Commentaries - October 2007

radio nowhere

The new Springsteen album is very good - Magic. We picked it up this week and listened happily - "Magic" (title cut) and "Radio Nowhere" favorites to this point. Then Irwyn Applebaum, prez and publisher of Bantam, a huge fan, treated us to good seats at the Wachovia Center Saturday night for the third date on the newest E Street Band tour. Fantastic. Here is a quick summary and analysis of the concert and a playlist. Remarkable: 17,000 out of the 19,000 in the building seemed to know all the words to the new songs (been out--what?--for two weeks) and sang them blissfully, eyes closed, hands in the air, fingers pointed upward.

Here are Irwyn's good notes on the night: What a show! One of the best I've seen. After last night, tongiht clearly all concerned were determined to shake off any remaining tentativeness of the new tour and to rip open the Philly bag of tricks to serve up a show "wit'" as they say down at Pat's Cheesesteaks. Banging right out of the gate starting with Night instead of Radio, it was clear that this was to be a shake it up and pour it out night. As in the last night of the stadium tour, there must be some Philly connection that brings Spanish Johnny to meet Puerto Rican Jane on lovers lane. Just gorgeous, epic, soaring with one of the many many fine guitar solos. One of the obvious pleasures for Bruce on this tour is getting to play electric guitar up front, something he has not really done in the last two tours. Town Called Heartbreak was back as the duet, and the arrangement has toughened up even a little more, his vocals are still carrying it, and Patty was able to rise into it a little better so that it's a good number now. The other two happy happy joy joy additions were Cadillac and Dancin' in the Dark, which replaced the singalong of Waitin on a Sunny Day in the encore. During Dancin--the medley of his hit--it struck me that even if you're hardcore, you haven't heard them perform this in four years when it ended the stadium shows and yet I'm hearing grown men sing the harmony parts that the band isn't singing on stage. It was a night to appreciate the dazzling contradictions that make the Springsteen concert experience so unique, at once loose and tight, muscular and subtle, earth-shakin', booty-shakin'--yes, indeed--but what also makes them heart-stoppin', jaw-droppin' are those many smaller moments, listening to each other's musicianship and pushing one another in match-ups like Bruce and Nils during Thundercrack, or as noted the relentless beat-of-your-heart, beat-of-your-heart duet at the end of Devil's Arcade, or Suzie's opening of Magic or Danny's organ intro and outro of Town Called Heartbreak. Not the lovely, extended mannered keyboard solos from the 80s in those marathon days, but condensed to be very effective notes of grace. They pack alot into 23 songs in a little over two hours. One is tempted to say it seems short compared to tours past, but there's almost no talk, no fat, no breaks between numbers and they fire back for the encore like there are fireants backstage, so this is concentrated Bruice Juice. May Jersey rain down such yabba-dabba-abracadabra.

The last time I'd seen Springsteen was November 1978, and here (courtesy again of Irwyn) is the playlist from that concert 29 years ago:

RAVE ON / BADLANDS / STREETS OF FIRE / SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT / DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN / FACTORY / THE PROMISED LAND / PROVE IT ALL NIGHT / RACING IN THE STREET / THUNDER ROAD / JUNGLELAND / HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL / FIRE / CANDY'S ROOM / BECAUSE THE NIGHT / POINT BLANK / NOT FADE AWAY - GLORIA - SHE'S THE ONE / BACKSTREETS / ROSALITA / BORN TO RUN / LOUIE LOUIE / DETROIT MEDLEY / QUARTER TO THREE

Note: He sang "Louie Louie"!

In the middle of performing "Rosalita" that night long ago, he said this: "Are we ready for a flight ? (cheers)....on the piano and navigation, Professor Roy Bittan.... on the guitar and radar, Miami Steve Van Zandt....on the drums and (?) crew, the Mighty Max....on the bass guitar, Mr.Garry W.Tallent.....on the organ, Mr.Dan Federici.....and in the control tower....the king of the world.....the master of disaster....is it a bird ?....is it a plane ? ....is it the Big Man ?....Clarence Clemons on the saxophone...."

Thirty years later there was Clarence, oddly a bit slimmer, drastically pigeon-toed, 60-something years old, shuffling to the center of the stage for his sax blasts which were note for note exactly what fans remembered and wanted again.

responsibility of the word

Thomas Mann, writing about the word and responsibility in a time of fascism, on March 6, 1937, in the Nation magazine:

The mystery of the Word is great; the responsibility for it and its purity is of a symbolic and spiritual kind; it has not only an artistic but also a general ethical meaning; it is responsibility itself, human responsibility quite simply, also the responsibility for one’s own people, the duty of keeping pure its image in the sight of humanity. In the Word is involved the unity of humanity, the wholeness of the human problem, which permits nobody, today less than ever, to separate the intellectual and artistic from the political and social, and to isolate himself within the ivory tower of the "cultural" proper....

A German author accustomed to this responsibility of the Word... should he be silent, wholly silent, in the face of the inexpiable evil that is done daily in his country to bodies, souls and minds, to right and truth, to men and mankind?... It was not possible for me to be silent.

The article was called "I Accuse the Hitler Regime."

3 chickens = coin sale

My report on the state of surrealism in 1960.

hear Miss Mackie Rhodus

Recently added to PennSound: the audio recording of a performance of Helen Adam's San Francisco's Burning (1963), a lyric play written by Helen and Pat Adam, and performed by the Audio-Experimental Theatre on WBAI, July 17, 1977. The audio was produced by Charles Ruas and made available to us at PennSound by Ruas. Here's the link:

www.writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Adam.html.

Here's the cast:

Helen Adam (reading Miss Mackie Rhodus and Anubis)
Pat Adam (reading Susan Pettigrew)
Marilyn Hacker (reading the Countess of Barth Malone)
Robert Hershon (reading Spangler Jack)
Barbara Wise (reading the Lovely Mrs. Valentine)
Peter Fleur
William Packard
Martin L.H. Rhymert
Daniel Haberman
William Trapp
Arthur Williams
Rob Noah Wynne

Elsewhere I've written a little bit about Helen Adam in 1960.

two legends

In 1959-60 Dick Higgins (above) collaborated with (and then a little later met) Bern Porter. The result of the collaboration was Higgins' first book, What Are Legends (1960). They didn't have enough money for a typesetter so Porter hand-lettered the volume. For the story, and a recording of the two of them telling of their meeting, go here.