Tag Archives: setlists

It Might Get Quiet: On the revealing silence of Springsteen on Broadway.

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I’ve got a piece on Slate today arguing that the element that makes Springsteen on Broadway—which I saw on February 28, the night after I saw Hello, Dolly!—worth the difficulty and expense of getting tickets is quiet. You can read that here, and it is my fond hope that you shall.

And in the spirit of Bruce Springsteen having written more worthy songs for Darkness on the Edge of Town and The River and Born in the U.S.A. than he could possibly use at the time, but contrary to the spirit of him waiting 15-30 years before releasing all those unused songs, which I as a diehard am legally required to claim were better than the ones he put on the albums which by the way is true in many cases… here’s a deleted scene from that piece, wherein I expand upon my 20-show record as a Bruce Springsteen fan:

As someone whose Bruce fandom had bloomed improbably in the mid-90s, when—an Academy Award for Best Original Song notwithstanding—his stock was as low as it’s been in my lifetime, I’d never imagined I would have so many chances to see him. But he called the E Street Band back together in 1999 and kept them together, even once its founding members started dying. (Organist Danny Federici succumbed to cancer in 2008; saxophonist Clarence “Big Man” Clemons died from complications following a stroke in 2011. Both men had been in Springsteen’s band since 1972. )
Continue reading

(Invasion) Hit Parade: Elvis Costello at Lisner Auditorium, annotated.

Elvis Costello at Linser Auditorium, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Photo; Francis Chung.

Elvis Costello at Linser Auditorium, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. Photo; Francis Chung.

Has it really been more than two years since I last saw Elvis Costello play and felt compelled to write footnotes, basically, on all the curiosities in the set? The calendar does not lie. I’ve seen Costello perform probably 20 times since 1999, but I’d never seen him do a headlining solo set, as he did Friday night at Lisner Auditorium.

Because no one demanded it, I posted some notes over at DCist, where it’s been so long that I don’t even have my own login anymore. The post features great photos by Francis Chung, who took the one above. For an overview of the concert, the great and good Dave McKenna captured it well in his Washington Post review.

Bruuuuuuuuuce in the Lion’s Den, going the distance once more. Again. Still.

It’s a death trap! It’s a suicide rap! And so on.

My love of Bruce Springsteen is not exactly news. It may no longer even qualify as infotainment. He played the single best concert I’ve ever seen anyone play, out of hundreds of bands and artists. (This is merely a partial list.) There is nothing remotely controversial about the assertion he is the greatest live performer in the history of rock and roll.

I wrote all of this down three years ago, after I saw him play his penultimate show of 2009, in Baltimore’s appealingly small and out-of-date sports area, the end of a busy two-year tour wherein he also made one of his worst albums. Basking in the glow of that remarkable show in the days afterward, I knew if I were never to see Springsteen and the E Street band play again, I’d be fine with that.

I had a Born in the U.S.A. on cassette when I was a little kid, but it wasn’t until college that I became a hardcore Springsteen fan. His Live 1975-85 album (three discs, because I got it in the CD era) and his solo acoustic, recorded-in-his-bedroom Nebraska album were the documents most directly responsible for my conversion. At the time I was discovering this music, Springsteen hadn’t toured with the E Street Band in seven years. Another four would pass before they’d announced they were reuniting.

Those reunion shows in 1999 and 2000 were remarkable. I saw five concerts on that tour. They were different from the shows Bruce and the band had played in the 70s and 80s, the ones I had heard only on cherished (and in the pre-broadband era, expensive) bootlegs. There was no intermission. Bruce’s meandering, easily parodied, improvised on-stage stories were gone, replaced by a gospel preacher schtick. The shows tended to be about two-and-a-half hours long — a generous amount of stage time from anyone but Springsteen, who had regularly broken the three-hour mark all through his twenties and thirties.

His twenties and his thirties. Continue reading

He Paid the Cost to Be The Boss: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Verizon Center

"44 years of performing experience! 30 years of psychiatric evaluation!" Photo by Erica Bruce.

Last Thursday, I road-tripped up to Philadelphia for what I think was my 15th Bruce Springsteen concert (but only my 14th with the pants-droppin’, heart-stoppin’, Earth-shakin’, booty-quakin,’ love-makin’, Viagara-takin’ etc., etc. E Street Band) since 1999. Three nights later, I saw my 16th (15th) here in DC at the Verizon Center.

