I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen many times, but never before was I as sure of the set list as i was at this show. Bruce is touring to support his boxed set of The River, which includes the originally submitted (and withdrawn) single album, and a disc of 20 outtakes, half of which were previously unreleased. He has been opening his set with one of those outtakes, the rousing “Meet Me in the City”, and then playing the 20 songs of The River in order. Some of them, like “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street” have long been staples of his shows, but many others have been rarely played. For this tour Bruce cut down on the gargantuan size of the band, cutting out most of the horn section and background singers.
The leaner, meaner E Street Band put on a masterful show at the Rock. I have rarely seen the band so spot on and focused. Steve Van Zandt has reemerged as the primary harmony singer, and I have never heard him in better voice. He also continues to be Bruce’s comic foil. Jake Clemons continues to more than ably fill Uncle Clarence’s shoes, and has been accepted fully by Bruce’s fans.
To me, some of the highlights of the River set were not the rousing rockers, although there were plenty. I loved the extended vocal intro to “I Wanna Marry You”; Roy Bittan’s powerful piano lead-in to “Point Blank”; the beautiful harmony vocals on “Fade Away” and “Stolen Car”; and Jake’s soulful sax solo on “Drive All Night” accompanying one of Bruce’s most heartfelt vocals.
The set that followed the River presentation was good, but I could have down without another “Lonesome Day” and “Wrecking Ball”. Of course, “Thunder Road” is always welcome. The encore was a powerhouse sequence of “Badlands”, “Born to Run”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Rosalita” and “Shout”. As always Bruce pulled up a fan to dance with during “Dancing”. In this case it was an obviously pregnant woman wearing a shirt with an arrow pointing to Second Generation Bruce Fan. She also had a sign which read: Bucket List: Get Married, Get Pregnant, Dance with Bruce. The first two had boxes which were checked; Bruce obligingly checked off the third box.
It continues to amaze me that a 66-year-old man can perform a 3+ hour set with as much passion, skill and enthusiasm as he had the first time I saw him in 1975. Looking forward to another round in Phoenix in March.
Meet Me in the City
The Ties That Bind
Out in the Street
Crush On You
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
I Wanna Marry You
I’m a Rocker
The Price You Pay
Drive All Night
Wreck on the Highway
Working on the Highway
* * *
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
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