Happy Birthday Boss

photo from http://wimz.com

photo from http://wimz.com

Today is Bruce Springsteen’s 65th birthday, which is hard to imagine if you’ve recently seen him live in concert. That man has the energy of rockers in their twenties and thirties and routinely puts on three-hour plus shows that leave audience members exhausted from all the dancing and happiness. 65 isn’t old, but I get tired just watching him and I’m only in my thirties. I don’t know what fountain of youth that he’s drinking from, but I wouldn’t mind a sip or two myself. I look young for my age, but that doesn’t mean that my body knows that and I’ve already begun to see a dramatic increase in aches and pains in the last few years.

If you’ve been a regular reader of the blog from the start, you know that I hold Bruce Springsteen in a special place in my heart. Not only do I love his music, but I genuinely like him as a person; though I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Springsteen, he’s one of the few celebrities that I think I wouldn’t me disappointed by. With him I think what you see is what you get and by all accounts he’s a pretty great guy. I’m not surprised – people born in September are notoriously awesome individuals.

In honor of The Boss’ birthday, here are my top five Springsteen songs. I generally like anything that Springsteen does – with or without the E Street Band – but these songs are the ones that are guaranteed to make me smile.

 

  1. The Rising

 

This song was written after 9/11 and though it isn’t all that complicated, it’s simple and exactly the kind of song that I needed to hear to help me get through that dark time. It’s a song about a tragic day, but there is something so upbeat about the chorus that it just made me feel better. Listening to “The Rising,” I got the feeling that things were actually going to be OK; it reminded me of the resiliency of a city that I love the heroism of first responders. There’s a defiance that underlies the song – it’s an anthem of recovery.

 

  1. American Land

This is a song that I’ve come to love after seeing it performed live; when I first heard it on the Wrecking Ball album I liked it, but there was nothing in particular that stood out about it for me. Seeing it performed in person was a totally different experience and it has quietly become a song that I now really look forward to. I think the Irish influence really makes it stand out because it doesn’t really sound like any other Springsteen song.

 

  1. Badlands

 

As corny as this sounds, the lyrics of this song will always be important to me – whenever I hear the Boss sing “You spend your life waiting for a moment that just won’t come/Well don’t waste your life waiting” it’s a reminder that sometimes you have to move on from things that just weren’t meant to be and live your life. I have no idea why this particular song resonates so strongly with me, but it was the song that triggered something in me to snap out of a deep funk that I was in a few years ago. I am not one that is necessarily deeply affected by music, but something about “Badlands” touches me in a way that other songs just don’t.

 

  1. Glory Days

 

I first fell in love with Springsteen when I was pretty young and “Glory Days” was my favorite song for the longest time, despite the fact that at eight years old there was no way that I really understood what this song was really all about. At that point of my life, I hadn’t even experienced my glory days yet, but the hook and chorus were so catchy that it didn’t matter if the song wasn’t really applicable to me yet. As I’ve grown older, my affection for this song has only deepened as it has become more relatable. “Sometimes

 

  1. Rosalita

 

Springsteen doesn’t seem to play this song in concert very much anymore, which is too bad because it such a great song. I had been cautioned not to expect it before I started going to Springsteen concerts, so I had prepared myself to possible never hear this song performed live. So imagine my delight when at my second ever Springsteen show he and the E Street band decided to dust it off and give it a go. I am not at all understating when I say that when I heard the first few notes of this song I.Lost.My.Mind. Seriously – I’m pretty mild mannered in general, but when they started playing “Rosalita” I jumped up out of my seat and just started dancing with absolutely no care as to what everyone else in our section was doing. If I was the only person in the arena boogieing down, so be it. This behavior was so out of character for me that the person I was with just stared at me in bewilderment. It didn’t matter to me – this was my song. Sadly, I’ve never heard it live since. But I heard it once and that’s enough.

Now it’s your turn – What are your favorite Springsteen songs? Can you believe the boss is halfway to seventy?