For the City Paper, I wrote up some thoughts on the DC show, which differed significantly from the Philly one as you can see from the handy setlist table I have prepared below. Clip it out of your iPad’s retina display and post in your cubicle as a source of hourly inspiration! Continue reading

Drive-By Truckers 9:30 Club Setlist Table II: The Secret of the Ooze

It’s not much of a photo, but it was a pretty fantastic way to spend New Year’s Eve. That’s Booker T. Jones, stage-right, performing at the 9:30 with the Drive-By Truckers, a band I love and that I’ve written about a lot. The first time I saw them play was at The Troubadour in Los Angeles in 2003 or 2004. All I remember about that show is that my then-girlfriend had a pain in her leg and we left early. Since then, I’ve seen DBT play the 9:30 probably 10 times. When they were there for a Friday & Saturday night stay last February, I made a table to show how different the two setlists were. Hey, some people care about baseball statistics. (DBT singer-songwriter Mike Cooley does not.) Continue reading

And Still More on Elvis Costello’s Spectacular Spinning Songbook

Elvis Costello and the Spectacular Spinning Songbook at the Warner Theatre last night.

Surely you know all about Elvis Costello‘s fantastical, angle-free song-selecting device. I wrote about some of the lesser-known jams it chose for him to play at Warner Theatre last night.

In 2008, I wrote about Elvis’s first Warner Theatre gig in 1978. (I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard it.)

He’s just paying his rent every day with the Wheel of Song.

Today my friend Amanda Mattos has left me the keys to her fine blog Pinna Storm while she is away on vacation. To help fill all that space, I wrote a thing about my man Elvis Costello‘s current, roulette-wheel-driven Revolver Tour, which I will be attending at the DMV’s finest outdoor music venue, Wolf Trap, on Wednesday night. But it’s really the problem of long-lived artists trying to summarize their careers in two hours, give or take, that I’m Rubik’s-cubing here.

Attention Must Be Paid, Y’all: Drive-By Truckers weekend setlist analysis!

HOLY SHIT I KNEW THE DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS NEVER USED A SETLIST BUT IT SEEMS LIKE THEY MIGHT ALMOST NEED TO TO GET THE INCREDIBLE VARIETY BETWEEN THE TWO SETS THEY PLAYED AT THE 9:30 CLUB THIS WEEKEND ATTENTION MUST BE PAID HERE IS THE EVIDENCE THEY ONLY REPEATED SEVEN SONGS OUT OF A 28/9-SONG SET EACH NIGHT WOW. Continue reading

The other white Parliament-Funkadelic: Arcade Fire at Merriweather, reviewed.

When you fling a bra into the abyss, the abyss flings it back at you.

…where, ah, “the abyss” is the possibly-biggest-selling, certainly-biggest-sounding band in indie rock. Specifically, Arcade Fire. More specifically, Régine Chassagne, singer and co-songwriter and spouse of frontman Win Butler, who, late in Arcade Fire’s ecstatic 95-minute concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night, briefly abandoned her post behind the piano to toss that ladies’ garmet (which might actually have been a halter top; it was hard to see) back to its owner. This isn’t 1987 and we’re not Poison, her revolted glare seemed to scold.

Of course, it could very well have been circa-1987 U2, what with the urgent vastness of the music; the related sense of a big, important band grown huge and courting self-importance; and also the lack of any detectable awareness of sex– which is kind of weird, given how driving and propulsive Arcade Fire’s most arresting music is. On a tune like “Rebellion (Lies)”, the dizzying set-closer that invited the bra-throw, all eight musicians on stage were basically playing percussion, and almost all of them were shouting the lyrics whether they had microphones or not. Continue reading

New Pornographers Night Two Setlist

ITEM! Big changes in the New Pornographers’ setlist between nights one and two at the 9:30 this time, as advertised. Newman kept speaking to someone upfront who had apparently provided his or her own list, from whence, said Newman, he’d culled three or four songs the band wouldn’t have played otherwise, and that they’d likely keep playing. It’s worth noting that over the course of the two nights, we heard seven of Mass Romantic ‘s twelve, wow. Is the New Pornos’ nostalgia phase now upon us? Perhaps. Perhaps not: They played eight from the new Together last night, too.

Last night’s show was about 15 minutes shorter than Tuesday’s, too, owing to less dead time between songs. There was at least as much banter as the first night, but it was faster and funnier. Continue reading

Perfectly Attended: New Pornographers at the 9:30 Club

(Two-thirds of) The New Pornographers. From Canada!

Who was it who said that 90 percent of success in life is showing up? Was that Woody Guthrie? Allen Ginsberg? Vince Lombardi? Brian Eno? T-Pain? It was somebody smart, and he or she was almost certainly discussing a concert by The New Pornographers, Canada’s pop musical Justice League whose legend far eclipses that of any of its individual superheroes (with the eternal exception of the exceptional alt-country chanteuse Neko Case). When the group can field its complete nine-strong roster — a feat they haven’t always managed when playing Our Nation’s Capitol — the results are seldom less then splendid. Continue reading

Best. Concert. Ever. (Wherein, Upon Seeing Bruce Springsteen Perform for the 14th Time, I Surrender to Hyperbole)

By Thursday morning last week, I had made up my mind to give the show Bruce Springsteen played in Baltimore on Friday night a pass. My attempts to procure a ticket through honorable means had failed. The aftermarket bidding for general admission tickets to the arena floor, where my friends would be, had inflated beyond my rationally justifiable price range. I’d already seen the great man perform with the E Street Band twice in 2009; five times in the last 24 months. That’s enough Boss, surely.

