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Bruce Springsteen returns to Los Angeles with a 'Dream' tour*

It was no accident that on tax-reckoning day, the same day Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was holding a forum in downtown L.A. to address the Golden State's buckling economy, Bruce Springsteen put a decidedly California spin on his overarching musical message about holding onto hope even in the face of such hard times.

Springsteen invited local political firebrand Tom Morello, of Rage Against the Machine/the Nightwatchman fame, to join him on stage Wednesday at the first of two consecutive nights at the Los Angeles Sports Arena for a savage duet on "The Ghost of Tom Joad," the Boss' 1995 Steinbeck-Bruce Springsteen, live in Los Angeles inspired treatise on those who've been let down or forgotten in the promised land:

He pulls a prayer book out of his sleeping bag
Preacher lights up a butt and takes a drag
Waiting for when the last shall be first and the first shall be last
In a cardboard box 'neath the underpass

He and Morello traded impassioned verses, with E Street Band guitarists "Miami" Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren ceding the spotlight to Morello for a rapid-fire solo that screamed outrage. During the encore segment, Morello returned for a choir-like reading of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More."

Springsteen might have stumped for Barack Obama and played at the White House following his election, but he knows that systemic change doesn't happen overnight and that hope remains a fragile thing in troubled times.

Rifling through his ever-expanding songbook, he stitched together a set focused less on promoting his latest album, “Working on a Dream,” than on shoring up hope while acknowledging how much work still needs to be done to fulfill the American dream.

"We're here with a mighty purpose in mind!" the 59-year-old Jerseyite told a sea of cheering onlookers after the first handful of songs. "We're gonna rock the house! But we're not only going to rock the house, we're going to build a house. We're going to take fear and build a house of love; we're going to take sadness and build a house of joy; we're going to take doubt and build a house of faith; we're going to take despair and build a house of hope."

Springsteen's two-hour-and-45-minute show before a sellout crowd of 15,000 roared to life with "Badlands," one of four songs pulled from 1978's "Darkness on the Edge of Town," the album that provided the backbone for the first of the Sports Arena concerts. The lyric, "For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside, that it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," set the tone for the evening, and led directly to that album's title track, a 1-2 punch of raw emotion.

From there he shifted to the musical present with "Outlaw Pete," the eight-minute epic from "Working on a Dream." The attempt seemed to be something akin to director Sergio Leone's leap from the brute force of his early Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns to the expansive elegance of "Once Upon a Time in the West." But "Pete," for all its shifting tempos and allegorical language, ultimately reaches beyond its own grasp.

Desperate times call for desperate music, which on Wednesday swung the pendulum in favor of clarion-call tunes such as "Johnny 99" and "The Promised Land" over the pop balladry of "Working on a Dream" and even the romantic dedication of "Kingdom of Days," his ode to life with wife Patti Scialfa, who was absent without explanation from the band.

The most successful current selection was "The Wrestler," its testament to the resilience of the human spirit playing out as an update to the impassioned youthful idealism so prevalent among the characters in Springsteen's '70s and '80s tunes.

Ever the populist, Springsteen honored a few requests from fans handed to him in the form of placards listing desired songs. On this night, "Raise Your Hand" injected a vintage R&B feel into the mix, and "Spirit in the Night" took longtime listeners back to his debut album.

Perhaps the biggest surprise about the characteristically invigorating performance is that on returning to L.A., the site of so many high-watermark Springsteen performances, America's quintessential classic rocker had to compete for the title of king of the emotional marathon concert with a 74-year-old Canadian poet.

During his soul-stirring three-and-a-half-hour tour de force shows at the nearby Nokia Theatre less than a week before, Leonard Cohen had used his mastery of language and spiritual understanding to zero in on humanity's eternal struggles. To be sure, Springsteen and company provided plenty of deeply felt music Wednesday, but rather than a transcendental experience, he delivered something more fundamental: a much-needed message of optimism amid today's troubled times.

If Obama decides the time is right for an Inspiration Czar, Springsteen would be the logical person to step up and proclaim, "I'm your man."

-- Randy Lewis

*This post has been updated to include additional details from the concert.

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

Another great show as Springsteen steamrolls his way across America. We are researching a new volume on Darkness of the Edge of Town and would like to contact any fans that attended any of the 1978 shows or that have any memorabilia from that tour. Please send an email to: info@thelightindarkness.com Cheers

Was Bruce's mistress, Ann Kelly, there with him at the cocert?

