Monday, May 15, 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Monday, May 8, 2006
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
As Bruce Springsteen led his sprawling Seeger Sessions Band onto the Acura Stage on Sunday, he confessed to a hint of trepidation.
"It's our first gig," he said. "Let's hope it goes well."
Moments later, he encountered a "technical problem" with his pants. Grinning, the embarrassed Boss turned his back to the vast audience and made the necessary adjustments. "It's not just a new band," he later explained, "but a new belt."
That was his first, and final, glitch. For two hours, Springsteen and his glorious Seeger Sessions ensemble -- six horns, a banjo, accordion, pedal steel, fiddles, piano -- rendered vintage folk and protest songs stirringly alive and relevant in a tour de force performance. Like few others in popular music could, he crafted a show that spoke eloquently to the city's struggles, both welcome distraction and poignant reminder.
The opening "O Mary Don't You Weep" set the tone. Springsteen led, then the full ensemble swung in behind him. A muted trumpet, a trombone and a saloon piano all took solos. Springsteen, as usual, heaved himself into the material at hand. The gravel in his voice stamped a ragged glory on "John Henry" over banjos and accordion. "Old Dan Tucker" and "Open All Night" were each a hoot. Big horn swells lit up a gritty "Jesse James."
The best folk songs transcend time. In the old Irish anti-war ballad "Mrs. McGrath," a cannonball claims her son's "two fine legs"; it could just as easily have been an improvised explosive device.
Certain lyrics resonated more directly for locals: "There'll be better times by and by." "God gave Noah a rainbow sign, no more water, but fire next time." "The bank holds my mortgage and they want to take my house away." "The only thing we did right was the day we started to fight." And it was easy to imagine "Louisiana" swapped into the lyrics to "My Oklahoma Home," which was "blown away" in a natural disaster.
In his most overtly political statement, Springsteen recalled his visit the previous afternoon to the 9th Ward. "I saw some sights I never thought I'd see in an American city," he said. "The criminal ineptitude makes you furious." In response, he adapted Blind Alfred Reed's "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live" with new lyrics dedicated to "President Bystander": "My old school pals had some high times there/What happened to you folks is too bad," he sang, mocking President Bush's comments in the early days after Hurricane Katrina.
The set's watershed moment, literally, was "My City of Ruins." Originally written for his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., on Sunday he dedicated it to New Orleans. To a hushed audience, Springsteen closed his eyes and began: "There's a blood red circle on the cold dark ground, and the rain is falling down/The church door's blown open, I can hear the organ's sound, but the congregation's gone . . . the boarded-up windows, the hustlers and the thieves, while my brother's down on his knees . . . now tell me how do I began again? My city of ruins. . ." And then the refrain: "Come on, rise up! Rise up!" Thousands lifted their hands to the sky. I wept, my wife wept. And we were not alone.
Just as quickly, Springsteen kicked back into good-time gear with "Buffalo Gals" and a zydeco rubboard and accordion reimagining of "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)," from his 1980 album, "The River." A tuba, improbably enough, was the final instrument onstage before the encore at a Springsteen show.
Then he presented one last gift. A hundred bands in New Orleans, Springsteen said, could play this last song better than he. But he had come across two lesser-known verses that he thought might be appropriate. With that, he unspooled "When the Saints Go Marching In," not as a boisterous, high-kicking second-line, but as an acoustic prayer, delivered in a desperate hour. Face clenched, he sought the promised land: "Now some say this world of trouble is the only world we'll ever see/But I'm waiting for that moment when the new world is revealed."
No other artist could have spoken to, and for, the city of New Orleans at this most important of Jazzfests more purposefully, more passionately and more effectively than Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band
Monday, May 1, 2006
We got into New Orleans Saturday evening.My first impression was horror.
No matter how many times you see the devastation on CNN you can not be prepared for the sight of all those houses with the big crosses on them spray painted with the date & the number of bodies found there....whole neighborhoods where people laughed and loved and played,now nothing but rubble. It looked like Beruit.
We traveled on to La Place, a small town 30 miles west, where my BIL and SIL live. MItch and Cheryl are the kind of people who make you feel like you are doing them the biggest favor in the world by coming to see them. They took us to a little restaraunt up on pilings over Lake Pontchartrain where the crabs are crawling around 5 minutes before they go into the pot. It was the kind of meal that makes you moan while you are eating it.
The next day, we were up and off to the Jazz Fest.
There is a history here.
29 years ago, Tom and I went to the JazzFest as friends and came back as lovers. I think I fell in love with him because I wanted a balloon & he bought me every one the guy had. We walked through the French Quarter tying balloons on porch rails, giving them to children & letting them float up into the sky.
The hotel we checked into was a little less than savory.They asked us how long we wanted to stay & winked at us when we said ,"all night". It didnt' have a tv, just a speaker and a book of juke box selections, but no matter what we tried to play all it would play was Barry White singing "Honey, Let's Make a Baby Tonight." The people nest door were banging on the wall and we kept trying to tell them, "It's not us!"
A train came by about every hour and the bed would dance all across the floor. No magic fingers needed here!
We used to return every year, but after Caitlin was born and was so wild no one could keep her, we quit that.
It was high time we came back to where our souls have been calling us.
We parked in City Park and walked about 3 miles to the Fairgrounds.The streets were clogged with partiers. People sat in front of their houses selling Bloody Marys and offering tours of FEMA trailers.We stopped a guy to ask directions and he said, "Hey, I'll just walk with you". Everywhere there was life and laughter. Houses with blue tarps for roofs and boarded up windows had new flower gardens planted amidst downed trees.Piles of debris were festooned with lights and mobiles hung from broken porch railings. There was such a sweet spirit in the air that you could touch it.People were playing guitars in their front yards for spare change & loving it.
It was like a family reunion.
After having my favorite traditional New Orleans breakfast of two Bloody Marys, cafe au lait and Crawfish Monica,we danced second line (which means you follow the performers) behind the Mardi Gras Indians (men in 10 feet feather headresses), watched Allan Touissant and Elvis Costello give and amazing performance, then settled in to wait for Bruce.
At first, it was claustrophobic standing shoulder to shoulder in the mud with so many people,but soon we met a guy who had seen the Dead in '77 in Tuscaloosa (we were there, too) and then talked to a woman who had seen Bruce in 74,so we were amongst friends.
Then Bruce came out & one of those miracles happens when a performer and his audience become one.He played old folk and protest songs and make them new again.
When he did"My City in Ruins" people were crying and hugging.
When he did "When the Saints Go Marching In"like a lullabye, we were all in the palm of his hand.
I think I will be telling this story all my life.
He didnt stop playing until about 8, when everything else was shut down.
It took us almost 3 hours to get to our car, because we had to talk to everyone.
There were no strangers anymore.
A crescent moon rose in the mist as we walked past the ancient cemetery where angels watched us over the mossy stone walls.
We kissed on an arched stone bridge over the pond.
The magic is still there.
In the city.
And in us.
I was there!
I saw a performance I will be talking about 20 years from now!http://us.video.aol.com/video.index.adp?mode=2&pmmsid=1639850