Even before I was a semi-pro critic, I was skeptical of superlatives. To me, they always reduced criticism to mere marketing. I don’t even like the year-end lists nearly every professional critic is compelled to compile. So that’s why, after returning home in the small hours of Saturday morning having experienced a concert that left me elated like no rock show has in years, I hedged. “One of the three or five best gigs I’ve ever seen,” I wrote in a excited Facebook post before going to bed.

But after chewing the matter over in the cold, clear light of a couple of days, I’m prepared to go all in: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s first show in Baltimore since 1973 was the best concert I have ever attended, by The Boss or anyone else. Continue reading

Road Warrior: Bob Dylan at the Patriot Center

Bob Dylan 2009

Even Bob Dylan can’t be Bob Dylan all the time.

The 68-year-old Boy from the North Country born Robert Allen Zimmerman has been trying to break his own myth since the mid-60s, when he alienated fans of his early folk albums by plugging in and rocking out. Since then, his muse has come and gone, but his contrarian streak – most recently indulged on the month-old Christmas in the Heart, whereupon the Jewish-born troubadour snarls his way through yuletide standards with psychotic zeal – has been a constant.

For the last 20 years, so has the road. Dylan tours endlessly, turning up at a half-full arena or a minor league ballpark near you again and again, as if to prove he’s no sage, just an itinerant song-and-dance-man. Though late-period albums like Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft have evinced a creative renewal, he’s often been erratic, even indifferent on stage. Still, there’s something noble in his doggedness, fighting those Workingman’s Blues. Paying the empty seats as little mind as the occupied ones. Singing on though thousands of shows have curdled his voice into a viscous, gutshot croak. On a good night, he can still remind you why people worshipped him in the first place. Continue reading

New Frame: The Swell Season at the 9:30 Club

The Swell Season 2009

Tree People: Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard

They broke up.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, for whom life imitated art imitating life when they fell in love playing lovers in the kinda-sorta-semi-autobiographical sleeper romance Once a few years back, are no longer an item. But on the evidence of “Strict Joy,” their first album together since they picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song last year, they remain creatively simpatico. Continue reading

To New or Not to New?


On their 1992 Zoo TV Tour, U2 opened with six-to-eight songs in a row from their then-most-recent album, Achtung Baby, and the crowd was with them. But they didn’t have the confidence to repeat this approach on the 1997 PopMart Tour — and of course, the POP album was far less popular than Achtung, especially in the U.S.

Ace Paper of Record music critic J. Freedom du Lac pre-viewed his re-view of Jackson Browne’s Warner Theatre concet with this blog post, chiding Brown for apologizing for his new material.

Since you asked, here’s my take:

If you’re going to apologize for playing your new stuff, you forfeit the right to refer to yourself as an artist, I think. Based on JFdL’s review (I wasn’t at the show), I’d give Browne a pass for apologizing once on account of the album not having been released yet. It sounds like he was apologizing repeatedly, though, which is just weak.

But bellowing out song requests is almost always obnoxious. Sure, there are exceptions — like when the performer asks, “So what do you guys want to hear?” But few artists work that way, and no artist worth listing to works that way all the time, and the idea that a performer just walked out there without having made up a setlist that expresses whatever it is they want to express is borderline insulting. More irritating still is when the request-shouters call for obvious warhorses — like “Running on Empty” or “The Pretender” — that everybody knows with 90 percent certainty they’re going to hear anyway! If you’re only interested in the half-dozen or so most familiar tunes in the artist’s catalogue, why bother attending a concert? Make a playlist, save yourself an evening and $150 or so, and spare the members of the audience who actually know how to show their appreciation in a respectful way the headache of having to deal with you all night.

A lot of this depends on what kind of artist you’re dealing with. When U2 or Bruce Springsteen tour a new album, they typically play half to three-quarters of the new material at least for the first leg or first couple of months. Radiohead are playing In Rainbows in its entirety and then some, including bonus tracks that (I think) are only included on the pricey deluxe editions of the album. R.E.M. are playing most of their new album this year, but then again, the album is less than 35 minutes long, leaving plenty of room in the set for crowd-pleasers and rarities alike. With an act like Tom Petty or the Rolling Stones, you’ll hear maybe two or three of the new songs, tops. But when Aimee Mann played the Birchmere last February to preview songs from Smilers several months (not one week) before the album was on sale, she didn’t apologize for playing the new stuff. She believed in the songs, and she sold them. Period.

I also believe a lot of artists are more willing to risk playing a preponderance of new stuff in a small venue than they are in a large one. (The Warner would be about mid-size, I guess.)