Welcome to the House of Bruce
TD Banknorth Center, Boston, Oct. 30, 2005
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - This time around for Bruce Springsteen fans, it's more like welcome to the House of Bruce instead of the Church of Bruce.
There is no E Street Band on Springsteen's current "Devils & Dust" tour, in support of his fine, but sparse disc with its usual tales of love, lust and the underbelly of America.
It's all Bruce, only Bruce, all the time in what is almost entirely an acoustic affair save for a bit of electric guitar on about three numbers. Most of the evening was spent on acoustic guitar and piano, though Springsteen also played electric piano, pump organ and even ukulele.
Springsteen started the 2 1/2-hour show with "My Beautiful Reward" on pump organ, creating a full sound. Playing harp as well, something Springsteen did with frequency during the evening, also helped breathe even more life into the song.
Springsteen delved into swampy blues several times during the night, including on "Reason To Believe," though it was awfully hard hearing the words.
A good chunk of the show was devoted to "Devils & Dust" with the very dark title track probably about the most uptempo song musically of the batch.
Springsteen closed the main set with the socially conscious "Matamoros Banks," a song about the death of a Mexican immigrant trying to get across the Rio Grande to Texas.
After speaking about the need for changing the status of immigrants here, Springsteen delved into the beautiful, but sad sounding song.
Not everything was a downer, of course. "The Rising" maintained a sense of overcoming problems, though not as anthemically as when performed with the E Streeters.
And Springsteen can be very funny as he was in telling about life in his hometown of having lots of family around before launching into "For You." He also talked about music being all about the idea of "pull your pants down," a line he used in wishing a 91-year-old concert attendee a happy birthday.
This was not the kind of evening, however, for revelry, but for close listening, something not always so easy to do over the course of the night.
But Springsteen got into high gear with the crowd stomping along during the second encore, blowing away on his harp on the Boston favorite "Dirty Water," as Boston has always been a strong supporter of Springsteen.
Springsteen ended the evening with a lively, but way too long, "Dream Baby Dream," where he repeated the title words over and over and over again with the pump organ going.
Though Springsteen certainly has no problems filling a stage, for the type of evening that this was musically, it seems too bad to have to see Springsteen in such a large venue. The arena was scaled back to about 9,000 seats, about half the usual house.
At times, the sound worked against him because it was a bit hard to decipher the words, but the main reason is that the songs almost demand more intimacy between performer and audience.
Yet, Springsteen deserves tremendous credit for doing music on his terms, doing things differently this far into his career (something that can't really be said for the Rolling Stones, for example, even if they still put on great shows).
While ultimately a far more laid-back affair than what most fans have come to expect from The Boss, it remains easy to be worshipper no matter whether in church or in the house.