Thursday, February 5, 2009

DJG / "I'm Going to Disneyland!" (aka: Super Bowl XLIII)

Super Bowl XLIII * * * *
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band * * * * * (PRICELESS!)

My big ol’ burger was completely swallowed by the time Jennifer Hudson was done belting out her beautiful “National Anthem”…the commercials were once again so-so (maybe because advertisers blow their bank on commercials every day of the week? The Doritos ones do stand out to me though)…the halftime totally lived up to expectation, was amazing and inspiring…but WOW, let's get to that game first!

Sorry CARDINALS, but that stealer of a STEELER ending was unbelievable, as many plays leading up to that, in what has to be one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory. And don’t we say that every year come the Monday morning after!? But, last night surely put the stamp on why it’s called The Super Bowl, and America needed a boost like this. It was even bigger and better than last year when Eli Manning saved the day at the last possible second (which still perplexes me).

The first quarter of Super Bowl XLIII opened with Big Ben getting his rushing touchdown taken away...the second quarter ended with an I-still-have-no-idea-how-he-ran-that-all-the-way-back 100 yard touchdown interception (longest Super Bowl play ever!)… fast forward a bit to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, and it was just the most insane amount of Super Bowl emotions, nail-biting plays and highlights in the history of the big game. Though, it was the third quarter that didn’t produce much, at least not to me. I think because it had to do with something about following BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND!

And a WOW-WOW of a halftime highlight reel! Where do I begin? I first heard about The Boss – Super Bowl rumor courtship connection back in August. So, I’ve nearly had 6 months building up for this. And The Boss has been turning down the NFL for years, I heard even way back when. Being that The Boss is on quite the streak of late, playing Super Bowl XLIII only put the topping on the cupcakes for me. How about we just kick it off from the get-go as pre-recorded Cardinal and Steeler players flashed on the television, introducing me to the legendary E Street Band…then, a backstage camera comes out of the stadium bowels and into the dark with the real life classic “Born to Run” silhouette of The Boss and Clarence Clemons back-to-back with guitar and saxophone in hands like weapons as “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” kicks into it’s opening rhythm and The Boss throws his guitar into the air and his tech fumbles with the catch. The Boss then looks at me and says, “Alright, get away from the guacamole. Put down those chicken fingers…turn your television all the way up for the righteous sounds of the E Street Band!” The Boss then put his near-60-year-old legs in supreme jump-ability and got right up on Professor Roy’s piano and asked me if I was really alive out there. And I said, “Yes I am.” I was ready to rock ‘n’ soul. Bruce proceeded with springing off his piano pulpit, straddled the microphone as if a prayer to God in Heaven and then bounced around the stage, telling his people the recollections on 10th Avenue, a song that live, usually extends into a 20 minute praise and worship sermon turn band introduction, but at the Super Bowl you only get 12 minutes to preach.

It was almost as unbelievable as the longest play in Super Bowl history, before I knew it, The E Street Band gained extra Clarence “Big Man” beef in their horn section pants as from what I could tell, drummer Mighty Max Weinberg brought his entire 7 (from the Conan O’Brien show, of course) with him to help in the halftime party. Thus, Clarence blew gold all over the place as he looked dressed the part of a wizard musical theory instructor in the next “Harry Potter” movie. I knew it was going to happen, but didn’t think it would come this early, but near the end of “10th Avenue Freeze-Out”, The Boss did his famous night-after-night-after-night knee slide across half the length of the stage, colliding with the viewers at home, in what I like to refer to as “Crotch Cam”. I don’t know about those of you there, but from my vantage point the slide into NBC’s camera looked like it was supposed to be intentional, just maybe not that aggressive. However, The Boss hammed it up something fierce as he displayed the biggest “I’m having the time of my life” grin on his face to the over 100 million viewers at home and the thousands and thousands there basking in the flesh of Super Bowl XLIII. I wish I’d been there…

A little winded, but not worn by any means, The Boss strapped on Excalibur as “Born to Run” officially kicked the party into second gear and hundreds of sky rockets destroyed the Tampa Bay night sky. It was a truly mesmerizing and inspiring experience, even from the cheap seats. It actually kind of reminded me of when I watched live C-SPAN coverage of the inaugural bombings of the second Iraq war, but of course the rocket red glare in Tampa was more inspiring as “War, what is it good for?”. Back to basics…“Born to Run” always ends way too soon for me (it’s a repeater ALWAYS, and I’m sure every neighbor or roommate I’ve had since 2001 either knows it by heart or are completely sick of it), but the Super Bowl shortened version brought the quintessential ROCK WRITING 101 guitar thunder and lightning really quick as Bruce and the band slowed it down and then brought it back up to that place where I really want to go and walk in the sun. But, tramps like me are born to run and I had to get to working on my dream.

