Retrospective: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in the Carolinas: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC 4/27/08
Keyboardist Danny Federici had passed away ten days earlier after losing a battle with melanoma. The first set of shows after his death opened with a video tribute (the studio version of “Blood Brothers” playing over the speakers) and the band was grieving on stage, right in front of us, allowing us to help them heal. It wasn’t the greatest Bruce Springsteen concert I’ve ever attended, not by a long shot. It was the most unique one I’ve seen and certainly had its moments. As a retrospective to celebrate Bruce Springsteen’s return to the Charlotte area next Tuesday, below are what I consider to be the top five moments from April 27, 2008.
5. Souls of the Departed: The real gem of the Lucky Town album and the show opener. During any other year this would’ve been Springsteen’s anti-war firing shot. After Danny Federici’s death, the song took on a different meaning, a testament to Bruce’s songwriting ability to allow time in. Instead of being anti-Gulf War, it was sung as a musician’s prayer to his fallen brother as well as a father to his own children:
“Tonight as I tuck my own son in bed
All I can think of is what if it would’ve been him instead”
4. Wild Billy’s Circus Story: Before diving all the way back to 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park release, Bruce told a story of Danny Federici’s ability to attract trouble in the early days, the now famous story of Danny’s car being towed with a marijuna plant in the front seat and being hauled straight to jail after reporting the car as stolen (“My favorite call from Danny was always, ‘Bruce, come quick!’”). Pianist Roy Bittain strapped on his accordion, Garry Tallent picked up the tuba and Bruce took us to the carnival life. Again, Bruce Springsteen’s songwriting allowed the moment in, turning the road into circus life, the story substituting for the earliest days of the E Street Band, turning “Billy” into Danny.
3. Darlington County: I didn’t know it at the time but we were supposed to get “Streets of Fire” in that slot. I love “Streets.” and I’ve never heard it live. I’m glad I didn’t find out until the next day as it might’ve dampened a wonderful moment. Requsted from a young girl who used what appeared to be the back of a pizza box stating “I like you better than Hannah Montana” and then flipping it over to reveal her request, this turned into a true Carolina Special. The band rocked this one. Hard. Before the end of the song Bruce brought the little girl up on stage with him to sing the last “Sha la la” parts. She nailed them so well that Bruce had her sing it one more time. Springsteen himself had an ear-to-ear grin the entire time–and how could you not?
2. Lost in the Flood: His Vietnam War protest song from 1973, the story of a “ragamuffin gunner returning home like a runaway”. I’d love to be able to do the version he did that night justice but it needed to be seen to be believed. Bruce poured every ounce of emotion the had into that song. I remember being motionless the entire time, almost paralyzed, staring at the video screen above for a closer look as to how he was singing it, the sounds of the E Street Band violently swirling in back of him.
“And somebody said “Hey man did you see that? His body hit the street with such a beautiful thud”
I wonder what the dude was sayin’ or was he just lost in the flood?
Hey man, did you see that, those poor cats are sure messed up
I wonder what they were gettin’ into, or were they just lost in the flood?”
1. Kitty’s Back: My favorite track from “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle,” performed magnificently here. This was new keyboardist Charlie Giordano’s spotlight and he showed he was more than up to the task. In fact the entire band had a loosey-goosey thing going on. We weren’t mourning anymore, we were rockin’. Rockin’ with dashes of jazzin’. It was time to dance and celebrate. It was at times like this, the entire evening for that matter, where the barrier between the stage and audience had dissipated. They weren’t performing to us but with us and proved one thing: Rock and roll does heal.