SXSW Music Day 3: Bruce Springsteen - ACL Live at the Moody Theater (Take 2)

Dennis Shin
Photo Credits: Michael Buckner

Coming on the heels of his keynote address, Bruce was in a jovial mood for his SXSW performance.

When SXSW announced that Bruce Springsteen would serve as industry keynote, speculation quickly turned to the likelihood of a local appearance in Austin. Last night, the E Street band performed one of the most stirring and inspired shows in SXSW history, a concert that will reenergize the band and its fans. Emerging in a semicircle, the E-Street band kicked off the two-and-a-half-hour show with a reverent, faithful version of Woody Guthrie song "I Ain't Got No Home" on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The band proceeded to rip the doors off the theater with the rousing anthem "We Take Care of Our Own", and a setlist that represented a fundamental redirection for fans who may have grown accustomed to anthem friendly tours of the past, in favor of a bold set that featured seven songs off of Wrecking Ball, the band's hard hitting release that represents a sign of the tough times.

Coming on the heels of his keynote address, Bruce was in a jovial mood, but the band's second show with a new lineup, following the passing away of the beloved big man Clarence Clemons, was one of the most emotional shows in band history, rivaling the Rising shows in the wake of 9/11. Clarence's loss hung over the crowd, and his memory would be brought to life any time his solos were featured, as when Jake Clemons, Clarence's nephew, stepped up and aced his uncle's signature sax riff on "Badlands". Bruce chose a roll call of band members during "My City in Ruins" to alert the world to the band's determination to press forward with conviction, turning to the audience and bellowing: "Is there anyone missing?" Acknowledging the audience's pain, he repeated a refrain that should serve as the guide for heartbroken fans mourning the loss of Clarence and organist Danny Federici: "If we're here, and you're here, then they're here."

Bruce seemed energized by playing before a small house, the 2,700-seat Moody Theater with its high ceiling, great acoustics, and an audience seemingly within arm's reach from the stage. What made the evening more magical was its placement during SXSW, affording Bruce the opportunity to weave his magic before a crowd full of many first-time attendees to a Bruce show, who infused the band with energy, taking the band nearly 40 years to their club days. Bruce seemed to be reliving his youth, not only taking his signature stroll through the audience on "Waitin' on a Sunny Day", but also throwing his guitar offstage with gusto between songs, crowd surfing, and at one point, stage diving into a reclining position atop the crowd.

There was plenty of bonding between Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, and Little Steven; the all hands on stage march to the front of the stage on the raucous E Street Shuffle, and a full sound of the large ensemble augmented by a five piece horn section. Bruce shows a continued openness to draw energy and inspiration from younger, like-minded artists such as Tom Morello, from Rage Against the Machine, featured on several songs, including a face-melting guitar solo on "Ghost of Tom Joad", and a soulful duet with Michelle Moore, who even rapped out a few phrases on "Rocky Ground". Continued on a theme of his keynote, Bruce called up a range of his influences including Jimmy Cliff and Eric Burdon, and leading the entire ensemble, along with openers Alejandro Escovedo and the Low Anthem, and surprise guests Jerry Lee Lewis, Joe Ely, and Arcade Fire for the full version of "This Land is Your Land".

In an evening full of unbridled energy and numerous emotional highs, he saved the best for the penultimate number, crowd-favorite "Tenth Avenue Freezeout". Recounting simpler times, when he reached the point "when the change was made uptown and the big man joined the band" he stopped the song in its track, holding back tears as he allowed the fans to give Clarence an extended curtain call. For fans who were concerned that the band's recent losses would be an irreparable setback for the band, rest assured: they are still here.


I Ain't Got No Home

We Take Care of Our Own

Wrecking Ball


Death to My Hometown (with Tom Morello)

My City of Ruins


E Street Shuffle

Jack of All Trades (with Morello)

Shackled & Drawn

Waitin' on a Sunny Day

The Promised Land

The Ghost of Tom Joad (with Morello)

The Rising

We Are Alive

Thunder Road

Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)

Land of Hope and Dreams

The Harder They Come (with Jimmy Cliff)

Time With Tell (with Cliff)

Many Rivers to Cross (with Cliff)

We Gotta Get Out of This Place (with Eric Burdon)

Tenth Avenue Freeze-out

This Land is Your Land (with Morello, Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Low Anthem)

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.