DANG, is all I could think as Bruce ushered not only Little Stevie and his lovely wife Patti to the front of the extended stage to harmonize with the crowd, but also brought out about a hundred blue robed choir belters holding pure illumination in their palms as their BOSS was “Working on a Dream”, a song choice that I wasn’t expecting at all. I knew he’d more than likely want to plug the new and excellent record, but I had no idea he’d do it with the title track, I was thinking “Lucky Day” all the way. Though, what a fitting salute to America right now and a great way to feed off that “Born to Run” energy and change up the tempo. What a song, but what a performance. I really hope this happens every night on the new tour. This was even more inspiring than the fireworks.

I knew that time was ticking and how do you end a concert like this? In the back of my mind I was pining for either “The Rising”, another inspirational number, but at this point it didn’t seem like the choice. Maybe “Badlands” or “Hungry Heart” would be next!? I then thought maybe, just maybe the place would explode as the drum kicks of “Born in the U.S.A” would sound. However, all along I didn’t think he would play his ‘80s staple (and if so, I would have kicked off the party with the acoustic rendition, if I was The Boss)…I was mostly thinking that The Boss would employ the help of the 12-year-old girl he had in Kansas City, MO at the end of the “Magic” tour for “Dancing in the Dark” lessons and cartwheels. Gosh, I was hoping to get that memory back into reality. What a site that was…and I think The Boss was listening to me, but decided to throw in a change-up as he went one step back to the track right before “Dancing in the Dark” on his classic album “Born in the U.S.A.” and wrestled for them “Glory Days”! Just like any night on tour, you never know what you’re gonna get!

Changing up the lyrics from baseball to accommodate the present event, The Boss told me about his football friend back in high school who could throw a Hail Mary pass! AMAZING. BRILLIANT. But, where was his buddy now? Yep, he was now older and sitting around, thinking about the days of his youth. Little Stevie stepped up to the plate…er, yard dash?...and joined with his best bud on recapturing the youthful spirit of a bar band going down to the video hit well of the 1980s as they loosened a notch or two and belted out their “Glory Days” in extreme grand fashion. The Boss then looked at his watch and asked, “What time is it!?”. He then asked if it was quittin’ time and if they’d get called for a penalty if they went over and even said something about how they might as well just start taking ‘er into over-time!

Then, in what was probably Bruce’s actual 2 minute warning, a frumpy referee whom I didn’t recall seeing make the final play of the half, came on stage, blew his whistle and threw a yellow penalty flag in front of Bruce and Stevie. I was just blown-away at how awesome this exit was. I think that a lot of people found it pure-cheesy, but I thought it was genius orchestration to sum up what a fun-loving, genuine class act Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band really is. This was their time to get ready to clock out of the office and as Bruce asked again what time it was and Little Stevie replied, “It’s BOSS TIME!!”, dang it iff the entire crowd didn’t go completely bonkers. I think I even bonkered in my pants a bit. The Boss then put in some over-time as he wind-milled his beloved guitar six times and the band kept going and going, extending the final measures and “Alrights!” of “Glory Days”. As the band slowed things down, the Boss officially clocked out with a smiling, classic Super Bowl victory declaration of “I’m going to Disneyland!” They all held hands and I wanted more BRRUUUCCCCEEEEE!!!!!! than the forthcoming halftime football talk.

Bruce and the gang only had 12 minutes to squeeze in nearly 4 decades of music and you could tell that they came fully-equipped with a wallop of a 4-pack medley of power that not even Vegas could have predicted. There have been a lot of pretty good Super Bowl halftime acts in the post-Janet era, but none have even come close to the level of energy, passion, spirit and excitement of the party that took place last night. The halftime bar has officially been raised. I even think it was better than the opening ceremony at last summer’s Olympics (OK, maybe not ZHANG YIMOU THAT GOOD, but take note London 2012!), I just wish that they could have gotten three or four hours! They used every bit of the allotted 12 minutes to remind me how they can do what they do and MORE on any given night of the week with an extra 2 hours and 48 minutes. Well, of course without the awesome aid of exploding rockets, a large backdrop of digital light boxes that brought to mind the communications of “Close Encounters of the Boss Kind”, a choir, added horn section, referee, and not to mention a grand stage and setting that only The Super Bowl could provide. But, Bruce & The E Street Band are no strangers to big venues and big stages…

Cardinals, sorry for your loss. Your road to Super Bowl XLIII was a great, hard-fought one and I was rooting for you. But, look on the bright side of the ball, at least you got to open for THE BOSS!


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