Friday, November 19, 1999
The Boss: How rock is done
BY LARRY NAGER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLUMBUS Rev. Bruce Springsteen's Traveling Revival set up shop at Schottenstein Center Wednesday night with the promise to resurrect the majesty, the mystery, the ministry of rock 'n' roll.
And yea, he delivered his people, all 19,000 of them, to that promised land in a nonstop three-hour worship service fueled by 25 years of songs.
With the king of arena rock's golden age reunited with his E Street Band in their first tour of the '90s, the night was a true revival.
His wife and backup singer Patti Scialfa was sidelined with a perforated eardrum, meaning the Boss had a raucous night out with the boys that reclaimed his '70s glory days.
Jump back in time
He pretty much ignored the past decade, a time that saw his star fade with the dismissal of E Street and his subsequent Lucky Town and Human Touch CDs. He played just one song from that era, If I Fall Behind, but he did it communally, sharing choruses with his hunched gypsy doppelganger Little Steven Van Zandt, iconic sax man Clarence Clemons and the band's '80s guitarist Nils Lofgren.
There were two songs from his most recent set of new material, 1995's The Ghost of Tom Joad, the title track and Youngstown, the latter done in blast furnace intensity.
It was a night for crowd-pleasing. His faithful, ranging from their 30s to 50s, were happy just to see him back with the old gang and the old songs.
The 50-year-old Springsteen gave them what they wanted, counting each one off as if his life depended on it The Ties That Bind, Prove It All Night, Two Hearts, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The Promised Land, My Hometown, The River. And that was just the first 40 minutes.
This was the full, mythic Brooooos!, propelled by the booming backbeat of Max Weinberg's drums and Mr. Clemons' soaring sax, abetted by the camaraderie and dependable backup of Little Steven, bassist Gary Tallent and keyboardists Roy Bittan and Danny Federici.
Even as he sang of hopes and dreams and how real life can distort them, he was there to have a good time. During 10th Avenue Freezeout, he leaped on top of Mr. Bittan's grand piano and, to the squeals of his female fans, stripped off his shirt to complete the classic Springsteen uniform faded black T-shirt, black jeans and black boots.
Dancing to the lip of the stage he dropped to his knees as the women in front grabbed at him. Jumping up with a wide grin, he told them, Sorry girls, I'm taken. She ain't here, but I guarantee, she's listening.
"Why I'm here tonight'
Then he returned to his religious theme, singing a few lines from Al Green's Take Me to the River, before launching into a full-fledged sermon. Raised Catholic, he obviously has spent a lot of time listening to Southern Baptists, as he preached of a river of resurrection. That's why I'm here tonight, he shouted to his congregation. I can't get there by myself.
This was classic rock in more than the radio format sense. The communal nature of concerts has been lost as shows have become empty spectacles, live music videos.
This was the real, sweaty stuff, sung and played from the heart by a man who still believes rock 'n' roll is more than just a good time, for a crowd that still finds redemption in music.
As the rocking reverend told his flock, I can't promise you life everlasting. But I can promise you life right now!
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