Bruce Springsteen concert Greensboro Coliseum March 10 2012
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
March 19, 2012
By Grant Britt
photos by Mary Law
Forget Zumba Dance. If you want a rock and roll workout, Bruce Springsteen‘s your man. March 19 at the Greensboro, N.C. Coliseum, The Boss took a capacity crowd through a nearly three hour, sweat- soaked workout in support of his latest release, Wrecking Ball. Unlike Emmy Lou Harris’ record of the same name, there’s not much softness here. Springsteen’s opus, debuting at number one on Billboard’s rock charts a week ago, is lyrically stark but rich in musical texture.
To flesh that out on the road, Springsteen has expanded his E Street Band to a seventeen piece ensemble featuring a horn section that rivals Tower of Power’s back in the day and a couple of backup singers that add a tinge of gospel soul to the mix. .
James Brown’s whompin’ goodfoot, on-the-one downbeat classic “Papa’s A Got A Brand New Bag” played Broooce on stage. Silhouetted in a single white spot, his face obscured, Springsteen mock announced himself, parodying MC Fats Gonder’s intro of Brown on his ’62 release Live at The Apollo. Springsteen alluded to himself as “the Jersey Devil” and “The future of rock ‘n’ roll himself.”
As the lights came up, lasers stabbing through the coliseum like a Star Wars battle scene, Springsteen slammed into “We Take Care Of Our Own,” nearly bumping heads with Little Stephen as they shared a mic on the rowdy “Hey Hey” chorus.
At 62, Springsteen proves as agile as his music, doing a split, albeit with the aid of the mic stand to get back up, crowd surfing backwards, and doing a back bend at the mic, ending with his head on the floor and his feet still firmly planted in place.
The band is as agile as he is, with Max Wineberg as the band’s unrelenting heartbeat, thundering away like a Viking oarmaster pounding out a rowing cadence for musical slaves. It’s great to see a big band on the road in rock, a holdover from rock and roll reviews like the Johnny Otis show. Lyle Lovett and his big band and Delbert are the few left today who still support a big touring band. There’s nothing else like it, with that big sound, punched up by a stellar horn section, that grabs you by the throat and the seat of your pants and makes you have to get up and move.
But there’s one big horn missing tonight, and several in the crowd have been wondering aloud how Springsteen is going to fill the void Clarence Clemons left with his passing in June of last year. But there was no need to worry, as Clemons nephew Jake proved when he stepped up when it was time for his uncle’s trademark solo in “Badlands,” nailing the Big Man’s solo note for note, matching it in intensity and soul.
“Been too long since we saw each other,” Springsteen told the Greensboro audience, “and we missed you.” He assured the crowd that the old and new members of the E Street band would bring the healing power of music, “shot straight to your heart… wake you, shake you, take you to higher ground, make your seat hurt, hands hurt, voice hurt; make a joyful noise; bring a smile to your face or die tryin!”
He set out to achieve that goal with a mix of old and new material. A rowdy version of “E Street Shuffle” is followed by “Jack of All Trades,” a new working man’s anthem from Wrecking Ball, featuring a scorching guitar outro by Tom Morello on record and pulled off by 25 year E Street vet Nils Lofgren live. “I’ll mow your lawn, clean the leafs outcha drain,/I’m a Jack of all trades.” The Boss proclaims, after telling his mate that he can and is willing do a variety of menial jobs to feed his family: “We‘ll be alright,” he promises her.
It’s clear Springsteen was deeply affected by his visit, and the first unofficial tour stop at the Apollo Theatre in NYC on March 9 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of SiriusXM satellite radio. Springsteen dubbed the Apollo a school where all the teachers plied their crafts.You took Religion from Aretha, Sex Ed from Marvin Gaye, Wisdom from Solomon…Burke (which drew a scant response from the crowd. Even when Springsteen name dropped one of Burke’s bestsellers, “Every body Needs Somebody to Love,” not many responded) and Poetry by Mister Smokey (Robinson.) Springsteen started an a capella version of Smokey’s “The Way you Do The Things You Do” before the band, along with Clarence ‘s nephew Jake on sax, jumped in and kicked ass. Jake’s already got the Clemons sound, and from the looks of his already chunky physique, he’s working on filling more than just the Big Man’s shoes. The Boss’s take on Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” showed he’s a soul man as well as a rocker. Though he growled his way through this one, Springsteen‘s voice has never sounded better. He’s more crooner than shouter on a lot of the new stuff, and even on the older material he performed tonight, his voice was mellower than usual.
The six encores start off with a new innovation for a Springsteen concert, with backup singer Michele Moore rapping a mercifully short verse of the new song “Rocky Ground.” For “Land Of hope And Dreams,” the arena looks like a Baptist church at altar call, a sea of hands waving heavenward.
“Born To Run” has the building shaking on it’s foundation, and “Dancing In The Dark” keeps the crowd in a constant state of shimmy. “Rosalita” comes out for the first time on tour and the crowd sings most of it. “Tenth Avenue Freezeout” is a tribute to Clarence Clemons. Bruce and the band stop when he sings the line “Big Man joined the band,” Springsteen holds one arm high, beckoning the crowd to continue their cheering fora full five-minute, ear-splitting wordless eulogy.
The Boss and his large entourage finally leave the stage, leaving behind a room full of sweaty but exhilarated folks who’ve just had the best and most fulfilling workout of their lives.
Greensboro set list March 19, 2012
1. We Take Care of Our Own
2. Wrecking Ball
4. Death to My Hometown
5. My City of Ruins
6. E Street Shuffle
7. Jack of All Trades
9. Easy Money
10. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
11. The Promised Land
12. Apollo Medley (The Way You Do the Things You Do/634-5789) -dedicated to daughter Jess
13. Shackled and Drawn
14. Because the Night
15. The Rising
16. We Are Alive
17. Thunder Road
18. Rocky Ground
19. Land of Hope and Dreams
20. Born to Run
21. Dancing in the Dark
22. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
23. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out