After Bruce Springsteen's show at HarleyFest, I ran into a sheriff's deputy that I saw on the grounds and asked him what he thought of the show. "Not enough hits," he grumped. Hmm. What the men don't know, the little girls understand. Or something like that.
Faced with 12 minutes of airtime on a make-shift stage at the Super Bowl tonight, Bruce and the E-Streeters had some decisions to make. Time for three short songs, or they could easily stretch out "Kitty's Back" or "Rosalita" for the whole set.
But, no. Ever the populist, Bruce saw his opportunity to introduce the world to the magic of an E-Street concert, squeezed expertly to fit the time they had. From the opening riffs of "10th Avenue Freezeout" to the declaration of "Boss Time!" by Little Steven at the end of "Glory Days", the joy and dynamic thrust of the band -- beefed up by what I assume was the Seeger Session horn section -- Bruce and the band put their beautiful perfect selves in America's face in those short 12 minutes. If those who weren't hip to the Bruce thing didn't get it this night, they never will.
All the songs were shortened to make time for more songs and more mugging by Bruce with the lucky Tampa residents invited onto the field. The only surprise in the set was the promotion of new product, a moving rendition of "Working on a Dream", featuring the same kind of gospel singers he did "The Rising" with at the Lincoln Memorial celebration two weeks ago. Bruce better watch out -- he looks and sounds pretty damn good with that kind of support. Clarence and Steve in choir robes? I don't think so.
Anyway, the performance and choices made couldn't have been better. I've never seen Springsteen connect on TV the way he did this night. For the record, I predicted the easy ones ("Born to Run" and "Glory Days") and whiffed on the others (a little too cute, I called "Dancing in the Dark" with a Courtney Cox cameo).
The Super Bowl half-time show has come a long way since Janet Jackson's exposed nipple in 2004 (a golden moment I shared with a room full of amused 10 year-olds). Now, they should just retire the damn thing and bring back the marching bands. Next year's performer will be like the card trick guy who followed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan. I felt sorry for him, too.