Saturday, March 17, 2012

Springsteen: SXSW Is Some "Mutant Teenager's Wet Dream"

Posted By on Sat, Mar 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM

So I haven't posted much from SXSW, mostly because I've been too busy soaking up the music and the scene, which is loud and crazy and chaotic and crowded. Or, as Bruce Springsteen put it during his two-hour, 40-minute concert, SXSW is some "mutant teenager's wet dream."

Yeah, that's right: I was lucky enough to win the Golden Ticket of this year's festival: TIckets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the intimate setting of the Moody Theater, the set of Austin City Limits. It was as good as it gets for a kid who was born in Jersey (although I got out while I was young). The songs I loved when I was a kid—“Badlands," "Promised Land" and (are you kidding me?) "The E Street Shuffle"—and plenty of guest stars, including Jimmy Cliff, Tom Morello, Alexandro Escovedo and even Arcade Fire. The tribute to Clarence Clemons during "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" brought a few tears to my eyes and the finale of "This Land Is Your Land" was a heartfelt tribute to Woody Guthrie's legacy.

I'll have more on the whole trip later (because I can't spend any more time hanging out in the hotel room), but here's a review of the show, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune:

photo.JPG
  • Charlie Levy


Almost lost in the all-star revolving door was that the show marked a new beginning for Springsteen and the retooled E Street Band, which was gearing up to promote the singer's latest album, "Wrecking Ball," on an international stadium tour this year. The band has suffered loses of founding members Danny Federici and Springsteen foil Clarence Clemons in recent years. Springsteen has responded by expanding the band to 17 pieces, including a five-deep horn section and three backing singers.

For the last decade, E Street shows have taken on a more pronounced gospel-soul vibe, and this set took that impulse even further. With massed voices abetted by horns, this was a band (or mini-orchestra) built for raising the cathedral roof, and there was a new energy on stage that was apparent from the get-go: a stirring a cappella intro to Woody Guthrie's "I Ain't Got No Home," which morphed into a string-band hymn.

Stripping away some of the sheen that deadens the studio versions of his recent songs, "We Take Care of Our Own" and "Wrecking Ball" sounded bolder, tougher, angrier than on record. "Badlands" came crashing out of the gate with no less than five guitars thrashing away. Morello joined for the Irish stomp "Death to My Hometown" and made his guitar sound like an electrified tin whistle.

The expanded lineup and the cameos helped ease the band into a new era, a strength-in-numbers strategy that echoed Springsteen's brief toast to his fallen band members: "If you're here and we're here, they're here.

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