It was an HBO special in the way that the cable channel used to have specials when hardly anyone had cable and the channel was trying to sign people up with the lure of a once-in-a-lifetime event. Every time you thought that the big act on stage must be the finale, another bigger rock legend would hit the stage. I was wondering for a moment when they started talking about Roy Orbison if I should prepare myself for a Lynchian ghost moment, but it turned out to be another Springsteen duo/duet.
I'd like to watch it again and tape parts of it, not all—chacun à sont goût as they say en francais. No offense to Aretha, but her segment gave me time to take a bathroom break, and Annie Lennox, who I love on disc, has never thrilled me live, I'm afraid. In fact, it was when Annie was doing her less-than-amazing thing that it occured to me that I have seen a lot of these folks live.
I saw Annie open for Sting, who I've seen live many times, who played with Stevie Wonder, who I saw at the Obama concert, where I also saw U2, James Taylor, John Legend, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne. Browne I also saw many years ago as a teenager at the No Nukes concert while on a class trip to D.C. Simon and Garfunkle I saw in Central Park and Lou Reed at The Bottom Line. Ray Davies I saw in the same venue, Madison Square Garden, and in much better voice and spirits fronting The Kinks. I saw Mick Jagger in an elevator once...
So not only was it fun to listen to, but I was enjoying my own six degrees of concert bacon, so to speak. I'm not sure if how the concert was edited for HBO was how it was actually performed, as it seemed a little clunky when they brought out Sting once, then again later, and then did the same thing with the Boss. Not everyone always hit the right note every time, but hell, it's rock 'n' roll. Highlights included Sting + Stevie reaching Higher Ground, Bono, Bruce and Patti Smith doing Because the Night, Bruce and Sam of Sam and Dave doing Soul Man and Bruce and Billy Joel having fun being bridge and tunnel doofuses. Hell, it was Bruce's night. I've never been a huge fan, mostly because he comes from my old stomping grounds the Jersey Shore (I was born in Neptune, N.J.) and it was assumed that you were automatically a Springsteen fan at birth. I can't remember a 7-11 wall from my childhood without "Springsteen Rules!" graffiti on it. I've never been much of a joiner, so I tried to avoid that particular fan club. But it's impossible to grow up in Jersey and not know the catalogue, or the names Clarence Clemons, Nils Lofgren, Little Steven, etc. I will admit to loving 10th Avenue Freeze-out. Who doesn't?
So all in all, a good musical time, the Boss included, although I more highly recommend my "director's cut."