Here we are in the years: a one-time voice of the common man singing anthems that long-ago lost their meaning to him and his audience, the vast majority of which never understood them, anyway. (“Born in the USA,” anyone?) That, to an extent, was what I expected in the months leading up to last night’s Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band concert at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC. Where once E Street Radio was my go-to channel in the car, I migrated up the SiriusXM channel list to Soul Town and ‘60s Gold—or opted to stream any of the many new albums I’ve reviewed these past few months. Yeah, I was disgruntled. Disenchanted. The ticket-buying process left me questioning long-held truths about Springsteen’s ongoing conversation with his fans.
I’ve seen more than my share of expensive shows, mind you, so the high point of entry was never my issue. Rather, the embrace of dynamic pricing by the Springsteen camp, which saw the first (excellent) tickets I attempted to purchase for the show rise $200 after I added them to my check-out cart, left my spirit feeling hacked. I settled for decent side-stage seats near or at face value—but it was impossible to tell, as the Ticketmaster experience is little more than a three-card monte game with usury-rate “service charges” tacked on after the cheat. Though our seats were much better than the behind-the-stage ones we had in 2009, the Marching Ants show of ‘99 or our “obstructed-view” seats in 1992, I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt cheated. Mistreated. When would I be loved?
But how does that song go again? “Blow away the dreams that tear you apart/Blow away the dreams that break your heart/Blow away the lies that leave you nothing but lost and brokenhearted….” As the day of the concert neared, my apprehension slipped away.
The thing about a Springsteen concert is that, at its best, it’s not just about the show. It’s friends new and old coming together, maybe first at a restaurant for lunch and then at the venue’s parking lot for a tailgate, with some of those folks flying or driving in from far away. It’s a community of like-minded souls reuniting for a day, maybe two, then going their separate ways until next they meet. So this Saturday went, at any rate—good friends, food and conversations. (And a fun breakfast gathering this morning, too!)
Anyway, at some point in the weeks prior to the show, friends upgraded their excellent first-level seats for entrance into the “pit,” aka the standing-only section located near the stage, and offered us their old tickets for what they paid. What the hell? In for a penny, in for a pound—though I don’t know the exact weight, as Diane carried that portion (with some of the cost recouped by selling our initial seats—for what we spent—to other friends).
One result of my disconnect: I didn’t pay much mind to the previous concerts on this tour, though occasional posts about “static” setlists bubbled up into my Facebook feed. I laughed when I saw such criticisms, to be honest; many artists play the same songs night after night after night in the same order, and given that Bruce and band are basically barnstorming cities in a one-and-done manner, aside from those who travel hither and yon to see more than one show, it doesn’t impact the experience for 99.9 percent of those in attendance.
In truth, Springsteen has crafted a near-perfect set centered on the main theme that drove the last E Street Band album, 2020’s excellent Letter to You—mortality. The songs aren’t just about facing death but, as those of us of a certain age often do, reflecting back on the days that used to be. “No Surrender” is a perfect opener, in that sense: “We swore blood brothers against the wind/I’m ready to grow young again.” The Letter to You track “Ghosts” follows with the reason to want to go back in time: the death of a contemporary, in this case his former Castiles bandmate and mentor George Thiess.
Not all the set tackles the theme as overtly as those two or the songs Bruce tackles solo—“Last Man Standing” and the closing “I’ll See You in My Dreams”—but they connect. They’re the building blocks not just of his career, but no doubt to the life soundtracks of almost everyone in the arena. A scan of the crowd at the Coliseum revealed thousands upon thousands of older fans, all of whom I’m sure have turned to his music to make the good times better and the bad times a little less worse. That emotional compact matters more than the price of a ticket.
About the only thing that would have made it better: If “Youngstown” had been included, as—and I’m speakin’ out here—it would have given the great Nils Lofgren a second chance to step into the spotlight. (He did wonders with “Because the Night.” Just sayin’.)
So, yeah, I’m no longer disenchanted. As the song goes, “Badlands, you gotta live it every day/Let the broken hearts stand as the price you’ve gotta pay/Keep pushing till it’s understood/And these badlands start treating us good…”
- No Surrender
- Prove It All Night
- Letter To You
- The Promised Land
- Out In The Street
- Candy’s Room
- Kitty’s Back
- The E Street Shuffle
- Darlington County
- Johnny 99
- Last Man Standing
- Because The Night
- She’s The One
- Wrecking Ball
- The Rising
- Thunder Road
- Born To Run
- Glory Days
- Dancing In The Dark
- Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
- I’ll See You In My Dreams
Cool, did you film more songs? 😉
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Jersey Shore gem hip cultural charming New York City born love ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ this dynamic pricing is so unfair to the legions of most beautiful upscale sunny Jersey Shore fans so many deep fond memories rock
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What were the procedures for pit entry there? Lottery or first come first served?
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I believe first come, first served, but could be wrong.
Your words echoed my sentiments exactly. Looking forward to my redemption 9/9 traveling from Corpus Christi TX to Baltimore for the show at Camden Yards. Can’t even begin to explain why reading the set list here brought tears to my eyes! Phenomenal Feelings for Bruuuuuuce Springsteen and THE E-Street Band!
So Jeff from what I read in your review you didnt like the concert.I thought at age 73 he was pretty amazing.You critics are all alike always seeing the bad in people.I guess you are a Taylor Lipsyncing Swift fan
To the contrary. If you read my review in full, as opposed to just the first paragraph, you’ll see that he won me over (again) by the end.