Springsteen Radio Concert Review

By Rob Nichols

Midway through his live radio concert on June 5, Bruce Springsteen was having trouble.

"Two years in Beverly Hills," he said, "and you can't tune a guitar anymore."

Beverly Hills?

Yes, Bruce has changed! But not to worry.

Even though the Boss lives in California and not Jersey doesn't mean the man can't still rock. As he proved during the show, nobody does it like Bruce.

After finding himself a new band and teaching them the routine, Springsteen ran the new guys through a 90-minute mini-concert in front of a couple hundred lucky radio station contest winners and approximately eight million radio listeners.

Called "The Dress Rehearsal," and heard on 230 radio stations all across the United States, Springsteen and his new band ripped into 15 songs, most of them from his two new albums and, just to tease the older fans, a selected few Springsteen classics.

Never revealing the true location of the concert — Bruce's camp had to change from the Roxy in L.A. after that site was leaked to the press — Springsteen simply told the listeners it was coming from "the heart of Sin City . . . L.A."

Opening with a truncated Hendrix-style "Star Spangled Banner," the band tore into "Born in the U.S.A." that did not sound dissimilar to the live E Street Band version. Springsteen followed that with a pair from the new Lucky Town album: a roots rocker version of "Local Hero" blew the album version away and the song "Lucky Town," prefaced by Springsteen welcoming everyone and exclaiming "l missed ya.".

The first real surprise was an excellent run-through of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" from '78. Retaining Roy Bittan on keyboards as the only E Street holdover, the song had a Nineties sound with just enough Seventies flavor to make it not sound nostalgic.

And that could be one of the real jobs for Bruce and the band — how to make the stuff recorded from '75 through '84 sound updated yet authentic.

Judging from this performance, Springsteen's energy and credibility and downright awesome guitar playing will make this question irrelevant come time for the U.S. tour dates.

Bruce brought his old buddy Little Steven for a couple of songs during the evening, including for a wholly revised run-through of Bruce's latest single, "57 Channels." Steve has produced a new interpretation of this for release to album radio. Instead of sounding like a cousin to "I'm On fire," as it does on the album, the new one owes more to "Cover Me." Opening with a repeating refrain of "No justice . . . no peace," the song turns from a nice three-minute tune into a five-minute statement for peace and what happens when it isn't found.

Springsteen, although starting tentatively, hit his stride during the middle portion of the show, as he blew through "Big Muddy," "Living Proof" and "My Hometown."

Before the band's elegant version of that song, Springsteen talked about what the words he wrote back in 1983 now mean in the aftermath of the L.A. riot.

"We've watched a lot of these things (in the song) come to pass. We've split farther and farther apart."

But for the most part, it was a jubilant Bruce rocking the airwaves. He talked about his kids before singing "Leap of Faith."

"They are the little miracles that get you through the world the way it is today."

After two more songs, "Man's Job" and "Roll of the Dice," Springsteen invited wife Patti up to help sing his hit "Human Touch."

An outstanding extended interpretation of "Glory Days" and a beautifully acoustic "Hungry Heart" closed the radio portion of the show. Bruce and the band hung around for a half-hour after the radio microphones were turned off for a half-dozen more songs.

Despite the fact that ten of the fifteen songs done during the radio concert were new ones, Springsteen will undoubtedly play a wide variety of old and new when his U.S. tour comes to America on July 23. As he revealed before launching into "Glory Days," "We're gonna be playin' some almost hits ... and some real ones too!"

The tour will have a different feel than old E Street tours. The new band, featuring Shane Fontayne on guitar, Tommy Sims on bass, Zach Alford behind the drums and Bttan on keyboards, has a welcome alternative rock 'n' roll crunch to it. Bruce has said he'll be playing more guitar than he has in a long time and that will undoubtedly add a metallic edge to the music, as Springsteen's playing has always been more like electric Neil Young than Mark Knopfler.

And with no on-stage foil like Clarence Clemmons, it will be curious to see whether this tour will be as theatrical as past Bruce tours. And remember, that means no saxophone for the first time in a long time, too.

Yes, the Boss has changed. He's progressed to what he feels is the next step. And he appears elated with the new sound, a sound that embraces the Nineties, without leaving his Seventies and Eighties integrity behind.

Have no fear, Bruce fans. This radio show proves he's ready to rock. Rolling Stone magazine says he'll be on the road for two years. It will be very interesting to hear this group a year from now. My guess is that we've only just begun to see the rough draft of what will be the next chapter in Bruce Springsteen's incredible musical career.