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Date: 29 May, 2006

review: bruce springsteen @ nissan pavillion

Have you ever been to a concert by an artist with a sizeable catalog of hits, only to find that the artist isn’t playing them on his current tour?

Furthermore, have you ever been happy about that fact?

Welcome to Bruce Springsteen’s “Seeger Sessions Tour,” where Bruce tips his hat to the founding fathers of American folk music: the rail workers and cotton pickers, the abolitionists and the labor movement, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. On his latest album, Springsteen plays a set of songs made famous by Pete Seeger.

And during his two-and-a-half hour show at Nissan Pavillion on Sunday night, he played most of that album, plus a selection of other traditional folk songs. He only dipped into his own catalog twice, including a retooled version of “Cadillac Ranch” that featured fun interplay between Bruce, his fiddle players, and his talented horn section and drew inspiration from Elvis’ “Mystery Train.”

But the most poignant songs in his set were the anti-war songs, which rang most true on the eve of Memorial Day. He called these songs ones “that are so familiar that you begin to forget them,” yet they remain a part of who we are. Indeed, “We Shall Overcome” and “Bring Them Home” brought forth waves of applause from the already-receptive audience, who were up and dancing from the first number and seldom sat during the entire show.

Such was the draw of the Seeger Sessions Band, a 17-piece “ragtime band” that painted an intricate sonic tapestry behind the songs. Drawing from musicians with disparate roots – jazz players from New Orleans, bluegrass pickers from the Ozarks and Blue Ridge Mountains, New York session musicians and family members – Springsteen seemed in awe of their ability to blend, play with each other, and just plain rock. Indeed, the audience was in awe of this ability, many having seen “The Boss” perform with The E Street Band and expecting something far less cohesive.

But that’s not the Springsteen way, and this viewer was left most impressed. The whole concert had the feeling of a gospel revival, from the opening “good evening, sinners” from Springsteen, to the raucous solo breaks, sing-alongs, and stories told between songs. It was almost enough for me to feel like I’d discovered religion – not an easy feat. Even the transition into the encore set was incredibly energetic, with the audience continuing the sing-along of “Pay Me My Money Down” throughout the set break, in a style that I’m accustomed to hear with European concert audiences, not U.S. audiences. Such was the power of this show.

All told, the show was a rousing success, and one that will likely improve with each successive performance. Springsteen worked his band and the crowd to a frothy fever that stayed well after the last notes of “Buffalo Gals” rang forth from the Nissan Pavillion stage.

(Note: a lot of shows on this tour aren’t sold out – I bought my lawn ticket the morning of the show – so there’s no excuse for missing this excellent artist and his multi-talented band.)

Standout Songs: “We Shall Overcome,” “Bring Them Home (If You Love Your Uncle Sam),” “Old Dan Tucker,” “Cadillac Ranch,” “Erie Canal,” “Pay Me My Money Down,” “When The Saints Go Marching In”
Grade: A

taking the constitution to the cleaners – again

Leave it to the completely clueless Bush administration to once again hack into the Constitution it has supposedly sworn to “preserve, protect and defend.” Today, President Bush signed into law the “Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act,” which prevents anti-war demonstrations from taking place at or near military or Federal cemetaries. From the CNN.com article:

The new law bars protests within 300 feet of the entrance of a national cemetery and within 150 feet of a road into the cemetery. This restriction applies an hour before until an hour after a funeral. Those violating the act would face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

On one hand, I can understand where this is coming from: families who are trying to bury their fallen children need not have to face the waves of people protesting the war. And, much like many anti-abortion protests, these demostrations can go beyond the pale in terms of taste.

However, freedom of speech and assembly are provided for all citizens of the United States, and not all protests are loud. In fact, the silent ones are often the most potent. And the protests that this law directly addresses were, indeed, the silent kind, with signs and prayer (though they were also homophobic, as the Kansas church group’s argument was that U.S. soldiers were being killed as part of God’s punishment of those who accept homosexuality).

But this law smacks of reactionary jingoism, and is too far-reaching in its scope. Who’s to say that the families of the fallen are all pro-war? Might the families have actually invited the protesters to the funeral, just to point out their own problems with the military and the Bush administration? And if these protesters are standing at the periphery, being quiet and respectful, then why should they be in violation of U.S. law?

And what if a person who’s walking through a cemetary during a funeral is wearing a “Give Peace A Chance” t-shirt or hat – aren’t they in violation of the law? It all depends on the law enforcement personnel at the time of the incident. This law is inherently flawed, and it will likely punish many peaceful, non-hateful people who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And that’s something that BushCo and the theocons seem to lack: the ability to think these things out, to look at the long-term ramifications of their binding actions. They are of the “shoot first, ask questions later” school, one that isn’t wisely used in terms of government, especially in areas of military affairs and negotiation.

Of all the things the White House needed to address this Memorial Day, this knee-jerk legislation is not the right way to go. Perhaps they could address our widely-acknowledged failures in capturing Osama Bin Laden, in keeping the peace in Afghanistan, and in régime change in Iraq. But BushCo and the theocons continue to walk around with blinders, ignoring the white elephants in the room, and continue to doom their – and the United States’ – fate.

Perhaps the thing I’m mourning today is the loss of the America I used to know, not just its fallen soldiers.

sickness, the sequel

During last night’s excellent Bruce Springsteen show (review to come), I had a huge allergy attack. I really didn’t think anything of it, other than I’d be happy to get home to my allergy medication and a box of tissues.

So I went to bed with every intent of riding this morning.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, I was up at 5:00 am and headed to the bathroom, with similar symptoms to my Friday illness. I felt dehydrated and had wicked stomach cramps. I was up again, doing the same routine, at 6, 7 and 8 am. At that point, I was feeling tired, and decided to veto the ride, much to my chagrin.

So the extra days of weekend are rest days, by force. I’m not pleased. If I feel better by later today, I’ll head out for a short ride. But maybe my body wants to simply rest. Oy.

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