As I drove aimlessly through the clusterfucked streets looking for a place to park, I took solace in the fact that this, the third concert I’ve attended at The Qwest Center, would also be my last.
I guess it’s impossible to get good seats at Qwest. For Fleetwood Mac, we sat lower bowl center, straight back from the stage and couldn’t see shit. For The Who, I joined a Who fan club just to try to get good seats. We got first tier, but too close to the floor and too far back on the side, so we couldn’t see shit. Like every other dumbshit who thought the concert would sell out in two minutes, I was online right when the tickets were made available and was surprised that I even got through. Hence, I took the first “best seats” offered, figuring if I didn’t take them, I’d never make it through the queue and would lose any chance of getting tickets. When I looked at the seating chart online, I thought they were pretty good — section 223 Row N. Heck, second tier right off the stage — I’ll be looking right down on The Boss’ bad haircut!
Wrong. The seats were, in fact, off stage right, but I misjudged just how far up they would be. Nosebleed, and as a result, I couldn’t see shit. I couldn’t even really see the jumbletrons set up on the sides of the stage. The irony that everyone knows who goes to Qwest shows is that all the seats are bad, and as a result, most of the audience spends the show watching the screens instead of the stage.
All right, enough of my endless whining about the Qwest’s shitty sightlines. Once we got our $26 dinner (hamburger, fries, chicken tenders, two beers), we climbed to our stratospheric seats, and proceeded to wait 90 minutes for the concert to start. The crowd consisted mostly of retired school teachers, grandfathers, extras from a production of The Sopranos, and lots of older women who thought that a Springsteen concerts was the right place to show their abundant cleavage. Omaha is fat city, we all know this. It’s also bust city, and from my seat on top of the world, I got plenty of views “downtown,” views I could have done without.
Strangely, no one seemed to mind that the tickets said the show was supposed to start at 7:30 and it was 8:30 and nothing was going on. To keep the crowd on the edge of their seats, a roadie would run out on stage every five minutes and do something. Here comes a microphone stand. There goes Clarence’s saxophone holder. Better tape another set list to the ground. Meanwhile, all around me, people were calling each other on their cell phones and then frantically waving. “We’re sitting over here! Over here! Look how bad our seats are!” Everyone was brimming with excitement. It was The Boss, after all! The Boss!
The band finally arrived at around a quarter to nine. As with the last two concerts at the Qwest, the sound was pure shit. Look, I know that small club shows have spoiled me forever for auditorium shows. There’s no way The Qwest will ever match the sound of The Waiting Room or Slowdown or, uh, O’Leaver’s. Muddy, flat high end, extreme bounce off the far wall. But you don’t go to a Springsteen show for good acoustics. You go for the performance. Springsteen is a modern marvel. He’s 58 but he runs around on stage like he’s in his 20s. Off he would run to stage left right up to the barrier, then lean back and throw his hands in the air like a circus performer, as if to say “Stand up, fuckers!” Then run to the other side and do the same thing. Over and over, all night. The only thing I could see on the jumble screens were tight close-ups of Springsteen’s face, odd pained facial contortions. In his advancing years, he’s starting to look like a dark-haired Joe Cocker (or the Belushi version of Cocker).
His voice is phenomenal. Just a terrific voice that never seems to age. And the band was amazing, especially the rhythm section. Weinberg is just a great, functional drummer. He doesn’t do anything particularly flashy, he just keeps it all together, as does the bass player. I don’t know what he’d do without them. While Springsteen and Lofgren stumbled through their yawn-inducing solos, the rhythm section and keyboardists kept all the wandering on track.
I’ve already read a few reviews that highlighted Lofgren’s solos. I don’t like his style, his touch technique that makes every note sound rounded. It sounds like he’s played the same boring solos for 20 years, because he has. Again, Springsteen and his band aren’t really known for their guitar solos. They are known for Clemons’ sax solos, which sounded just like they do on the records. I expected more interaction between Springsteen and Clemons. Aren’t they supposed to be pals like on the cover of Born to Run? The Boss barely acknowledged him all night. Where was the love?
Early in the set, Springsteen dedicated a song to Conor Oberst (“Living in the Future”). I figured Oberst was in Austin for SXSW, seeing as his label has a showcase there. Later, Springsteen name-checked “Mac and Nancy,” Oberst’s parents. Then out of nowhere, here came Conor. Springsteen trotted him out to sing along with “Thunder Road.” Oberst either didn’t know the words or was nervous or both. You could barely hear him when it was his turn to sing. It was awkward, only made more awkward by the fact that no one in the audience probably knew who this “hometown hero” was. The 54-year-old lady next to us asked us and when we told her, looked disinterested or confused.
The night’s musical highlight was probably “The Rising,” one of those songs that you forget how good it is until you hear it again. Or maybe “Jungleland,” which was marred by a portly drunken woman a few rows away who insisted on cackling in an irritating Tickle Me Elmo voice “Yeah-a-heah-heah!” over and over. Funny the first time, not so much the fourth or fifth time. You begin to realize after about two hours that Springsteen has a lot of classics, and that a lot of them sound the same. The crowd, of course, ate it all up. Clocking in at over two-and-a-half hours, there’s no arguing that Springsteen shows are a good value for your concert-going dollar (especially at a $57-$97 price point). Too bad it had to take place at The Qwest, but where else are you going to hold it? Goodbye white elephant!
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