Saturday, November 24, 2012

Easy, Catman--You Are Delirious!

"No one wants to be Peter Criss—not even Peter Criss!"—Peter Griffin ("Family Guy")

The rotund one from Quahog may well be right...

Time for yet another review of a Rock star autobiography book that I’ve completed reading. These things are becoming a bit of an addiction for me, and this latest tell-all manifesto comes from George Peter John Criscoula, better known to most humanoids as Peter Criss of Kiss and his new book, the cleverly-titled Makeup To Breakup-My Life In And Out Of Kiss.  Kitty-Cat is the third original member of Kiss to chronicle his life in a book, with Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley preceding him and Paul Stanley remaining the lone holdout (although word has it that the Starchild is currently working on one as well). As with Frehley’s book No Regrets last year, I looked forward very much to hearing what Mr. Criscoula had to say after lo, these many years of rancor, vitriol and invective hurled between the two factions of the original Kiss foursome (Simmons/Stanley vs. Frehley/Criss), which at times seems reminiscent of the Israelis vs. the Palestinians. Up ‘till now I’ve always been rather sympathetic towards Peter, and have often defended unfair criticism of him on Internet forums and such, but I came away very disappointed after reading his book. Criss comes off as a cross (Criss-cross?) between a persecuted martyr and a whiny jerk. Peter, my friend, love ya to death, and I realize you have a boatload of pent-up unresolved bitterness—much of it totally justified—but then again, many of your personal problems were of your own doing, both before and after you left Kiss. For a guy who seemingly once had it all, lost it all, then got it all back again, there’s a bit too much "woe is me" in these pages for my liking. After reading this, I could only come to the conclusion that the Catman is one big pussy. (Sorry!)
Like I said in my review of Simmons’ book, each of these guys could do a book and you’d get four different versions of the Kiss story, and it appears I was a prophet in that regard.  Even though Stanley hasn't done one yet, it's ironic how the Kiss tell-all autobiographies so far seem to parallel the 1978 Kiss solo albums in terms of quality—Ace's being the best, Gene's being mostly a load of bullshit and the Cat hocking up a fur ball once again. As I also did with Frehley, I found myself picking and choosing what to believe or not believe here because if you were fucked up a lot of the time on drugs, I automatically have to question your credibility, and sadly, much of Criss’ book is rather delusional. I knew going in that Peter would have some major axe-grinding to do on Paul and especially Gene—something would’ve been totally amiss if he didn’t go after them with his verbal bazooka—but this book just seemed at times to be every bit the mean-spirited, hateful and unfair hatchet-job that Simmons’ equally clever-titled Kiss And Make-Up was in 2002, if not even moreso.  Even Ace Frehley, Peter’s de facto "partner in crime" in Kiss, gets thrown under the bus here, as do current Kiss members Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, among many others, and even late Kiss guitarist Mark St. John was skewered pretty good—welcome to Bridge Burning 101, boys and girls!

SPOILER ALERT! As per my usual, I’ll be quoting from the book a lot here (in blue), so use discretion if you plan to read it yourself. There is also a fair amount of sexual content, so if that offends you, go read something else because in this particular case, "Spoiler" alert takes on a whole other meaning here. And please beware that this gets a bit lengthy if indeed you do choose to read on…

