This was the fifth venue in Pittsburgh for a Springsteen concert (Three Rivers Stadium; Civic Arena twice; PNC Park; Petersen Events Center) for me. And maybe I'll catch another one. Near the end of the show Bruce brought on stage (as he always does in the Burg) Joe Grushecky and his son, Johnny Grushecky, and announce a "Joe and Bruce and the Houserockers" concert May 22 and 23 at Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium. Anybody want to give me a birthday gift six months in advance?!!!...
(From the November 2, 2011, concert at Soldiers and Sailors Auditorium.)
The show was....superlatives as always fail. The band is as tight as ever, Bruce bounces all over the stage, and among the crowd, and into the crowd, and surfs the crowd, and dances with fans on stage. I found the set list eclectic in the extreme. The musicianship and the quality is just there, song after song after song. As he did for the first time when on tour in Australia, Springsteen brought with him Tom Morello, from the group Rage Against the Machine, to sub for Little Stevie Van Zandt. Van Zandt is filming his HBO show "Lilyhammer" in Norway, and was absent. Morello brings tremendous guitar skills (even playing with his teeth!), and I love the skreeching, scathing version of "Ghost of Tom Joad" he does with the Boss. But I missed the duets between Stevie and Bruce. Jake Clemens (Big Man Clarence's nephew) keeps getting better and better on sax. And wife Patti Scialfa joined Bruce on "Seven Nights to Rock," half embarrassed (as it seemed from our sky-high seats) and half winking at the crowd over the double entendre lyrics.
Personal favorites "Youngstown" and "Land of Hope and Dreams" were just powerful. Two years ago in Cleveland I saw Bruce do "Back in Your Arms" on the fly as a fan request. This concert it was on the listed set, haunting and evocative as ever. (Bruce preceded it with a short setup, asking the crowd "How many of you have messed up a relationship?" getting a smattering of noise, and then adding, "And the rest of you are liars!") Every time I hear "Wrecking Ball" there are new angles to reflect on. This time it brought to memory that the wrecking ball had indeed done to the Civic Arena across the street what it did to old Giants Stadium in New Jersey.
What I take from the three hour fifteen minute musical extravaganza by the self-proclaimed "Prisoner of Rock and Roll" is the sheer sheer joy of entertainment. The other night I caught a half-hour HBO documentary on the making of Springsteen's latest album, "High Hopes." Near the end, Bruce answers the question a lot of people ask, why does he (and the band) still go out on the road (and fly to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and all parts of Europe)? He's made more money than anyone of us can imagine. He's got the awards. I'm sure he feels the aches and pains of his aging body. His kids are grown and on their own (no grandbabies yet).
Bruce said, "I do this because I must." He never mails it in. The E Street Band never mails it in. The passion is still there. And us fans keep wanting more.
(Photographs from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)