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Dust Bowl ballads in St. Paul

Bruce Springsteen brought his current tour to the Xcel Center in St. Paul last night. The Star Tribune’s Jon Bream provides a good account of the show and covers the geriatric aspect of the band in his review.

I attended the show courtesy of my friend Tom Edelstein, who had an extra ticket. I went with a bad attitude, wanting to dislike the show, but found it highly enjoyable most of the time and irresistible in several spots. Springsteen remains a tireless showman in excellent physical condition. As usual, he left the overt politics at home and let his songs do the talking for him.

What did the songs have to say? They were heavy on the Depression-era themes that Bruce has been peddling since the Reagan administration. “Johnny 99″ (1982) and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” (1995) were in some ways the heart of the show, with Nils Lofgren taking an inspirational solo on “Johnny 99,” as I recall. Springsteen threw in Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times” (1855, as Springsteen noted) for good measure, remarking that some things never change. That is certainly true in Springsteen’s case, for better and for worse. (The complete set list is accessible here.)

it was a funny kind of Depression we were living in during the Reagan era, with the the recession created by the Carter-era stagflation followed by the sustained job growth and economic prosperity that commenced with the effective date of the Kemp-Roth tax cuts in January 1983. And it’s a funny kind of Depression we’re living in now, where 20,000 residents of the Twin Cities can afford to fill up the Xcel Center on tickets that must have averaged about $100 a shot.

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