My thoughts (in no particular order)…

--I’ll say this for Peter Criss, he spares his readers NOTHING in this book. His account of his life is very detailed and far too often he lurches into Too Much Information territory, right down to the day he crapped his drawers in grammar school!  I shit you not. (Sorry again!)  His tales—many of them quite tall—about his sexual escapades also fall into the T.M.I. zone, and he gets dirtier and WAY more graphic than Simmons ever did in his book. Granted, Peter didn’t fuck every female that merely had a pulse like Gene did (still does?), but based on the writing here, he was pretty lecherous and lascivious himself, even though Criss was the only married member of Kiss until Ace got hitched in 1978, so his criticisms of Gene’s decadent lifestyle ring pretty hollow to me here. "But pussy is like heroin," he confesses, "I couldn’t stop." When Peter talks about meeting his current wife, Gigi (whom he claims to cherish and adore) he actually refers to her as "this broad"—boy, that’s real classy. In reference to the 2003 Kiss "Symphony" concert in Melbourne, Australia, he says, "There’s something about a woman spreading her legs with a cello in between them that is so hot…I had a perpetual erection looking at those cello girls." In another passage, we’re treated to the phrase "played with her titties." This sounds like the utterances of some 7th-grader knee-deep in puberty, not those of a world-famous 66-year-old musician. I also didn’t really need to hear about Frehley’s preoccupation with jerking off a lot during their early days together, let alone Peter’s description of Ace’s and Paul’s genitalia, which I found quite off-putting. I actually felt like I needed a bath after reading that chapter—same feeling I get when I watch "The Jerry Springer Show". By the way, I highly recommend this book to any gay readers out there—you'll love it!  Look, I’m no prude, and I may be a bit biased (not to mention jaded) because it’s been 13 years since I played with anyone's titties myself (hey, I’m not proud of it), but if you’re going to go around bragging about your sexual conquests and especially about how big your dick is (9 inches, Criss claims), then you, sir, I can do without. Peter even goes so far as to proudly nickname his tallywhacker "The Spoiler". Dude, please…

--He calls current Kiss drummer Eric Singer a "schlep" in this book. Don’t know how to break this to you, Catman, but that schlep is a far superior drummer than you ever were, even at the height of your powers before your recreational drug usage took over. So was the late Eric Carr, who Criss only mentions in passing in the book. He also has an intense dislike for current Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer, whom he calls "Gene and Paul’s butt boy for everything." It became clear to me after reading the book that any elementary school teacher in America would write on his report card "Peter doesn't work and play well with others."

--Peter frequently talks out of both sides of his mouth throughout the book. The way he refers to women in the book makes him sound boorish and disrespectful—even borderline misogynistic—especially for someone who claims to be a Christian and truly believes in God, yet all the while he constantly portrays himself as a "gentleman" good-guy. He got all enraged upon discovering that his first two wives were cheating on him, yet it was perfectly okey-dokey for him to be untrue to them with every groupie he could doink all those years.  He often mentions how being in Kiss was totally about the music for him, and he chafed at how for Gene Simmons it was always about the money. Yet, Criss constantly pisses and moans about how underpaid he was (compared to Gene, Paul and Ace) and missed out on all the merchandise revenue when he rejoined for the 1996 Reunion Tour and beyond. Regarding the reunion, he said, "It looked like Paul had settled down. He was a family man now, and I liked it. And Gene was now with Shannon Tweed and they had a couple of kids, so I got a good family vibe off this whole thing. Yeah, right." Well, did you like it and did you get a family vibe or didn’t you, Pete?  He bitches about Kiss "going disco" with 1979’s smash hit "I Was Made For Loving You", yet what was his lone contribution to the Dynasty album, "Dirty Livin’"—a fucking disco song! And a mighty lame one, at that. Way too many double-standards here, Bud…

--Criss had a brief flirtation (in the loosest sense) in 1989 with short-tenured Kiss guitarist Mark St. John, with hopes of putting a band together and maybe even exacting a little mutual sweet revenge for themselves on the Demon and Starchild in the process. "I thought working with the former guitarist of Kiss would surely make Gene and Paul crazy, but it made me crazy. I’d go to his house to rehearse and half the time he’d have overslept. One time the door to his room was open and I found kiddie-porn magazines from Germany all over the floor. It was really sick shit."  Sick shit, indeed, but I don’t really know a whole lot about St. John, so the kiddie-porn thing is news to me. Peter had better be telling the truth here—I think it's pretty low-rent to make accusations of this nature, especially about a guy who is deceased and can no longer defend himself.  True or not, now Mark's friends and loved-ones have to deal with this crap.  Nice job, Criscoula...

