sure how best to describe it, but it sounds a little like he was singing into one of those voiceboxes you hold up to your trachea, a la Ned Gerblansky. It just didn't come through the speakers and amplifiers well, particularly on "Born In The USA," which otherwise might've been a very interesting arrangment. For the song, he'd play a blues riff on harmonica (into the mic), then sing a line from the song. He started out in the middle of the stage, then crept toward the front, at which point he stomped his foot with increasing force, creating a back beat. Put together, in a Beale Street blues house, it might have been mesmerizing. Instead, it was actually a bit painful. It probably didn't help that he had a cold too.

Here's the setlist, taken from Backstreets.com, though it will eventually get buried there as more shows are posted.

November 16 /E. Rutherford, NJ / Continental Airlines Arena
Notes:
We've all got Born to Run on the brain this week, and tonight -- the first show since the release of the 30th Anniversary box -- Bruce was right there too, treating the crowd to our namesake, "Backstreets." He dedicated the song, with a "happy anniversary," to Jon Landau. It was only the third time a Born to Run song has been played on this tour, following "Thunder Road" on 10/12 and the debut of "Backstreets" on 8/6. Plus, the second tour performance of "The Wall," the first-ever "Does This Bus Stop" on ukulele, and, as in Atlantic City, Bruce kept "Santa Ana" in the main set and "Thundercrack" in the encore. Also as in Atlantic City, however, he was struggling with a bad cold, and it clearly affected the performance. Some notes were tough to hit tonight, and he called out for some hot tea... but the show went on, as it must, and cold or no, the "One Step Up" falestto was amazing. He didn't let the return to the Meadowlands pass without a mention of his previous visit back on 5/19: "Last time I was here, I cursed out a whole section that was just trying to tell me about an equipment problem. And all I have to say is... don't fuck with me, or I'll do it again." Good to see the sense of humor intact -- "kidding on the square" or not -- and get well soon.
Setlist: Empty Sky/Born in the U.S.A./Devils & Dust/Long Time Comin/The Wall*/Backstreets*/Johnny 99/Part Man, Part Monkey/Ain't Got You/All the Way Home/One Step Up/Reno/Santa Ana*/Lost in the Flood*/Drive All Night*/The Rising/Further On (Up the Road)/Jesus Was an Only Son*/Two Hearts/The New Timer#//Matamoros Banks
Encore: Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street*****/My Best Was Never Good Enough/Thundercrack*/The Promised Land/Dream Baby Dream**
*=piano
**=pump organ
*****=ukulele
#=autoharp


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