Walter Tunis: Springsteen in Louisville for his first Kentucky show in a decade

Contributing Music WriterNovember 1, 2012 

People-Springsteen-Obama

Bruce Springsteen, accompanied by the E Street Band, will perform Saturday at Louisville's KFC Yum Center. He's touring behind his latest album, Wrecking Ball.

RODNEY WHITE — ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • THE WEEK THAT WAS

    Tony Bennett at the EKU Center for the Arts in Richmond: "I guess you can tell by now that I only sing old songs," Tony Bennett said near the close of this typically charmed performance. "That's because I don't like any of the new ones."

    If one didn't know the singer's masterfully conversational way of interpreting a standard, such a remark might be viewed as the confession of a curmudgeon. But if any performance attribute outweighs his scholarly command of the Great American Songbook, it's his onstage attitude. As the 75-minute performance again underscored, Bennett's status as a class act comes from an unassuming love of the stage, his music and his audience.

    In short, the crowd had a ball soaking in the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and others. From all outward appearances, though, Bennett had an even better time. And at age 86, to retain that level of joy, freshness and integrity is a wonder indeed.

    The reasons are twofold. Bennett remains, at heart, a jazz singer. He propelled the limber They All Laughed and especially I Got Rhythm with subtle but playful swing. Later, he scatted merrily over a clapping audience accompaniment during a wonderfully frisky Sing, You Sinners.

    The jazz mood also permeated material that wasn't jazz, as shown by the lighthearted sentiments injected into one the most devastating country heartbreak songs of all time, Hank Williams' Cold, Cold Heart.

    And then there was the vocal phrasing. Throughout this performance, Bennett was less of a crooner and more of a conversationalist. Classics like The Good Life, But Beautiful and, yes, I Left My Heart in San Francisco were studies in vocal cool that allowed storylines to unfold like quiet confessionals that were as eloquent as they were emotive.

    But Bennett could roar when necessary. He did just that during the Cabaret favorite Maybe This Time, a blast of vocal drama that proved, for all his endearing performance cheer and reserve, that Bennett still can conjure a mighty storm when his music demands one.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at KFC Yum Center in Louisville. $94. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

"Get me an elevator. I'm (expletive) 60," yelled Bruce Springsteen in a fit of mock exhaustion after tearing through a sea of fans at London's Hyde Park to rejoin his long-standing E Street Band mates onstage.

But The Boss wasn't fooling. Sure, some of the huffing and puffing from the sprint into the audience was real. But winded and in need of an elevator? Not a chance. Captured on the exquisite DVD London Calling: Live in Hyde Park, Springsteen wasn't even one-third of the way through a performance that would rock on for nearly three hours.

And that was three years ago. Now in the final stages of his yearlong Wrecking Ball Tour, The Boss is back for his first Kentucky concert since a Rupp Arena date a decade ago. Nothing seems to have settled, either. Reviews have stated his current shows regularly pass the 3½ - and 3¾-hour mark.

Springsteen's performances with the |E Street Band have always been exhaustive affairs — rites of rock and roll splendor that often have been tagged as Herculean. Expect no less when he plays Louisville's KFC Yum Center on Saturday with a 17-member E Street Band that includes a full horn section, a vocal troupe and, of course, veteran mates who have been by The Boss' side for close to four decades.

There are, sadly, also integral elements that will be missing. This will mark Springsteen's first E Street show in the Bluegrass without Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons.

An integral co-architect of the E Street Band's boardwalk rock-soul sound, Federici died in April 2008 after battling melanoma. The band already has several tours under its belt with Charles Giordano in Federici's place, but none stopped in Kentucky.

Clemons, who died last year after a stroke, was perhaps the most visible presence in the E Street Band outside of Springsteen himself. Although he was used more sparingly on The Boss's recent albums, his tenor sax breaks were huge, anthemic E Street earmarks. His solo on Springsteen's 1975 classic Jungleland, reprised with grandeur on London Calling, is as epic as the song itself, although Clemons is allowed a spectacular posthumous chorus by way of two regal tenor blasts on Land of Hope and Dreams, a centerpiece tune from Springsteen's 2012 Wrecking Ball album.

The saxophonist's nephew, Jake Clemons, holds a saxophone spot in the current E Street Band as part of a five-member horn section.

While mainstay members Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa are still on board, the deaths of Clemons and Federici leave only one player in the lineup who co-founded the E Street Band with Springsteen in 1972, bassist Garry Tallent.

So what will The Boss's Louisville party boil down to? In a word, stamina. With shows that border on four hours in length, a set list that shifts radically from night to night and the sheer realization that everything will be going down on a Saturday night, patrons need to be prepared to bring all the might they have to the show. Lord knows The Boss will.

LAMA Rama ding dong

The Lexington Area Music Alliance — or LAMA, as it likes to be called — is taking over Natasha's Bistro, 112 Esplanade, all day Saturday for another series of symposiums, discussions and, of course, live music performances. And what to you call a day devoted to workshop-ing, networking and performing? What else? LAMA Rama.

The workshops, scheduled from 11:30 a. m. to 4 p.m., will cover business aspects of making music, legal issues facing artists, publishing and copyright essentials, and more. The evening, however, puts music on display with performances by The Reva Dawn Salon (8:15 p.m.) and Mercy Beat (10 p.m.).

Admission to the workshops is free. Cover charge for the evening music is $5. For more information, go to Lexmusic.org or Beetnik.com.

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