--Criss was mangled up pretty good in a car accident in 1978 in which he was riding shotgun at a high rate of speed and not wearing a seat belt. He claims Paul Stanley came to visit him in the hospital and said to him, "Look at you. You really fucked up…How could you do this? You’re really a fucking idiot…Oh, and Gene wanted me to tell you that he thinks you’re a loser and a moron…he refuses to set foot in this hospital." Seriously, Petey? Gene and Paul are a lot of things, and even though I don’t know them personally, I find it impossible to believe that either of them was/is that cold and inhuman, not even Simmons. And why would Paul even say that Peter fucked up in the first place? Criss wasn’t even behind the wheel that night. Then Peter also claims that when Frehley came to visit, Ace got all demanding with the doctors and nurses because Criss was in such pain and needed more medication and threatened to "shut the place down" if they didn't help him.  Oh, and then later on some nurse came in to give Peter a blowjob to ease his suffering. Riiiiight. I’m calling bullshit on this whole scenario. You don’t need to sell books THAT badly, do you, Pete?  As they say on ESPN these days, "C'mon, Man..."

--I don’t mean to say that everything written here is Wookiee excrement. On the positive side, Catman does give proper (and long overdue) credit to the late Sean Delaney, who was instrumental in creating much of Kiss’ signature stage presentation and overall look. Often referred to as the "5th member of Kiss", Sean was a singer/musician himself and even though Stanley and Simmons like to take credit for creating the whole Kiss package themselves in their revisionist rehashes of the band’s history, Delaney is the one who mentored the band and helped refine their act into what we know today. SD would videotape Kiss rehearsals and go over them with the group, breaking their performances down in much the same manner that a football coach goes over game films. He also acted as peacemaker amongst the band and nursed them through their numerous personality conflicts. Kiss wouldn’t have been Kiss without Mr. Delaney, rest his soul. Criss also gives well-deserved props to the late Bill Aucoin, who was manager and early mastermind of the Kiss empire. Even though his background was in television instead of Rock ‘N’ Roll, he had the smarts on how to market the band and create their mega-superstar image. Aucoin believed in the band enough to finance their 1975 Dressed To Kill tour with his American Express card (as the legend goes), and his convictions were right that this band would hit the big-time.

--I also totally agree with Peter’s assessment of the recording of the first Kiss album, produced by Kenny Kerner and Richie Wise, who were cronies of late Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart. "There were no balls between those grooves…Kerner and Wise were too old-school. They were making us sound like a pop band…To my taste, they had great, great songs—masterpieces—and they made them sound pedestrian. The strength and the energy and the power of our band had been blunted." As enduring as the tracks on that album are—seven out of the ten ("Firehouse", "Deuce", "Strutter", "Nothin' To Lose", "Black Diamond", "100,000 Years" and "Cold Gin") still make the Kiss concert set list on a regular basis even today—one can only imagine what that album might’ve sounded like if Eddie Kramer (who produced the first Kiss demo tape and later Alive! and Rock And Roll Over) was available to work on it. We might be talking about Kiss in the same league with other classic debut albums like Boston, Van Halen, Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd, Are You Experienced? and Appetite For Destruction.

--Peter does corroborate Ace’s stories about Gene being a total slob when they roomed together during their early tours. Allegedly hygiene (Hi, Gene?) was more of a hobby for the Demon than a regular habit, and he rarely, if ever, showered (according to Criss), thus garnering him the nickname "Stinky". Apparently, Ace was fairly unkempt in those hotel rooms himself, and Peter also corroborates what Gene said about Space Ace's poor work ethic, and how he was lazy and unwilling to help load and unload equipment in the early years, and chronically late to rehearsals and such.

--I was surprised Peter didn’t say much about the apathetic response his 1978 solo album received. I still don’t think he gets why most Kiss fans (me included) were so underwhelmed by it—it sounded like a cross between a David Cassidy and Ringo Starr album instead of an out-and-out Rock record. Kiss fans want balls, not crooning—hell, Andy Gibb was making edgier albums during that time!  And I was also downright shocked Criss said nothing about Eric Carr singing "Beth" on the 1988 Kiss greatest hits compilation Smashes, Thrashes &
 Hits.  Even I thought this was a disrespectful bullshit move by Gene and Paul to give Peter’s "baby" to Carr, who was desperate to get a solo vocal on a Kiss record, thus he reluctantly sang it. However, Pete did go to great lengths in the book to remind us that "Beth" was an award-winning tune. Yes, Peter, "Beth" is a wonderful song, but one home run doth not a Hall of Fame career make—even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then. The rest of Criss' Kiss contributions are questionable, at best. The aforementioned "Dirty Livin’" was weak, as was "Hooligan" from Love Gun, which he claims was "butchered" by the band. It should’ve been hacked to pieces, with lines like "I got a ’35 Chevy on a ’55 frame/Can’t even spell my name/Dropped out of school when I was 22..."  Gee, just how long were you planning to matriculate there, Pete?  The only other Criss composition on any Kiss album that cuts the cheese with me is "Baby Driver" from Rock And Roll Over, and even then it's the music I like more than the lyrics.

