Monday, September 24, 2012

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band @ Met Life Stadium; Metric @ Radio City Music Hall

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
@ Met Life Stadium
East Rutherford, NJ - September 22, 2012

Metric; Half Moon Run
@ Radio City Music Hall
New York, NY - September 23, 2012

It almost happened. If there are gods, then the divine spirits almost pulled off an actual rock n' roll miracle. Months and months ago, your obedient rocking boy committed to see Bruce Springsteen at the Meadowlands on a Saturday, and to see Metric the next night. I immediately said to anyone who cared to listen, "if only the Dirtbombs would play the night before Springsteen, I'd have the ultimate triple of the greatest live rock bands in the world - I'd never ask to go to another live show again". (I felt slightly guilty leaving the Hold Steady out of this formula but it was all made up when first I got to see them free on the same bill as Superchunk and then came the news that they are playing New Year's Eve with Lucero - so there.)

Then came the news the Dirtbombs were going to be part of the three day All Tomorrow's Parties festival that same weekend! But it was in Asbury Park. Then it got moved to lower Manhattan! But then the Dirtbombs were booked for 5:30 on the Saturday slate. So it was not meant to be. Further adding insult to this first world problem among first world problems - Troy Gregory was back with the band for at least one night only. So it was truly sad to not pull off this trifecta. The life blood of this sham of a "blog" has been the live concerts of the rock n' roll sound this last near-decade. And through one prism or another, it is clear at this point, that these three acts: the Dirtbombs, Metric, and this young punk named Springsteen, really do constitute the best of the best when it comes to live performances (though the aforementioned Superchunk - also young whippersnappers - may very well be putting me on notice...).

So it goes.

I had to make do with the Boss' 63rd birthday eve celebration before the crowning of Metric as a big time deal at a little shop called Radio City Music Hall. This may seem like an odd juxtaposition even for this blog. If there is anyone else in Gotham who would think to put these two gigs in the same context, I don't know them. But the temptation to put these events through the grinder of "the scope of rock n' roll history" makes it easy. The Boss was joined on stage by Gary "U.S." Bonds and Metric were joined by Lou Reed. Talk about the scope of rock n' roll history.

When I saw the Boss and company in Philadelphia a few weeks ago, I remarked to a friend that for all these years, and for all the mania of an immense fan base that imitated the mania of jam bands, there is something notably subdued and stripped down about all this: there is no band logo; there is no nickname for the fans (at least none of which I am aware). My friend said it made sense. The E Street Band are simply the World's Best Bar Band. No matter how big this act became, they have never lost the aesthetic of just some folks who play rock, pop, soul, and even a little funk and folk. The working man ethos of the dude up front replicated in the package of the E Street Band. That made sense to me.

Between Gary Bonds (they didn't do "Quarter to Three"!!?!), covering Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour" and CCR's "Who Stopped the Rain?", doing their church thing, the work song of "Pay Me My Money Down", bringing back the thunder of "It's Hard to be a Saint in the City",  or blistering through that little ditty called "Because the Night" (of which an awful yuppie dirtbag in front of me took time out from her incessant chatting to point out that Bruce was 'doing the Cranberries'...and with such a know-it-all smirk...I can't even begin to...), this is the mighty essence, the be all and end all of everything. Screw it, it's true. The Alpha and Omega of Rock n' Roll is Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.

Then consider Metric. Electropop-infused modern punks. Neo-New Wave poets. Where does this overlap? It overlaps in Emily Haines' leadership. You don't have to "own" the stage, as they say in the parlance of our times. But you do have to command it. Few compare to Springsteen in this regard. Few can be imagined moving up from tiny club to Radio City to a football stadium. Emily Haines is one of the few. From the moment I got into this band, this felt like a band that is meant for the big time.There is no question of art vs. commerce here. This is commerce-ready art that works on any stage. For now, Radio City will suffice as that stage. (For long time fans, Metric headlining Radio City gives the same wonderful chill that was felt by those who saw Bruce move on from the Bottom Line, like Obie who was there in front at the Stadium on Saturday, getting a slice of birthday cake).

While many of the new Metric songs are too synthesized, even for an album named Synthetica, the boys in the band are not forgotten, at least not on stage. There is still something definitive about a rock n' roll band of four people. Something about that number. And there is no finer sonic relationship among four people working in this way than this one.

Half Moon Run opened for Metric with a professionalism and a politeness that was almost mind-boggling. Even their falsetto vocals, a style I normally abstain from, sounded right. When they joined Metric and Lou for "Pale Blue Eyes", it was a passionate punch.

But even with Lou Reed and Gary Bonds and Bruce and Emily and a big bar band and a tight foursome, there is one sort of rock n' roll moment that put this whole weekend together. It was Nils Lofgren during "Because the Night" and Jimmy Shaw during "Gold Guns Girls". The guitar solo. In the end - rock n' roll - the three chord riffs, the horns, the keys, the bass lines - comes down to that moment. This weekend, I had two.


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