Happy birthday Bruce! Here’s to many more years of rock and roll!

 

I Had the Halftime of My Life

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are probably well aware that the Super Bowl is happening this weekend. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, this is the one sporting event that you can’t ignore. You may not know who is playing (the Seattle Seahawks vs. the Denver Broncos) or where the game is being played (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ) but there is no escaping the media blitz that accompanies the big game.

As a football fan I am of course looking forward to the actual game, especially since my pal Peyton Manning is playing this year. Seeing him get the chance to win a long overdue second ring softens the blow that my Bills are not in the Super Bowl, nor will they be in a Super Bowl for the foreseeable future.  There are always the commercials to look forward to (you can watch a lot of this year’s ads here), though overall I think they have not been as fun recently as they used to be. And even in years when I wasn’t too excited for either of the teams in the game, I almost always look forward to the halftime show.

This year the halftime show will feature Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; I’m extremely curious to see how they are going to meld their two different styles together. I have no doubt that they will figure something out that works though of course the real question of the night will be if we get another “wardrobe malfunction” courtesy of RHCP bassist Flea. All of the Peppers have a history of wearing nothing but a well-placed sock during a performance, but Flea seems to me to be the most likely candidate to try and do it during the Super Bowl. That would be ill-advised, as the weather is supposed to be pretty darn chilly on Sunday night for those kinds of shenanigans. Shrinkage and all. Though I do think that they might be able to fit Bruno Mars entire body in a sock – that is one tiny man.

The Super Bowl halftime shows have something of a checkered past. Some were great, some were terrible and some were controversial. Few of them, however, were all that memorable. Thinking back, though I’ve watched the Super Bowl pretty consistently for nearly 30 years, I realized that I only recalled a handful of performances. I have vague recollections of some other years – I know, for instance, that both The Who and Paul McCartney did the halftime show, but I’d be hard pressed to give you more detail than that. When I think Super Bowl halftime shows, I think of the following performances:

Super Bowl XX – Up With People (1986)

This is actually the first Super Bowl that I remember. For some inexplicable reason, I was a big fan of William “Refrigerator” Perry and I was all excited to watch the Chicago Bears play in the big game. I have vivid memories of it snowing that day and sitting at our coffee table with a mug full of hot chocolate. I may have only been nine years old and I may have had no other point of reference, but even I knew this halftime show was crap. See, kids, back in the early days of the Super Bowl halftime shows, they weren’t the music superstar laden events that they are today. They weren’t seen as an attempt to lure in non-football fans, so instead viewers were subjected to a lot of marching bands and drill teams. It.Was.Awful. Up With People did the halftime show a whopping four times. There was even an Elivs impersonator one year. It was a dark time for America.

 

Super Bowl XXVII– Michael Jackson (1993)

 

I realize that I skipped over what should have been a memorable halftime show for me in 1991 when New Kids on the Block performed, but I honestly have no recollection of this happening. I chalk it up to the trauma of what happened in the game, when the words “wide right” became permanently ingrained into the subconscious of all of Buffalo. I wasn’t even an official fan of the Bills at the time, but I was rooting for them and inexplicably even wagered a week’s worth of lunches with someone at school. I guess I had a soft spot in my heart for Buffalo even way back then. In retrospect, this game was a warning of what my Bills’ future would hold.

Anyway, I remember watching this game over at my best friend Shana’s house with a bunch of our friends; as a group, we weren’t really that interested in the game, but I remember everyone watching Michael Jackson and debating what we thought about him. This was right before the first of his child molestation charges would surface and then things with him would get really weird (and they were already pretty weird). He was still pretty popular, but not as dominant as he once was. This was the first halftime show that was basically just a concert (no Disney characters dancing around) and it brought in high ratings. This was a bit of a turning point; from here on in, major acts were consistently recruited to perform.