I'm guessing that he performed at Staples, although I don't see any mention of the venue other than it is close to the Nokia.

Nice image though I heard Phil Vassar, the real ingredient behind the Country #1's, has a real college degree, also performed well at the White House last year. though didn't see him on the front page. What gives?

Bruce is a Jerk! How much were those tickets?

I can't even believe he wrote Born in the USA.

To all you nay-sayers: OH PUH-LEASE! Go complain about something else, Bruce's performance last night was nothing but hopeful and positive! The best show I've ever been to!!!

Amazing some of the haters and morons who post on this site...

He performed at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and it was awesome!

Hey Rocco--
What's not clear about: "...the first of Springsteen’s two nights at the Sports Arena"? The Sports Arena is the dingy thing just south of the Coliseum.

Joey, it sounds like the point of Bruce's "Born in the USA" is WAY over your head.

yeah, the '78 shows cost $6.50, but don't blame Springsteen for the commercialization of live music in this country. plus, I think the Eagles (the freaking Eagles!) started charging like 300 bucks for concerts 15 years ago. concert prices suck all 'round, but if you really don't like it, hit Hotel Cafe, they've generally got good music and frequently great music for only a few dollars.

The show was at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and it rocked! Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine shredded on Ghost of Tom Joad!

What kind of numb-nuts post some of these blogs? "Bruce is a jerk": what? What does that have to do with this story? "...Bruce's mistress": what? Do you actually believe that tabloid trash? The thing about blogs is that they should provide intelligent thought. These DON"T. Go get an education and come back for a visit later.

Best version of Racing In The Streets I have ever heard recorded or otherwise. Best T-Shirt spotting "Authentic Jersey Girl" Accept No Substitutes". A great night.

Bruce's show last night at the old Sports Arena was not preachy, but one of hope amidst some admittedly hard times being felt by many in LA. He struck the right chord with me, a center-right leaning guy, who last minute, found a good price for tix and took his wife and two daughters to see a master of showmanship and wizard of lyrics. The show along with his message of looking beyond yourself to help others (as evidenced by his work with the LA Food Bank) touched a nerve with my teenagers that rock n roll can be used for a greater good and a common purpose that far surpasses political ideologies. Haven't seen Bruce live since '85 and he hasn't missed a beat. Bravo Boss & the E Street Band. Well done!

Just a comment on the show last night. I traveled from Vegas, but then I have traveled to several cities just to catch the hardest working performer in rock today. It's always a great to hear what surprises Bruce has in store for the fans. After three decades, the excitement I feel when those lights go out remains as much now as my first show!!! " Can I hear you say...Yeah!!!" Thanks Bruce for a wonderful experience.

The Springsteen concert on Wednesday was nothing short of inspirational. It is amazing to see the man, who is almost SIXTY, perform at such a high level and with such passion. Obviously, the haters were not at the concert of their take would be far different.

And the question about how much tickets were is just stupid. Have you been to a concert lately. The $95 charged for the highest priced ticket is CHEAP these days. And all the road crew, attendants, concessioners and security have to get paid. Would you rather those people be unemployed? Think $95 is expensive? Try to buy the highest priced ticket at Yankee Stadium and get back to me.

I was at Wednesday's show, and I have to say that I was astounded by how good it was!!

Bruce is the consumate master of rock showmanship. No fancy stage effects, no audio-animatronics, no group dance numbers --- just good old-fashioned passion, honesty, and the willingness and the ability to leave it ALL on stage for his fans. Oh, and one more thing: an uncanny knack of bringing each and every one of us into the show!! I swear to God, Bruce makes you feel like you're sitting in some small night club with a crowd of 200, instead of a 15,000 seat arena! It really has to be experienced to be fully understood.

Wednesday night was show number 30 for me. Thirty shows. And you know what? I hope that I can see another 30. At 51 years of age, I have seen many of the great rock gods & bands -- The Stones, The Who, Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Allman Brothers, Lynrd Skynrd, and others --- some of them several times. And I can honestly report that, while those were all great shows, in terms of that human element -- that connection -- that "thing" that happens at Bruce's shows, well ... he is truly one of a kind.

Thank you Bruce. Thank you for writing such meaningful, thought-provoking songs. Thank you for keeping your muse alive at 59 years of age, while most of your generation lost theirs many years ago. Thank you for refusing to become another "greatest hits" memory-lane act.

Keep on rockin', man.

IS ANYBODY ALIVE OUT THERE?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!!



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