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Springsteen still 'born to run' and rock

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Christopher Horner/Tribune-Review Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform at PNC Park on Wednesday August 6, 2003.
'Wrecking Ball' is Bruce Springsteen's 17th studio album
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Joe Grushecky and Bruce Springsteen perform on stage together on Thursday night at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland. (Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review)
Merle Haggard
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Buddy Guy performs on stage during day one of the 5th annual West Coast Blues n Roots Festival in Esplanade Park on March 15, 2008 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
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Singer Allen Toussaint

He's 63 years old, but Bruce Springsteen still somehow puts on three-hours-plus shows that are legendary for their energy and intensity. Of course, plenty of real working stiffs out there — the kind of people who populate Springsteen's songs — put in overtime at real, get-your-hands-dirty jobs well into their 60s. But, for a millionaire musician who doesn't have to do anything but collect gigantic royalty checks, Springsteen's work ethic is impressive.

Earlier this year, Springsteen released his 17th studio album “Wrecking Ball” nearly 40 years after his debut album “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.” The “Wrecking Ball” tour comes to Consol Energy Center on Saturday.

This summer, Springsteen and the E Street Band set what may be a personal record for show length — in Helsinki, Finland, of all places. The show was four hours and six minutes long, featuring 33 songs.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, the second night of Springsteen's 2010 shows with Joe Grushecky at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh was three-and-a-half hours long, and included 32 songs.

In September, the Boss celebrated his 63rd birthday on stage, where he was joined by his 87-year-old mother, on the last concert of a three-night run at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherfurd, N.J. The show didn't start until 10:30 p.m. because of storms and ended 33 songs later at 2 a.m.

Springsteen in Pittsburgh

Bruce hasn't performed at every venue in Pittsburgh during the years, but that's not for lack of trying. This will be his first visit to Consol Energy Center.

Here are a few that stick out in our memories (yes, our memories are a bit foggy for a decade or so in the '80s-'90s):

• Syria Mosque, Oakland, 1975. Tickets were $7.50 and $9. A few days later, Springsteen played a five-night stand at the Bottom Line Club in New York City, which was broadcast on the radio. It was later declared one of the “50 Moments that Changed Rock,” according to Rolling Stone.

• Stanley Theatre, Downtown, 1978

• Civic Arena, Uptown, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992

• The Decade, Oakland, 1984. In town for shows at the Civic Arena, Springsteen jumped onstage with old friend Joe Grushecky during a set by Bon Ton Roulet. They played a three-song set.

• Three Rivers Stadium, North Side, 1985. Played before a crowd of 65,000 people, according to promoters DiCesare-Engler, a record that stood for 25 years.

• Nick's Fat City, South Side, 1995. Springsteen joined Grushecky and the Houserockers onstage. He had produced their album “American Babylon” that year.

• Nick's Fat City, South Side, 1999. Release party for Grushecky and the Houserockers' “Coming Home” album, which featured four songs co-written with Springsteen.

• Mellon Arena, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2009

• PNC Park, North Side, 2003

Heinz Hall, Downtown, 2004. Headlined a Flood Aid benefit with Grushecky and others, to benefit victims of the Pittsburgh-area flooding that followed Hurricane Ivan.

Petersen Events Center, Oakland, 2005

• Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, Oakland, with Grushecky, two nights in 2010 and 2011.

Still rockin'

Once upon a time, rock 'n' roll was music made by and for teenagers. The music's ability to annoy/infuriate/baffle one's parents was a feature, not a bug. Well, now those early rockers are (mostly) grandparents, and its their turn to be annoyed by their kids/grandkids' music.

There are some people, like Bruce Springsteen, who just can't stop rocking. Advanced age can't stop them. A lifetime of hard living can't stop them. They can even rock without making rock 'n' roll, strictly speaking.

For some, it's a judgment call. Rod Stewart, for example, still has a career, but he's more likely to be singing American Songbook standards or Christmas carols than anything remotely rocking. B.B. King, on the other hand, is clearly a bluesman, but the blues' relationship to rock 'n' roll is pretty obvious by now. He's 87 (at least).

As you can see, Springsteen still has a ways to go before he's the Grand Old Man of Rock ...

• Pete Seeger, 93. Protest folk pioneer. Not rock, but beloved by rockers. Springsteen did a tribute album to him, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” in 2006. Released two new albums in September.

• B.B. King, 87. Has to sit in a chair to perform — but hardly anyone tours harder. In fact, he'll be here Nov. 21 at the Benedum Center.

• Chuck Berry, 85. First inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Still plays live.

• Ralph Stanley, 85. Godfather of bluegrass. Not rock, but beloved by rockers. Still tours, still records, performed in Pittsburgh several years ago.

• Loretta Lynn, 80. Country legend; in 2004, recorded an excellent album with rocker Jack White.

• Willie Nelson, 79. Still performing, still recording, still getting in trouble for possession.

• Kris Kristofferson, 76. Performed here last year at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. He was great, but was whisper-quiet at times.

• Buddy Guy, 76. Slick blues-guitar virtuoso. Still tours constantly.

• Dick Dale, 75. Surf guitar king; career was reborn in the '90s surf-rock revival, when his song “Misirlou” was used in the movie “Pulp Fiction.” Still tours constantly.

• Merle Haggard, 75. Outlaw country legend. Did hard time for robbery. Not a rocker per se, but beloved by rockers in the manner of Johnny Cash or Hank Williams Sr.

• Wanda Jackson, 74. The Queen of Rockabilly. Dated Elvis briefly. Performed here last week at the Altar Bar.

• Allen Toussaint, 74. New Orleans funk-soul legend. Still an amazing performer and producer, with a great sense of humor.

• Paul McCartney, 70. Beatle, Wing, billionaire, most successful songwriter of all time. Still gets around.

• Mick Jagger, 69. Rolling Stones frontman still thinks he's a teenager.

• Keith Richards, 68. Rolling Stones guitarist and pirate prototype.

‘Wrecking Ball' tour song count

Whether you're there for the hits, or the deep album cuts from “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” or simply “the new stuff,” part of the fun at a concert is wondering what you'll get to hear. We wouldn't want to take that away ... but you can probably get a good idea of what you'll hear at Saturday's show from what's been played so far on this particular tour. The data for this comes from backstreets.com, one of the top Springsteen fan sites. As the tour continues, the percentages may, of course, change.

Songs played at 100 percent of “Wrecking Ball” tour stops (Europe and North America): “Born To Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “My City of Ruins,” “Waitin' On a Sunny Day,” “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball.”

• “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” played at 98.28 percent of tour stops.

• “The Rising,” 93.10 percent

• “Badlands,” 87.93 percent

• “Jack of All Trades,” 84.48 percent

• “We Are Alive,” 82.76 percent

• “Shackled and Drawn,” 72.41 percent

• “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” 63.79 percent

• “The Promised Land,” 58.62 percent

• “Thunder Road,” 55.17 percent.

Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mmachosky@tribweb.com or 412-320-7901.

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