Super Bowl XXXV – Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears (2001)

 

This halftime show was an interesting meld of the old and the new and is actually one of the performances that I enjoyed the most, perhaps because it had a high probability of being terrible. A show comprised of Aerosmith, N’Sync and Britney Spears is not necessarily a combination that I would have come up with on my own – remember this was the pre-American Idol Steven Tyler, so there was a little more rock and roll associated with Aerosmith. The “Bad Boys of Boston” were no strangers to collaboration – see their duet with Run D-M-C – but this was something different. I just remember this performance being a lot of fun.

Super Bowl XXXVI – U2 (2002)

 

This was potentially the saddest of the bunch, as this was the first Super Bowl after September 11th. U2 actually did a great job with a nice tribute to those who died without getting too depressing. They stuck the perfect tone and it was really a beautiful performance.

Super Bowl XXXVII – Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake (2004)*

 

Be honest – does anyone even remember that P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock were even a part of this halftime show? Of course not. All anyone remembers is the fateful “wardrobe malfunction” heard round the world. I was watching this Super Bowl with friends in Massachusetts, where I’m sure I was annoying everyone there by not rooting for the Patriots and for cheering for a safety so that I would hit with my Super Bowl square. I actually saw the wardrobe malfunction as it happened – I was the only person really paying attention to the halftime show and I remember whipping my head around to see if anyone else saw what I saw or if I had just imagined that I just saw Janet Jackson’s breast.

This was the halftime show that would result in almost a decade of old white guys being selected to be performers, who were deemed to be less of a potential risk (sound logic since so many of them could barely move). This was also the halftime show that soured me a bit on Justin Timberlake; I never really respected how he hung Janet Jackson out to dry and forced her to take all the heat for what happened. I thought that showed cowardice and while I’ve come back around on JT, it hasn’t left the back of my mind that when the chips were down, he ran away.

*Oddly, this was the only full performance that I couldn’t find on YouTube – though of course there were plenty of videos featuring the offending incident.

Super Bowl XLIII – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)

 

I’ll admit that this performance is probably only memorable to me because I love Springsteen, but I thought he and the E Street band put on one hell of an entertaining show. It was high energy (unsurprising given their penchant for 3+ hour concerts) and though I may have been the only person rocking out at the bar, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Springsteen even livened things up a bit by sliding right into the camera, giving the world a (fully clothed) crotch shot.

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Super Bowl XLVI– Madonna (2012)

 

This was the first post-Janet Jackson halftime show that had the real potential for something interesting or racy to happen. Nothing all that ordinary happened – save for a few scantily clad men – but this performance is what convinced me that I had to fulfill my dream of going to see Madonna live sooner rather than later. She still had it, but she was slowing down a step and I wanted to see her before it would be disappointing. I’m thankful that I saw her that summer, based on what I saw at the Grammys this year. I know that she was injured, but she sounded terrible.

 

Super Bowl VLVII – Beyoncé (2013)

 

I am usually one of the only women at the bar where we watch the Super Bowl every year (minus the staff) so it is no surprise that I was the only person who was really excited to see Beyoncé take the stage and for the rumored Destiny’s Child reunion. I thought Beyoncé killed it and it may or may not have encouraged some slightly intoxicated men at the bar to try and do the “Single Ladies” dance.

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The past is the past; while these are the halftime shows that are most memorable to me, what about the future? If I was in charge of booking the talent, the following acts would be on my wish list:

  • Journey – My love for this band is well established, but I think that they would do a great job. Their new lead singer loves to run around the stage and would be exciting to watch. Plus you are hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t secretly like Journey. A performance of “Don’t Stop Believin” would bring the house down.
  • Kanye West – I know, I know – people hate this guy. He is a little delusional and insufferable. But having seen him perform live and experiencing the crazy genius that is Kanye, I would love to see what he would do with such a performance on such a large scale. It would be bat shit crazy and totally over the top – and I’m sure that half of the country would despise every minute of it. But it would be guaranteed to be memorable, regardless. The Internet might explode.
  • Foo Fighters – Probably my favorite band, I think that they would give us a rocking crowd pleasing performance. The real challenge would be convincing them to take the gig; the Super Bowl may be too corporate for their liking and they don’t really need the bump.

