OK, so I need to say a little more than that, and I guess to start with I should mention that the acoustics in the Oakland Arena are pretty crappy. It may have been a lot better down in the more expensive seats, but we were up near the roof which is covered in concrete girders, and the sound was very muddy at times. Fortunately I knew most of the songs backwards.
It had been suggested to us in advance by folks at one of the concession stands that Patti’s band were going to play a warm up, but that never happened. Bruce took the stage just after 8:00pm and played for about two hours. He doesn’t jump around the stage quite as much as he used to, but he’s pretty damn fit for his age and he’s older than I am so I’m not complaining. He also played a fine set that included most of Magic and a smattering of favorite songs from earlier years such as “Badlands” and “She’s the One.”
Jonathan and I had been chatting beforehand about which particular old songs we’d like to hear. He went for “Jungleland”, I opted for “Thunder Road.” In the event, neither turned up. And there was a particular song on Magic that they hadn’t played. But there was an encore to come, wasn’t there? Heck, they’d only played for two hours, and the lights hadn’t gone up. Show a little faith.
Aha! Action on the stage. Here comes the band, and much to my relief they launch straight into “Girls in their Summer Clothes.” Fabulous it was too, with the audience signing along to the chorus. Then the band went quiet for a while, before drifting into a well-known melody. Surely not? But there was magic in the night after all. And after a wonderful rendition of “Thunder Road” the band ripped full-tilt into “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark.” What better encore could you ask for? Heck, what other band has a collection of songs that good that they could use in an encore?
That’s it as far as the music is concerned. Many thanks to Jonathan for alerting me to it, and to Kevin for buying the tickets and putting up with my Bruce obsession all week. But there is one other thing I want to talk about.
Bruce Springsteen is best known as a musician, but if you were to ask him to define himself I suspect that pretty high on the list would come the phrase, “a proud American”. He did, after all, produce an album called Born in the USA – something that caused a lot of snickering in Britain when it came out. But for Bruce, as for many Americans, patriotism does not mean, “My country, right or wrong”, especially as there seems to be an awful lot of wrong right now.
There is a song on Magic called “Living in the Future” which I had spotted as a bit of political comment. In classic science-fictional manner it is actually about now, and Bruce took time out during the intro to talk a bit about the song and what he thinks is going wrong with his country. I don’t suppose it would have gone down well in certain parts of Washington, but here in the Bay Area his message was well received.
In addition, Springsteen closes every gig with the song, “American Land.” Although it sounds very much like a traditional Irish song about emigration (including the lines, “There’s diamonds in the sidewalk, there’s gutters lined in song, Dear I hear that beer flows through the faucets all night long”) it was written by Springsteen, and he’s in the habit of messing with the lyrics every now and then. I gather that he does this mainly to honor different ethnic groups that have help build America, but today, because the lyrics were being shown on the big screen, I noticed a new change.
There’s a line in the song that goes, “The hands that built the country we’re all trying to keep down”, this being a standard Springsteen complaint about the lot of the working classes. Tonight that line read, “The hands that built the country we’re all trying to keep out.” I don’t suppose that will go down well in Washington either. Long may Mr. Springsteen continue to tweak their noses.