--Peter even injected some unintentional comedy into the book regarding Paul Stanley: "In his best days he couldn’t outsing me. He had no soul." I gotta call bullshit on this one too, Pete. You ain’t a bad singer in a Rod Stewart-by-way-of-Eddie Money kind of way, but come on, Stanley Harvey Eisen is light years better than you as a singer. Criss actually does admit that his lone solo vocal on 1998’s Psycho Circus, "I’ve Finally Found My Way" (written by Stanley) sucked, but claims he had to do the song "at gunpoint" or he wouldn’t have gotten to sing on that album at all. He says he was perfectly happy with his first vocal take on it, but Paul said he "sounded like Jimmy Durante" and made Criss re-record it. So, how come he still sounds like Schnozz-ola on the finished product?  Peter also says Ace’s "Into The Void" from Psycho "wasn’t really a good song." Uhh, Pete, you got kitty litter in your ears—"Void" was one of the few standout tracks on that half-assed album, along with Stanley’s title song and "Raise Your Glasses", while Gene’s songs on that record were largely forgettable. Anyway, more yuks from Shecky Criscoula: "The years that Ace and I were out of the band were easily Kiss’s leanest years…it got so bad that one night they played for 500 people!" Really, Bro?  Kiss thrived at times during the ’80s non-make-up era—I was there, I witnessed it. The 500 people he’s referring to were probably the special odd theater gig or two Kiss played during that time, and that’s all those venues could hold. Come on, dude, just because your book has ‘make-up’ in the title that doesn’t give you the right to make up shit.

--Several times in the book, Criss cheekily alludes to Paul Stanley’s sexuality and all but tries to "out" the man. True, Paul’s always been gender-bender to a degree, and even I have to say he has a nicer ass than a lot of genetic women do, but I think he’s straight—hell, he’s been married twice (to women) and has fathered two kids. And even if Paul is gay, so fucking what?  We all got over Freddie Mercury and Rob Halford being gay (as if that was shocking).  Meantime, Criss also talks about himself and Frehley grabbing each other’s junk and Ace allegedly blowing him (ewwww!) during threesomes, orgies and other hotel room frolics with groupies back in the early days, but he claims that was all just innocent fun because of that nutty guy Ace, ha ha!  Peter even brazenly calls Stanley a drug addict. "By then (the 1996 "Reunion Tour") Paul was carrying around a huge Louis Vuitton bag full of enough pills to choke a horse. Paul was a major hypochondriac so he had muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, pills to make you tan, pills to make you lose weight, pills to get you going." Let’s review here: Paul is deaf in one ear, has endured knee and hip procedures, cracked ribs, not to mention a heart abnormality that he has to control medically, and yet he often "takes one for the team" and plays hurt in concert year after year. That don’t sound like no hypochondriac to me. I call bullshit once again, Pete.