Who would you like to see perform at the Super Bowl? Who have been your favorite halftime performances? Sound off in the comments below – and enjoy the game Sunday!

12.12.12. Concert for Sandy Relief

Last night, like I suspect a lot of people, I tuned in to the 12.12.12 concert for Sandy relief. I was kind of surprised that I had so many options as to where to watch the concert; it aired on dozens of channels and was streaming live on-line on over a dozen websites. It was nice to see that so many different networks and sites came together to make sure that many different audiences could watch the concert.

Of course, I don’t know how diverse the audience for this concert was. It definitely skewed toward older white guys – the only woman to headline was Alicia Keyes and she and Kanye West were the only people of color – and there was a surprising British bias with acts like The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, The Who, Chris Martin, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney. It makes sense that the participants would skew toward the Baby Boomer set, as they have far more money to contribute than young adults. The tickets to this show weren’t cheap and the goal was to attract as much money as possible. I also think that younger people would me more likely to tune into a concert featuring “classic rock” that vice versa; I don’t know how many Boomers would be watching a set list featuring Justin Bieber and One Direction. I don’t know that I would watch that. I am right in the middle of these age groups, but my musical tastes skew toward the performers that were featured. In fact, I’ve already seen a large percentage of them in concert.

I enjoyed the concert, though it was pretty long. I fell asleep for the end of it, which is not a reflection on the musical performances but a result of the cold medicine I took earlier in the evening. Even with the 7:30 start time, the concert rocked out until the wee hours of the morning. I don’t know how those people in the audience were still awake. At least it looked like the people on the floor had seats; the few times I’ve done the floor it has been standing room only and you have to get there hours ahead of time to get a good spot. That is a long time to be on your feet.

Some random thoughts that I had during the concert:

  • Kicking it off with the Boss. The right way to do it. BRRRRUUUUUUCCCCCCCEEEEEE!
  • Liking the song selection – you really can’t be more on the nose that “My City in Ruins.”
  • The Boss’ pants are awful tight. They leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.
  • Bon Jovi and The Boss together on stage? That might be too much for the good people of Jersey to handle.
  • Text of the night goes to my brother who asked me if Jon Bon Jovi and Chris Jericho (WWE professional wrestler) are the same person. He’s not wrong; I never noticed the similarity before.

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  • I was a little disappointed in Roger Waters – he doesn’t really have a good voice anymore. Now I’m wondering if I didn’t notice this over the summer when I went to see The Wall because there were so many other cool things going on visually. Maybe that is the whole point – distract the audience with the special effects.
  • If you are going to announce that Eddie Vedder is making an appearance during the Waters set, it is probably best to not have a guy who looks slightly like Vedder sing some of the songs before Vedder appears. Twitter was freaking out – they thought Eddie had bailed and they were using a reasonable facsimile of Vedder to stand in. I knew that Vedder wasn’t appearing until “Comfortably Numb,” as Waters had said so the night prior on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I had inside information that apparently no one else had.
  • It is amazing – every time I see Vedder, I am immediately transformed to being 14 years old again. Pearl Jam is allegedly working on a new album and will tour next year; if so, count me in. I haven’t seen them live in over a decade.
  • Brian Williams seems like he’s losing it. He was goofy. At one point he said something about swinging a dead cat.
  • Reaction seems split on Adam Sandler’s rewriting of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” as “Sandy Screw Ya,” but I thought it was pretty funny. I’m a sucker for a Sandler song parody.
  • Ugh. What is Kristen Stewart doing here? And more importantly – why does she look so terrible?

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KStew bought her patented joy and sunshine to the proceedings. She looked so miserable and unhappy to be there that you would have thought that she lost her home in Sandy.

