Springsteen Concert Reviews from the 1999 Tour

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Los Angeles, CA, October 17, 1999
Set List Available
Posted on November 7, 1999 @ 1:00PM GMT


Bruce: Soul Deep

At last, after months and months of reading about tour'99, I caught the opening Springsteen gig in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, 17 October. For this observer it'd been seven long years and a lifetime of memories. Two days later, many observations resonated.

Bruce, the live artist, was not really all that different from previous tours. He still worked like a dog, committed himself 100% to his performance and had the crowd in the palm of his hand from the first note. The lighting was excellent, accentuating all the emotional elements that are part of a Springsteen experience. The red and blue hues during his solo, 12 string acoustic "Born In The U.S.A." were striking. And, as he's only done every night for OVER 25 YEARS, Springsteen still considered the kid in the back row who'd never seen the show, still remembered that the only sure thing isn't yesterday or tomorrow, but right now.

There was a noticeable effort to keep the tempos down for the opening five song run of "My Love" to "Promised Land," as if he wanted to keep both band and audience on an even keel. The deliberate nature of these arrangements made a lot more sense by actually being there rather than watching a couple of opening tunes from New Jersey on VH1 in July.

Additionally, it was evident that years of accumulated experience have made better musicians of each E Streeter. They operate at a much higher level than in 1985; Max in particular has learned to walk like the heroes he thought he had to be. Several songs on Sunday evening were groove-based, like "Working On The Highway," and this band grooved. Tunes like "Youngstown" and "Murder Inc." displayed a much-needed edge to push them along. Bruce's harmonica work on the new arrangement of "The River" is the best of his storied career.

The triple guitar attack, although a tad much at times, was well-handled by Bruce; he played most of the solos himself! Yeah! Most surprising was his superb lead on "Backstreets," which I expected he'd give over to Nils or Steven.

Although Bruce didn't approach his show as a nostalgia trip, many on Sunday night did. The mighty roar accompanying the opening notes of "Prove It All Night" was evidence enough. "Badlands" and "Bobby Jean" garnered emphatic, cross-aisle high fives, while gorgeous renditions of "Mansion on the Hill" or "The Ghost of Tom Joad" seemed to fall upon numerous deaf ears or beer-seekers.

Bruce's comments about Staples Center's inability to seat the crowd by 8pm, "plumbing" problems and preponderance of "skyboxes" were both hilarious and subtle. Sadly, much of the audience seemed to ignore his pitch to check out the local food bank charity booth in the lobby. Crowd interest (and money) appeared to be more devoted to $6.50 cups of beer at omnipresent concession stands. God bless America.

To be fair, this wasn't a stereotypically blasť L.A. crowd. When Springsteen signaled everyone to raise their hands, 40,000 arms went up. When he ranted, preacher-style, about "life right now," we were all with him. The crowd played a huge part in making this "10th Avenue Freeze-Out" a show-stopping success.

It was reassuring to observe the median age seemed closer to 30 than 40. Bruce hasn't lost his relevance to every damn Gen X-er! Surprisingly, I noted a slightly more diverse racial mix than expected -- the "Streets of Philadelphia" influence, perhaps?

When Springsteen, standing in front of 20,000, busted into two perfect verses of "California Sun" in the midst of "Light of Day," I wondered if he recalled playing the same Rivieras tune in some crappy Jersey gym back in '65 before a few dozen high school peers. One cannot help but feel his choice contained more than a little touch of irony.

Opening the second encore, "Thunder Road" seemed consigned totally to the fans. Bruce appeared obligated to include it. It's evident that he's more than a little tired of the "show a little faith" bit sung by the crowd. In lieu of dropping it from the set, a solo rendition utilizing his demo arrangement from 1975 might be stunning and perhaps more personally edifying. By contrast, "Born To Run" was full of life; as with many tracks that Dylan approaches on stage from various periods of his lengthy career, this song allowed a generation of dreams to breathe within its five minutes and just sounded magnificent.

"If I Should Fall Behind" was all it was cracked up to be, by far the most moving experience of the night. Such sincerity and tenderness in such a simple, perfect song! As each available musician stepped up to sweetly render their lines, it went beyond mere celebration of an enduring relationship to successfully imbue every soul in the building with grace, love and dignity.

On Sunday evening, Bruce renewed a sense of what it means to be alive. This show goes soul deep and a mile wide, something to cherish to as we end the nineties together.

Written by Johnny Savage