--Criss calls Simmons and Stanley "Machiavellian" numerous times in the book. Damn, are these two really THAT bad? I’m beginning to wonder. He says, "Look at all the people they drove mad. Poor Eric Carr, the guy who first replaced me, was reduced to sitting in his hotel room naked with the blinds all drawn, drinking and refusing to come out. Bill Aucoin lost his whole empire on drugs. Sean (Delaney) went crazy. Howard Marks (subsequent Kiss co-manager) died a drunk. Neil Bogart died. They drove Mark St. John and Vinnie Vincent crazy. The list could go on and on. There was no way in hell that I would ever tour with those guys again." I’m not sure what incident he’s referring to in regards to Carr here, but I will point out that Bogart died of cancer, totally unrelated to Gene and Paul’s behavior, and he was no longer involved with Kiss at the time of his passing anyway. Aucoin losing his fortune was his own damn fault, not Gene and Paul’s. Vinnie Vincent was/is a megalomaniac to begin with and Mark St. John apparently had his own personal demons. While I do have my questions about Gene and Paul and how they conduct themselves with their bandmates and management at times, I still counter that Singer (Schlep), Thayer (Butt Boy) and erstwhile Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick have never exhibited any major issues with Simmons and Stanley, so maybe it just boils down to personality conflicts and a bad attitude/raging paranoia on Criss’ part more than any sort of hidden agendas Gene and Paul might have. Simmons and Stanley certainly come off way better in my eyes after reading Criss’ book, even though Peter no doubt had the opposite intention.

--Just as an aside, I still can’t figure out for the life of me why, given Gene’s and Paul’s adamant anti-drug and alcohol stances, they’ve worked so closely with so many people over the years who had fairly immense drug problems or were connected to drugs in some way. I’m not just talking about Peter and Ace, either—I’m referring to Aucoin, Bogart, Delaney, producer Bob Ezrin (during both Destroyer and especially Music From The Elder) and current Kiss manager Doc McGhee, who himself was once arrested for drug trafficking! Whatever (and whoever) it takes to get the job done, I suppose, but it sure makes Simmons and Stanley look like hypocrites when they rip on Criss and Frehley for their past substance abuse issues, especially since both of them are (allegedly) sober now.

To sum up, there’s a prevailing theme in the book that Peter’s problems were everyone else’s fault but his own. Yep, Peter—Gene and Paul shoved all that cocaine up your nose themselves to make you let the band and Kiss fans like me down by being a selfish drug addict. Violent outbursts with guns—that’s real bright. Marrying your second wife because she was a Playboy bunny and you were only thinking with your dick?  Fucking brilliant!  Hiring a Mafioso to handle your finances when you’re fresh out of rehab for cocaine addiction? MENSA candidate!  Driving through the da hood in L.A. with $100,000 cash in your car and antagonizing some brass knuckle-wearing homey and getting your face rearranged? Rhodes scholar! This all coming from someone who brags about being so "street-smart" because of his rough upbringing in Brooklyn. When faced with raised eyebrows from readers like yours truly about why this book sucks, Peter will no doubt blame his ghost writer, Larry "Ratso" Sloman, saying he fucked up and didn’t write it properly. In several places in the book, Peter laments times when his young daughter Jenilee would read things in the media about his drug use and such or the nasty stuff Gene and Paul said about him. What about now?  I realize she’s a 20-something adult today, but do you really want Jenilee reading THIS trash?  If this were my autobiography, I’d be totally mortified.  Is this how you really want Kiss fans to remember you when you’re gone, Peter?  I would hope not.  Had I known you were going to put out a crude and embarrassing memoir like this, I would’ve said, "Catman, don’t!" 

From here, I move on to my next Rock otto-biography Who I Am by The Who's Pete Townshend.  Clearly a case of Pete and Re-Pete...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Concert #113

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (Saturday, November 17, 2012 at Sprint Center) Ticket price: $47.00

Confession time: For years and years I loathed Bruce Springsteen. It wasn’t a personal thing, really, but in the late ‘70s when I was in my early teens and really getting into Album Rock radio, I was a bit narrow-minded (blame Ted Nugent) and wasn’t real impressed with The Boss and his music. I also chafed at how Rock magazines like Creem and Rolling Stone seemingly kept force-feeding this guy to me, making him out to be the greatest thing since Elvis and how he could simply do no wrong in their eyes. It also didn’t help that he was from New Jersey, which might as well have been New York City to me, because I copped an attitude during that time about anything even remotely connected with the Big Apple (except Kiss and "Saturday Night Live"). However, as time passed, I began warming up to Brucie, thanks in big part to 1980’s "Cadillac Ranch", as well as a song he wrote for my man Dave Edmunds in 1982 called "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)". By the time Born In The U.S.A. emerged in 1984, Springsteen was impossible to ignore on MTV, and I was especially drawn to the concert video of "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" that featured Bruce's legendary band intros and I realized that this is what a band that's having fun on stage looked like. So I figured if you can’t beat him, join him. I STILL think he’s a tad overrated at times even today, but over the years, I’ve embraced his overall body of work, and since I’d always heard what a crowd-pleaser Bruce Springsteen was, I decided it was finally time to get out and see The Boss in concert. I deeply regret waiting too long and missing out on seeing the "Big Man" Clarence Clemons, but apparently the rumors were true—Boss Man puts on one helluva show.