  • Bon Jovi got to do their own set, but it is hard to rock out in a black turtleneck (I’m looking at you, Jon). Questionable fashion choices abounded.
  • If anyone was wondering, Clapton is still God. I love him; I pretty much wore out my Timepieces cassette back in the day. It took tremendous restraint not to buy tickets when I heard he was coming to Mohegan Sun Arena. I really, really want to see him live, but I need to remember I afford to go see everything.
  • The Rolling Stones set was only two songs. I was really surprised that they were on stage for such a short amount of time. I know that they were a late edition, but I wish they had been given more time.
  • Alicia Keys looked beautiful and was great; I was curious why she didn’t play “Empire State of Mind” during her set, but it turns out that was saved for later in the show. Otherwise that would have been a curious choice.
  • Very cool to see so many cast members from The Sopranos answering the phones in the phone bank.
  • Oy. Poor Steve Buchemi. What should have been a nice segment about the rescue and relief work that The Graybeards, a community organization in Rockaway, did after Sandy. Instead it was a bunch of drunk guys who totally derailed the segment by interrupting Buchemi and manhandling the poor guy. Probably should have waited to knock a few back until after they were on TV. Still, good on them and the work they do.
  • I’ve never considered myself a big The Who fan, but they put together a solid set. Nice tribute to Keith Moon during “Bell Boy.” I also never fail to think about Paul O’Neill when I hear “Baba O’Reilly,” as that was his at-bat music when he was a Yankee. And no, the name of that song isn’t “Teenage Wasteland.” Get it right people.
  • I probably could have done without Roger Daltrey undoing his shirt, but if I’m in that good of shape at his age, I’d probably flaunt it too.
  • Funniest line on twitter: Someone pointing out that Daltrey has more than a passing resemblance to Mama from Mama’s Family (a show that I admit to loving, even if it isn’t very sophisticated). It’s the hair.

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  • Ellen DeGeneres apparently looks like a lot of aging rockers; lots of people were compared to her throughout the night on Twitter.
  • We’ve hit the part of the night I was most looking forward to – how is this audience going to react to Kanye West, who they probably know mainly as the guy who was mean to Taylor Swift (in retrospect, West may have been on to something. Swift is super annoying).
  • Dear God, what is Kanye wearing? It’s some sort of hoodie/leather kilt ensemble. Fabulous. (Kanye’s skirt now has its own twitter account)
  • Look, I like Kanye, but I think he is totally miscast on this concert bill. This isn’t his crowd and they are giving him too much time. I’d love to see him live, but I don’t think he fits at this show.
  • At this point, I fell asleep. I really, really wanted to see the later acts, but it was just getting too late.
  • I was supper pissed that I missed a surprise appearance by Michael Stipe with Chris Martin
  • Billy Joel was reportedly solid as always. He’s really the best; I don’t care if it isn’t cool to like Billy Joel, I totally do.
  • Of course, the big news of the night was that the surviving members of Nirvana were reuniting to perform with Sir Paul McCartney. Courtney Love was none too pleased, but who cares what she things anymore? (This coming from someone who liked her band Hole). I am more likely to entrust Cobain’s musical legacy with his former band mates than with her at this point. She really needn’t have worried; they didn’t even play any Nirvana songs, but instead unveiled a new song, “Cut Me Some Slack” that will be in the movie that Dave Grohl’s upcoming movie. And Sir Paul still knows how to rock.

My main complaint about the evening, other than the length and Kanye not really fitting in, is that is difficult to find any footage of the performances online. Perhaps that will change in the next few days, but if they want to boost album sales for the benefit album, they should probably make the music more accessible to people who were unable to stay up until the show ended. I think the show even went over the scheduled time, so anyone who DVRed it probably missed some performances.

Otherwise, it was a nice evening for a good cause. I’m not usually a fan of watching concerts on TV – if you aren’t there, what’s the point – but this was a rare exception. I just hope that all the people that were watching opened up their wallets to contribute something for all the free entertainment that they received. All the performers donated their time –no one was paid for their performance. You can still make a donation here.