So there we were, Joe and I, in the BOK Center in Tulsa. We had decent seats, lower level, pretty much right in line with the stage. BOK Center is a shiny new penny, all curves and glass and reflective surfaces. On the outside it appeared much larger than the Sprint Center, on the inside it seemed to be about 2/3 the size of the Sprint Center. One area where they surpass the Sprint Center is in acoustics, the sound was flawless.
Right at 8:00 the lights went off, the choruses of “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce” erupted as the band took the stage. Dressed in jeans, dark tee shirt and vest, Bruce shouted “Good evening everybody” and the band tore into ‘Badlands’. 15,000 people stood and sung along to the opening lines “Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland”, punching the air with their fists. Same with the chorus “For the ones who had a notion, a notion deep inside that it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”. Oh yeah, this was gonna be another great concert, The E Street band sounded really tight!
Followed that up with ‘Outlaw Pete’, a song off the new album. I will admit to being somewhat ambivalent about this one, a 9 minute homage to spaghetti westerns/Sergio Leone type movies. But, hearing it live made all the difference! Plus, there are now video boards that run the length of the stage, about 5 feet high and while the song was playing the boards were flashing images of Monument Valley, which was pretty cool. Plus, Bruce wore a ten gallon for a while, would not be the last hat of the night.
Even though Bruce was touring for his new album, he ended up only playing 4 songs from it. Mostly it was a greatest hits package, with some oldies and rarities thrown in. Turns out the last time he had played Oklahoma (Norman) was on the ‘Darkness On The Edge Of Town’ tour, in 1978! And here’s the thing. The guy will be 60 later this year, but other than the 5 minute break between the end of the set and the start of the encores, they played for 2 1/2 hours virtually non stop. And I mean non stop! Every song finished with Bruce counting out one, two, three, four and the band started in on the next song. Whew, I was about worn out just watching, I can only imagine how the band must have felt!
Next up, ‘Night’, from the Born To Run album. Cooked. ‘Out In The Street’, done well, then the title track from the new album ‘Working On A Dream’. The video board showed a starry sky, also well done.
And then, they got to the heart of the show, a three song medley that just blew me away. First up was ‘Seeds’ (from Live 75/85′) a song about a guy down on his luck, struggling with his family to find a home and work. Bruce tore it up on guitar. Followed by ‘Johnny 99′ (from Nebraska) a story of an out of work auto worker who got too drunk mixing Tanqueray and wine and ended up on the wrong side of the law. One of my all time favorite songs, and the full band version is just a treat. Lastly, ‘Youngstown’ (from The Ghost Of Tom Joad) about a steel worker who faces the reality that all the jobs are moving away, despite a rich history dating back to 1803. Nils played an absolutely scorching guitar solo at the end of this one, had my hair standing up!
After that trifecta, Bruce took a chair and sat at the very front of the stage and sang ‘I’m On Fire’ one of his shorter songs, but a classic nonetheless. Great guitar picking by Nils on that one too.
That song ended and Max tore into a raucous drum beat while Bruce walked back and forth across the stage collecting signs with song requests. Bruce played an acoustic guitar and ran around the stage while the band ripped into ‘Working On The Highway’, and then followed that up with a rarity, ‘I’m Going Down’, yet another personal favorite.
Man, I was having just too much fun. The great thing about concerts is being able to sing along at full volume and knowing that band will drown out my off key singing!
‘Waiting On A Sunny Day’ then right into ‘The Promised Land’. Maybe my imagination, but the first verse almost sounded like the tempo was wrong, but the mighty E Street Band righted the ship and finished up in grand style, Another new one followed ‘The Wrestler’ written as the sound track for the recent Mickey Rourke movie. Followed that up with ‘Kingdom Of Days’ and Patti joined Bruce on vocals, got her first extended time on the screen. Mrs. Springsteen is looking mighty fine, and her voice is as sweet as ever.
Into the closing stretch, the one two punch of ‘Lonesome Day’ followed by ‘The Rising’, both kicked ass. House lights come on and the band tears into the all time classic ‘Born To Run’, everyone up, singing dancing waving their arms in the air. Classic Springsteen concert moment, never gets old!
After leaving the stage for a few minutes, Bruce comes back and does his usual public service announcement touting the Oklahoma Food Bank, then the band comes back and plays a song from Civil War times (yes, really) called ‘Hard Times Come Again No More’. Well done, everyone in the band gets to sing a part, just a great version.
And then the party got to rocking with the familiar opening guitar riff to ‘Rosalita’, a very enthusiastic version, followed by ’10th Avenue Freeze Out’ everyone in the stands and on the floor dancing along, just a big ol house party! At one point, Big Man took off his fedora and placed it on Bruce’s head and it was several sizes too big for Bruce! At the end, Bruce takes off running across the stage and drops into a knee slide, right up to the camera man. But, unlike the Super Bowl slide, this time Bruce plans it just right and ends up just short of the camera man and making faces into the camera!
‘Land Of Hopes And Dreams’ and ‘American Land’ to close out the show, the band takes a bow, starts to walk off stage but Bruce waves them back and tears into ‘Dancing In The Dark’ for the grand finale, place is going wild, Bruce is running around like a mad man, bouncing up and down, band at fever pitch, house lights on, everyone standing and singing along and doing their own dancing, just a cool cool finish. After that, a final bow and the band leaves the stage, crowd cheers and claps for a great performance.
After the show, we walked a couple of blocks back to the hotel. Turns out the band was staying at the same place, but we never saw them. Funny thing was, when we got back to the hotel there were crowds of people all over, just milling about, post concert buzz heavy in the air. Joe and I ran up to our room to drop off the concert shirt and poster we had bought, then headed back down to join the street party. By the time we got back, the streets were deserted! A lonely tumbleweed blew by, Tulsa was a ghost town. So, we walked a few blocks and found a bar where we could sit and rehydrate and relive the concert with fellow Bruce fans, a good way to close out the night.
So concluded Bruce concert number 14 for me, an event spanning almost three decades. Some things just never change…
Submitted by your roving Bruce reporter,