The show began about 40 minutes late and there was no opening act. As I scanned the stage with my binoculars before things got underway, I noted an array of musical instruments scattered about—there were enough violins, guitars, percussion instruments, horns (even a tuba!) and keyboards to open up a music store. Turns out the E Street Band has expanded a bit to 17 members, including a five-piece horn section, three back-up singers and an extra percussionist in addition to Bruce and the usual suspects. This dynamic kinda reminded me of The Who’s 1989 reunion tour ("The Who on ice" as Pete Townshend later deemed it), but instead of being an exercise in overkill as with The Who, the additional deck hands blended right in to the presentation and weren’t a distraction. The sound mix was a bit iffy at first, and it sounded like Bruce was singing into a CB radio early on, but things improved as the night progressed. The name of the venue, Sprint Center, was a misnomer on this night because this was no sprint—this was a marathon!

Bruce kicked things off with an extended rendition of "Kansas City" (a morphing of both the Wilbert Harrison and Little Richard versions) that I might’ve saved for the encore, but hey, he’s The Boss, so what do I know? "Prove It All Night" was next and after that, the E Street band lived up to that title. Over the next three-plus hours, we were treated to 28 songs (29 if you count Buddy Holly’s "Not Fade Away", which Bruce sang the first verse from leading into "She’s The One") and a very energetic performance from a man in his early ‘60s. Apart from the receding hairline, Springsteen looked and acted like he was still 30-something. I was most impressed with the entire band’s stamina, especially that of drummer Max Weinberg, who never wavered once in playing for over three hours straight with no intermission and very short breaks between songs. Their next tour stop after us was Denver—good luck in that altitude! It was fun to watch the interplay between Bruce and the band, and it was obvious they were having fun up there and were feeding off the energy of the crowd as well. Speaking of the crowd, Brucie spent a fair amount of time in it, as he meandered through the audience several times to a platform at mid-floor, and even body-surfed back to the main stage during "Hungry Heart". The man is a trusting soul—I thought for sure they were going to drop him on his head...

I also liked how Springsteen doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with his bandmates throughout the show. He knows it doesn’t always have to be about him, and it’s cool that he throws a bone to the other E Streeters and allows them do their thing for a bit. This was the first time I got to really watch Mr. Weinberg operate, and the "Mighty Max" was rock-solid with plenty of thump throughout on his Charlie Watts-esque drum kit. I also learned a new respect for long-time guitarist "Miami" Steve Van Zandt on this night. "Little Steven" always appeared to me to be a drunken idiot in the old videos (maybe he was), stumbling around and making faces, but in this show, he remained upright throughout and actually looked like a Rock star, and played well too. "Professor" Roy Bittan sounded phenomenal on the piano, but I really couldn’t hear much from his counterpart, ex-Pat Benatar keyboardist Charlie Giordano on stage right, who replaced the late "Phantom Dan" Federici. You also can never replace the late Clarence Clemons with just one person, so now Bruce employs a phalanx of horn players, led by the "Big Man"’s nephew Jake (Little Big Man?), who acquitted himself quite well on sax. 

