I’d like to say right out front: I love me some Bruce Springsteen!
The first time I saw him perform at his RL concert I was so uncool that when the show began I thought the audience was booing him. (They were yelling “Bruuuuuce”). By the third song of the set I was a raging Bruce fan and was screaming my lungs out along with them. The guy simply puts on the very best live show I have ever seen. As a result I went back again and again.
So, there I was minding my own business when I came across a notice for a Bruce Springsteen tribute show to be performed at a Second Life music venue. For the unaware, a tribute show in SL means that a “band” of avatars mimics the show of a RL star, while a sound track plays the actual music of that star. In this case, they “jammed” to a recording from one of Springsteen’s notorious concerts. I’m traditionally not a huge fan of inworld tribute shows; I’ve felt that some seemed a little bit “canned” or “static”.
But hey, this was Bruce! So I decided to give it a shot.
The event was held in the attractive concert area at the V Twins Biker Outfitters shop and when I got there I noticed that the avatars of the E Street Band were sort of lined up in the hallway behind the stage waiting to begin. It looked exactly like the scene backstage at a real concert. Suddenly the curtains parted and the stage lights came up and the opening measures of “I’m On Fire” filled the theater as the band took the stage.
I was very impressed, at first with the stage itself. It was huge and gave the performers plenty of room to move among one another, and to play off one another just as they do live. But neither the size nor the look distracted me from giving my attention to the performers. The arrangement of players and equipment was perfect, exactly like one would see at a live Bruce event – right down to the pedal steel placed audience right for the Nils Lofgren character. I really had to blink twice at the creativity and devotion to The Boss and his remarkable live show that seemed to have gone into this production.
The company who puts on Springsteen (and quite a few other inworld tribute events) is called High Voltage Productions and is the brainchild of SL builders and huge music fans Karma Lovenkraft and Christian Moyet; Chris also plays the role of Springsteen (nearly perfectly!) during the show. ( For information about High Voltage Productions, IM or drop a note card on either Karma Lovenkraft or Chris Moyet. ) The other “performers” were also excellent in look and moves, making it authentic – front and back line. They are: Ami Breanna (“Mighty Max” Max Weinberg), Blackpearl Dirval (Clarence “Big Man” Clemons), Elania (Gary W. Tallent), FriendlyG (Roy “The Professor” Bittan), Dragonfire17 Ghost (“Miami” Steve VanZandt), and – sporting the best stage name in SL – Kazoo Dagger (Nils Lofgren).
Another impressive component to the High Voltage show is the virtual stage lighting. Lovenkraft/Moyet presented the best lighting design for any show I have ever seen in SL. The show looks and feels huge. One clever effect involves keeping Bruce’s face in shadow for most of the time, thereby enhancing the identity that would be lost by trying to make an avatar face look like the original. What seals the deal, though, is that they have somehow managed to replicate those timeless Springsteen moves: that classic wide-legged stance, the walk along the edge of the stage, and the Telecaster guitar held high beside his head – all spot on.
Back at the venue the crowd was building and the band had powered its way into “Because The Night”, which was co-written by Springsteen and Patti Smith in 1978. It was released by Smith on her album Easter and then later by 10,000 Maniacs. This was followed with an excellent “live/recorded” performance of “Hungry Heart” during which I was very much impressed with how deeply the Second Life audience got into the spirit. Open Chat was flooded with “Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack”, mimicking the way RL audiences around the world have sung that first verse for years at Springsteen shows.
The audience went wild when “Thunder Road” kicked off with one of the best opening lines in the history of rock lyrics : “Screen door slams, Mary’s dress waves.” You might want to head to YouTube to treat yourself to a few different views of him and the E Street Band performing “Thunder Road”. It’s one of the best live songs ever. In fact, if you have never seen him live, this High Voltage Productions presentation will give you the closest thrill possible.
The company also fields tributes to a wide variety of other great artists including Metallica, Kiss, Van Halen, U2 and many others; I counted close to fifty different tributes these guys can mount. Lovenkraft, the creator of the stages they use in their productions, clearly has an eye for detail and a heart for the music. “I try to build all the stages with homage to the artist and to capture the essence and feel of him and his music,” she explained. “I listen to the music as we’re building and we also watch their video performances. It’s all about creativity.”
Before I knew it, the band was ending the show with “Born In The USA”. I looked around and couldn’t find the tee-shirt venders to get a souvenir, so on my way out I leaned over the front of the stage and took this quick photo of the set list taped down onto the stage at Bruce’s feet.