There are some great thoughts in here and really Allen St. John is always an enjoyable columnist to read. A few items on team-building as well that I found interesting. Here you go!
“Give Them the Unexpected: A few songs into his first ever concert at the Prudential Center, Springsteen sauntered to the mic: ”This is a good building,” he said. “Real noisy. So in honor of [our] first time here, we’re going to do something for the first time! Never been played outside this building except one other time when I was a baby child.”
He then left the audience speechless by launching into the most obscure of Springsteen obscurities, a 1972 demo called “Bishop Danced” that he hadn’t performed live since March 2, 1973, one of only three known live performances.
The thing to remember is that Springsteen fans routinely go to multiple shows, with the most ardent fans having been to hundreds, even thousands of performances. A tour premiere for a rarity like the B-side ”Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” makes big news, made even bigger by the fact that Springsteen set-lists are posted on Backstreets.com hours after the show and archived setlists from 30-year old shows are available in seconds on the Internet. A full-blown obscurity like Bishop Danced, is a full-fledged event. A lot of us could have gone home happy after that song. We’re glad we didn’t.
Give Them the Expected: Through the rest of the set, Bruce trotted out selections from his greatest hits, lean-mean, fuel-injected versions songs like Born to Run, Rosalita, The Rising, and Dancing in the Dark. He resurrected a few forgotten favorites like She’s The One and Candy’s Room. If this was your first Springsteen concert and your familiarity with his music went as far as an iTunes collection, you’d still leave with a smile on your face.
Trust Your Customers: During the so-called Apollo Medley of soul favorites, Springsteen trekked out to an auxiliary stage in the middle of the crowd. And then he crowd surfed back to the stage. Talk about a team-building trust exercise. Springsteen put himself into the middle of a mob of thousands of fans of varying sizes, strengths, sobriety’s, and intentions, completely beyond the help of his many burly security guards. He showed more than a little faith, and it was repaid a thousand times over as he was deposited gently back onto the stage five minutes later. Later in the show, a couple of die hards popped up onto the stage half-invited. Springsteen just laughed, put his arm around them, let them sing into the mic for a second, and then trusted that they’d do the right thing and climb back off the stage. The security guards just watched with their arms folded.
Be Open to Opportunities: A poor guy in the audience held up a sign for two solid hours “Play one for Levon Helm: Atlantic City, Cripple Creek, The Weight. At the end of the set when it seemed like he was done with requests, Springsteen finally acknowledged the sign, and the death of the great drummer from The Band. Bruce mispronounced Helm’s first name, but he completely nailed the song: his solo version of The Weight, a song about community and loss, revealed one simple truth: of all the colors in Springsteen’s musical palette, there are few as powerful as 18,000 people singing harmony.
Respect Your Colleagues: A night like this is a team effort, from John Cooper’s stellar sound to the welcome addition of the E-Street Horns. Midway through the set, Bruce shouted for Kevin Buell, his long-time guitar tech to come to the stage. It wasn’t because he broke a string or found that a pickup was broken. He called the unsung Buell out to the mic simply for a shout out, and to acknowledge that this was show number 1,002 for his long-time guitar tech. Buell counted in a song, and responded with a touchdown catch when Springsteen tossed his Telecaster across the stage.
But the biggest moment of E-Street Band unity came during the show’s very last song, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out. Again wading out into the middle of the crowd, Springsteen sang the line “The change was made uptown when the Big Man joined the band.” Then Bruce and the band stopped dead. The video screens showed silent, reverent images of The Big Man, the late Clarence Clemons, while the crowd cheered, and more than a few tears were shed.
For almost two solid minutes, Bruce and The Band stepped aside, acknowledging the void that Clemons’ death left in their music and in all of our hearts, (Although his nephew Jake Clemons was an ideal replacement to the degree to which such a thing is possible) It was a pitch-perfect moment of catharsis and communion. And when the band started up again, we all knew where this song and this night had to go: up and out. At the end of even the longest and best Bruce shows, there was always a little part of me that hoped for one more encore, maybe the Detroit Medley or Quarter to Three. Not tonight. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out left me sad and happy and perfectly satisfied.”
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