The show did seem to drag in places, but that had more to do with me, because I wasn’t totally familiar with some of the songs they played. Some tunes got stretched out a bit too, which I tended to lose patience with, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, and at least Bruce didn’t pull a Led Zeppelin and take 25 minutes to play just one song. As I expected, Bruce played several songs from his latest CD, Wrecking Ball, and they were all quite good, especially "We Take Care Of Our Own", the title track, "Death To My Hometown" and "Land Of Hopes And Dreams". "Shackled And Drawn" was also from the new one, but it got stretched out into this pseudo church revival bit that I personally could’ve done without, but I was pleased that Bruce, to his credit, didn’t go off on any political tangents during the show—that’s not what I attend Rock concerts for. From what I understand, the Neolithic dipshit Phelpsians from Topeka were outside picketing the show, but they must have been on the main entrance side on Grand Blvd., because we entered from the east side and never saw them. Too bad—I’ve always wanted to flip these turds the bird in person. Come to think of it, "Shackled And Drawn" is a damn good idea for these losers, but I digress…

Springsteen’s core audience almost reminds me of Trekkies because of their fanaticism and utter devotion to The Boss, and many folks were jumping up and down and dancing like it was a Saturday night barn dance and hootenanny. I was also unaware of the Springsteenian custom of fans bringing placards and signs for to place song requests for the set list. This led to the obscure "Incident On 57th Street" getting a spin, as did "Fire" (the big 1979 Pointer Sisters hit), and I longed to hear Elmer Fudd singing it, but no such luck. Oddly enough, in addition to "Fire", Bruce’s songs that other people had big hits with were highlights of the show, namely "Because The Night" (Patti Smith Group) and especially "Light Of Day" (Joan Jett), which rocked the house to end the set. They did omit some of his biggies like "Glory Days", "Rosalita", "My Hometown", "Pink Cadillac" and "Born In The USA", as well as my personal Springsteen faves "Cadillac Ranch", "Human Touch", "Tunnel Of Love" and "Working On The Highway", but then again, Bruce could’ve played another full-length concert the next night and not repeat a single song from this show (apart from the obligatory "Born To Run") and it would’ve been just as well-received—that’s how deep this guy’s catalog goes.

During the lengthy encore, when the band kicked in to "Born To Run", the house lights came up and remained on the rest of the way, which looked kinda weird. I generally don’t approve of Yuletide songs before Thanksgiving, but I’ll make an exception this time for Bruce and Co. doing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", which the crowd just ate up. "Dancing In The Dark", which preceded it, sounded way better live than it does on record—punchier and grittier—and not only did Bruce re-create the video bit of pulling a dance partner out of the crowd, he rounded up one for young master Clemons and another for guitarist Nils Lofgren and a mother-daughter combo for himself. I also noticed a woman on the video screen in the front row who made herself up to look like Courteney Cox in that video—right down to the short brown haircut and same t-shirt. "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" closed out the proceedings and Bruce made one last trek through the crowd and proclaimed, "Now this is the important part…" when he got to the line "When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band" and the music stopped for a video salute to the dearly-departed Mr. Clemons and Mr. Federici and the crowd reacted appropriately.

I wisely chose not to imbibe during this concert. I knew it was going to be a long night and I didn’t want to peak too soon, nor did I want to be running to the can every 20 minutes. However, I did invent the Bruce Springsteen Drinking Game during the show. It’s pretty simple, really: Before or during any song, every time The Boss does a "1-2-3..." count-in, take one drink. If he does "1-2-3-4...", take two drinks. You’ll be fucked-up in no time flat!  Seriously, this was a most impressive concert. I’ve never seen a guy work so hard to please a crowd like Springsteen does, even though he really doesn’t need to anymore. Several times I kept thinking he and the band was on its last song of the night, and they’d still come back for another. If I were in a hurry to leave, I would’ve been as bewildered as Apollo Creed was in Round 15 against Rocky Balboa, but the longer the show went on the more I was astonished at the E Street Band’s staying power. Bruce left it all on the stage and won me over for good. Not too shabby for a guy from Jersey whose initials are B.S….

SET LIST: Kansas City; Prove It All Night; Candy’s Room; She’s The One; Hungry Heart; We Take Care Of Our Own; Wrecking Ball; Death To My Hometown; My City Of Ruins; The E Street Shuffle; Fire; Incident On 57th Street; Because The Night; Cover Me; Downbound Train; I’m On Fire; Shackled And Drawn; Waitin’ On A Sunny Day; Raise Your Hand; The Rising; Badlands; Land Of Hopes and Dreams; Light of Day. ENCORE: My Beautiful Reward; Born To Run; Dancing In the Dark; Santa Claus Is Coming To Town; Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.