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Another weekend, another concert in the Arizona desert. This time, it was to see Bruce Springsteen's acoustic show at the new Glendale Arena (see my previous U2 review for my comments on this wonderful new venue). My "entourage" for this concert had somewhat of an international flair as I came out with Simon -- who usually lives in Buckinghamshire, England, but is in the States following the Bruce and U2 tours -- and Hans from Frankfurt, Germany -- a fan I met way back on the 1992 tour in Ames, Iowa. (While I'm heading back to New Mexico this afternoon, the two of them are going to Vegas for a night of gambling before catching up with Springsteen once again in L.A.).

With this being the first arena show of the tour (two-thirds of the venue were blocked off by a huge curtain behind the stage), a set of "rules" were distributed to people standing in line before the concert:

  • This show is a solo acoustic performance, set up in a theater-style arrangement.
  • There will be no intermission.
  • All guests must be seated by the start of the first song. Guests arriving to their seating section after the start of the show will be seated following the third song.
  • All concession stands will close 10 minutes prior to the start of the show and will remain closed for the duration of the show.
  • No cameras, video or audio recording devices will be permitted into the show.
I thought this was a good idea since it gave ticket-holders some notice that this wouldn't be your typical Bruce rock show (I'm sure a few people in that line had no idea this was an acoustic tour).

The doors opened shortly after 6:00 and we streamed in; after loading up with nachos, burgers, and sodas at the concession stand (deciding to buy our shirts and programs after the show), we headed down to our seats -- fifth row, center stage. Not quite as close as my last acoustic Bruce show -- in 1996 in Albuquerque -- but plenty close enough. With the burger wrappers shielding the view of anyone looking, Simon fiddled with his Nomad Jukebox 3 and tiny microphones which he intended to record the show with (I listened to part of his tape from the Dallas show on the plane ride over -- it's amazing how good some of these recordings turn out).

Bruce took the stage a little before 8:00 to a rearranged version of "Reason To Believe" from 1982's Nebraska, followed by a great version of the title track of the new Devils & Dust album. This song is one of my favorites of the new tracks, with some really powerful lyrics -- I just wish he would annunciate the words more clearly when singing it live. What followed was over two hours of tunes performed on acoustic and electric guitars as well as several done at the piano -- often punctuated with harmonica solos. While Bruce did introduce several songs with some of his famous storytelling, I was a bit surprised he didn't do it as much as what I'd heard on The Ghost Of Tom Joad tour of 1995-97 or tapes of his February 2003 solo benefit shows in the Boston area. Still, it's early in the tour and I'm sure Bruce will loosen up much more as it continues.

Probably the biggest highlight for me was hearing a solo piano version of "Racing In The Street" from my favorite Springsteen album, 1978's Darkness On The Edge Of Town. It literally sent chills down my spine. The show also featured the tour debut of "Book Of Dreams", one of the better songs released on Lucky Town in 1992.

A nice surprise came during the first song of the encores when fellow-E Street Band member (and a former member of Grin and Neil Young's Crazy Horse as well as being a great solo artist in his own right) Nils Lofgren came out to play dobro on an excellent version of "This Hard Land." First recorded in 1982, this song about two brothers riding the range "looking for lost cattle down south of the Rio Grande" is my favorite of all of the Born In The U.S.A.-era songs (I first heard it as an outtake on a tape I traded for around 1986; it wasn't officially-released until 1995 in a re-recorded version on Greatest Hits -- the original 1982 version was finally released on the Tracks box set in 1998).

The show wrapped up with the buoyant "Waitin' On A Sunny Day" from 2002's The Rising (a fun song that sounded great in an overcast London Crystal Palace Stadium with 60,000 people singing along but which didn't quite work in the acoustic setting of last night's show), a quick run-through of "My Best Was Never Good Enough Good Enough" (my least favorite track from Tom Joad) and a version of 1978's "The Promised Land", performed closely to how it was during the Tom Joad tour with a lot of percussion from Bruce banging on the back of the guitar.

All in all, it was a very satisfying show -- I would say more so than the Albuquerque acoustic show (although I missed meeting Bruce afterwards and racing down the street on his Harley as he did in my hometown in 1996).

With setlists being fairly similar on this tour (so far), I don't really have much of a desire to travel far and wide to any more Bruce shows -- I'll be content to download and listen to the tapes. Of course, if the rumored fall leg with the full band comes to pass...

Reason To Believe - Devils & Dust - Youngstown - Lonesome Day - Long Time Comin' - Silver Palomino - For You [on piano] - Book Of Dreams [on piano] - Part Man, Part Monkey - Maria's Bed - Highway Patrolman - Reno - All I'm Thinking About - Racing In The Street [on piano] - The Rising - Further On (Up The Road) - Jesus Was An Only Son [on piano] - Leah - The Hitter - Matamoras Banks

This Hard Land [with Nils Lofgren] - Waitin' On A Sunny Day - My Best Was Never Good Enough - The Promised Land

Listen to Bruce Springsteen's "Racing In The Street" live: