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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, America Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas, April 5th, 2016 – Reviewed

bruce

 

As a fifty year old, liberal white male, life-long music obsessive, I had avoided seeing Bruce Springsteen prior to last night.  Part of me has never felt that the price point of the arena rock ticket justified the experience and as a terminal contrarian, Rolling Stone’s decades long public relations campaign for Bruce has always rubbed me the wrong way.  Still, so many friends have raved about Springsteen’s live show for so many years that I thought I owed it to myself to check it out.  Hitting the stage slightly after 8:00 due to a late arriving Dallas crowd, I felt I might be in for a night of enjoyable nostalgia when the band opened with “Meet Me in the City.”  After the intro tune, Springsteen discussed “The River” album, calling it his “coming of age” record.  When the lights went down and the E Street Band ripped into “The Ties That Bind,” a song I’ve never considered more than an irritating trifle, a warm surge went through my entire body.  I literally wept.  Having heard so many studio performances, live records, and bootlegs from the band, I was now witnessing the E Street Band’s phenomenal live presence.  I viscerally knew that I was seeing one of the most accomplished and powerful rock ‘n’ roll bands to ever grace a concert stage.

I can’t say that at felt that sense of rapturous glory throughout the two hour set of “The River” album, which is a lower tier Springsteen release for me.  “Sherry Darling” and “Ramrod” have much more life in the live setting, but “Point Blank” and “Independence Day” still failed to reach their dramatic targets.  Bruce remains a combination of preacher, sage, and ham – bursting with charisma.  During “Hungry Heart,” he went into the floor section of the audience.  Near the end of the song, he took the Nestea Plunge onto his admirers and slowly crowd surfed back to the stage.  It was quite the visual.  I imagine Springsteen takes his own camera crew on the road, which took an overhead shot of the crowd surfing action, reminiscent of the R.E.M. video for “Drive.”

There were often quick cut camera changes to catch Roy Bittan or Jake Clemons at climactic moments.  The interplay between Springsteen and garage rock maestro Little Steven Van Zandt is a wonderful illustration of fraternal love.  Surprisingly, for me, the performance of “Drive All Night” was one of the highlights of “The River” set, with the moody, after dark lighting giving the song a resonating aura.

The real rock ‘n’ roll party started after “The River,” with the band burning through some of their greatest hits.  “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” sounded as robust as you would expect them to be.  “Because the Night” was a nice surprise and Nils Lofgren took an extended whirling dervish solo on the tune.  “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” remain two of the best songs in rock history, still performed with the life or death passion that created the Springsteen legend.  After the house lights went out, it seemed like the party might go on all night.  After the crowd favorite “Dancing in the Dark” and early standard “Rosalita,”  “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” “Shout,” and “Bobby Jean” were a bit anti-climactic, but Bruce had already done his job by then.  Springsteen is a pied piper, bring a sense of joy and hope in a progressively darker and more cynical world.  I am a convert.  Amen to the nth degree.

Grade – A

Setlist:

 

Meet Me in the City
“The River” album
Badlands
Promised Land
Backstreets
Because the Night
The Rising
Thunder Road
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
Shout
Bobby Jean

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