It was cold. It was raining. Thousands of people stood for hours in the mud, waiting for his arrival.
Though he’s usually not prompt, Bruce Springsteen apparently took pity on the crowd at Reunion Park, the site of the old Reunion Arena where he and the E Street Band had performed years ago. He showed up on time Sunday night, played in his allotted slot of around three hours and gave everyone who came the typical effort that has defined his career over the past five decades.
Of course, he probably didn’t want to upset the NCAA, which hosted the free concert. After all, we all know how tough the infractions committee can be when it wants to.
After spending the early months of 2014 touring abroad in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Springsteen and the E Streeters are back on their home turf. They begin their American tour Tuesday in Cincinnati so Dallas was figuratively and literally a warm-up for the band, which was bundled up to stave off the chilly North Texas night (pianist Roy Bittan looked like he was dressed for a late-December Packers game at Lambeau Field).
Ever the prankster, Springsteen came out with a basketball in hand — hey, it is the Final Four, you know — and with a “referee” there to toss the ball, The Boss jumped center with diminutive lead guitarist Nils Lofgren, who happens to be a pretty good basketball player, which led into the band’s version of Van Halen’s “Jump.” Near the end, it was another cover — the Isley Brothers’ “Shout!” — which for a college-age dominated crowd, was a pretty smart way to end.
In between, it was the Springsteen we’ve come to know and expect from over the decades. He played the classics — Badlands, Spirit in the Night, Born To Run. 10th Avenue Freeze Out. Thunder Road. He played the newer stuff from Wrecking Ball and High Hopes, though only High Hopes made Sunday’s 25-song set list. He hasn’t tired of Death To My Hometown, Shackled and Drawn and Wrecking Ball yet so they remain in the rotation.
The hardcore fans never tire of Atlantic City, Hungry Heart and The River and the Born in the USA fans always love anything from that album which Sunday had No Surrender, Darlington County and Working on the Highway in the set.
And, he caters to his newest generation of fans, the little kids who get to sing along to Waitin’ on a Sunny Day or dance with him during Dancing in the Dark. Yeah, it’s schtick and it’s gotten a tad monotonous by now. But try telling that to the mom or dad whose six-year-old girl got to “sing” with Bruce Springsteen. It’s hard to begrudge someone a lifetime memory like that.
But there’s a new danger looming for Springsteen concert-goers. It’s not the signs requesting songs that Springsteen has no shot at ever playing. It’s not the little kids on the parents’ shoulders blocking people’s view of the stage in the pit area. It’s not ignoring albums like “Magic” and consigning them to the setlist dust bin.
That’s right, Selfies.
For decades, Springsteen has invited young (and old) ladies up on stage during Dancing in the Dark. Most women probably would like to have their Courtney Cox moment with Bruce and shake it on stage. But Sunday, there were probably a dozen girls, mostly college coeds, who got to dance with Springsteen and damned if every single one of them had their cell phone in hand, looking to snap a Selfie with Springsteen.
It got so bad that I thought drummer Max Weinberg and saxaphonist Jake Clemons were going to pass out from exhaustion, it took so long to finish the song because these women insisted on putting their own personal stamp on the show. By now, those Selfies have no doubt been posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even some social media venues that haven’t been invented yet.
I’m afraid given Sunday’s “success” that this will become a staple at future Springsteen shows. Maybe it was an anomaly because it was a college crowd. But I doubt it. The “Springsteen Selfie” is probably here to stay.
And if Bruce has to take Selfies with college girls to keep himself relevant, I guess I’ll learn to deal with it. I’m too old to suddenly become a Fun fan. The indie pop band opened for Springsteen Sunday, which was weird because Springsteen rarely has an opening act. And they actually weren’t all that bad.
Look, the guy’s going to be eligible to collect Social Security this Sept. 23, so more power to him. If he can get 9-year-old boys to learn the words to his songs, good for him. So I’ll just have to deal with my codgerism and hope he’ll play Jungleland the next time I see him, which will be May 17 at Mohegan Sun. I’ve resigned myself to the fact Springsteen’s never returning to Las Vegas and the memory of his epic show in 2000 at the MGM Grand Garden will have to suffice (Sorry, but the 2002 Rising tour show at the Thomas & Mack Center wasn’t one of his greatest nights). So it means going on the road, Selfies be damned.