Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band, May 27, 2006: Shows I’ll Never Forget

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While driving back from Foxboro the morning after the Springsteen Seeger Sessions event, me and TheWife were listening to Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome, The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert.” I was struck by the sense of community in that audience. Seeger would begin a tune as simple as “Skip To My Lou” and the crowd would not only join in but seemingly invite their communal past experiences with the song into the hall as an extra participant.

Looking back at those times (Seeger’s Carnegie Hall appearance was June 8, 1963), perhaps that sense of togetherness shouldn’t be surprising: “We Shall Overcome” was a very important song for the civil rights movement. But what to think of my Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions concert experience in Boston? It was a communal happening. A surprisingly intense one at that. But what we don’t have today is a tight connection to most of this music. How is it that we were all singing along as though our lives depended upon it?

You’ll get no straight answer from me — I’m still trying to parse just what the hell happened on this night. I mean, I don’t sing along to anything. You can’t even get me to go along with “Happy Birthday.” Yet here I was belting out the chorus to “Pay Me My Money Down,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” and “Buffalo Gals.” I even shouted out “It Blowed Away!” during “My Oklahoma Home.” Go figure!

One thing is certain: musically, Springsteen pushed all of the right buttons. The Seeger Sessions live band packs quite a punch. Folk music? Yeah … jazz, blues, and soul too—all filtered through the spirit of New Orleans. Bruce Springsteen’s own songs, obviously reworked for the tour, surprised and delighted. “Open All Night” done as a bluesy raveup. An upside down (Or was it sideways?) “Cadillac Ranch” giving way to “Mystery Train.” Ah, and then there’s the “Polka/Mariachi/Ska” version of “Ramrod.”

Heck, even the mistakes were glorious. While trying to add one more rising key change to “Jacob’s Ladder,” only about a half of the band went ahead, resulting in a bar or so of giant sour notes. Somehow, it only added to the raucousness of the event. After the song, Bruce Springsteen noted that “we tried to climb too high … and we fucked it up!”

The more thoughtful/spiritual side of the material was represented by a slow, soulful “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “We Shall Overcome,” “Bring Them Home (If You Love Your Uncle Sam)”, Springsteen’s own “If I Should Fall Behind,” a mournful “Mrs. McGrath” that was punctuated by a bodhran-like bass drum, and the amazing tribute to New Orleans “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?”

The final encore, a Peter Wolf-aided “Dirty Water” followed by the stomping “Buffalo Gals”, brought to mind the E Street finale of yore — the Detroit Medley. Yes, knees were knockin’ and everybody was rockin.’

To those folks who decided to sit out this tour: You had no idea what you passed up.

Setlist, Boston, May, 27, 2006:
John Henry
O Mary Don’t You Weep
Johnny 99
Old Dan Tucker
Eyes on the Prize
Jesse James
Cadillac Ranch
Erie Canal
My Oklahoma Home
If I Should Fall Behind
Mrs. McGrath
How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?
Jacob’s Ladder
We Shall Overcome
Open All Night
Pay Me My Money Down

Encore:
Bring Them Home (If You Love Your Uncle Sam)
Ramrod
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
When the Saints Go Marching In
Dirty Water (w/ Peter Wolf)
Buffalo Gals (w/ Peter Wolf)

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Mark Saleski
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