Tuesday night. I don’t think there is a rock ‘n’ roller who identifies as much with his fans as Springsteen. While he doesn’t want to be imprisoned by them, he doesn’t want to leave them behind either. And tonight he’s really carrying his audience, working the edge of the stage, pulling down his sun glasses and staring at them directly in the eye, slapping hands with those in the front row. When he jumps down from the stage during “Spirit in the Night,” it doesn’t feel obligatory. It’s the softest and warmest version of the song I’ve ever heard him do; part of the reason is that he lingers in the crowd.
One remarkable quality about Springsteen’s stage performance is how his face changes. It’s not merely expression or gesture. He has the actor’s ability to transform himself into altogether a new character. In sun glasses and three-piece suit he looks like Dylan. During the middle of “Rosalita” he hunches himself up in a cross between Pacino and DeNiro. During “Fire,” his hair is pulled back and he could be a ‘50s rocker. There’s nothing obvious about these changes: Springsteen doesn’t announce them, yet they’re played to the last row of the hall.
The Tuesday concert is basically the same as Monday’s. The only alterations are the addition of “Candy’s Room” and the substitution of “Because the Night” for “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” as the fourth encore. The last was something of a surprise. For Patti Smith’s hit version’s sake, it’s a good thing that Springsteen probably won’t play it often, for she comes off second-best. Springsteen’s solo makes a mockery of Lenny Kaye’s. It turns and twists and burns with a sexuality that Kaye doesn’t even hint at. And when he changes the lyrics to “They won’t hurt us now” he gets to the paranoia beneath the song’s insularity.
An odd paradox became apparent. Tonight’s show was clearly a better concert – more confident and assertive – yet it made the tentativeness of Monday’s concert in retrospect more appealing. Springsteen struggling, it seems, is theses day is more interesting performer than Springsteen sailing.
I grew up in this small town with about 10,000 people. My mom, she used to work as a secretary downtown in one of those big office buildings. My pop, he worked in a plastics factory for a while. He was a guard down at the jail for a little while. He worked in this big rug room that used to employ a lot of people in town until they closed it down. So I was left home alone a lot, but as soon as I got to be 16 I used to get off to New York as much as I could. I used to stay up there as soon as the money would run out or until the cops would catch us just sleeping at the Port Authority and they’d call down your folks or something.
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