The Legendary E Street Band
“Darlington County”, “Because the Night”, and “The Rising”
Bruce is an inimitable songwriter, and his gritty voice has held up admirably over years of hard touring. But he’s not doing that much interesting stuff with his guitar at this point. Which is no bother, because behind him is the freakin’ E Street Band.
When the five front personnel (Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Soozie Tyrell, Patti Scialfa, and Jake Clemons) stepped to the front of the stage during the sax solo on “Darlington County”, it was like when the Ghostbusters enter the museum in Ghostbusters 2, only without the gut sucking. “Because the Night” was like the Band’s own showcase, with everyone circling in front of Clemons during his solo. It was Lofgren, however, who stole the evening with his dizzying guitar solo on the (sorta) cover and his lap-style slide work on “The Rising”. Everyone always thinks of Van Zandt, but Lofgren came off as the most engaging and dexterous guitarist on the stage last night.
The Big Man
“Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”
Speaking of the E Street Band, the evening’s most touching moment came during “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”. When Springsteen sang the line “And the Big Man joined the band,” a silhouette of Clarence Clemons and Bruce appeared on the screens. Videos and pictures of The Big Man — as well as of the band’s late organist Danny Federici — rolled throughout the remainder of the song in tribute to the E Street’s late, lovable saxophonist. His nephew, Jake, is an amazing player, and he nailed that “Jungleland” bit. But Clarence will always be missed. It was nice to remember that for a moment, especially in such an upbeat way.
Let There Be Light
The whole encore
The encore was another example of how perfect a setlist was crafted last night. More than that, though, it was a real glimpse into the size of a Springsteen show. All the stadium lights came up for “Born to Run” to show the whole place belting along — and they stayed on straight through the end. Seeing the entire packed house dancing during “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”, shaking their hands during “Shout”, and cheering for “Jersey Girl” was stunning. Truly. I’ve seen big shows before, but none of them felt nearly as massive as watching the Boss and the E Street Band bust through a string of hits in front of a brightly lit, joyous crowd.
The Courtney Cox Trio
“Dancing in the Dark”
The signs were back up during the encore’s “Dancing in the Dark”, this time requesting dancing partners instead of songs. “From Bangkok to NJ to dance with Soozie. Can I?” read one. “I wanna dance with Charlie!” proclaimed another. “Who wants to dance with the old bald fan?” asked the final one. Springsteen himself decided to boogie with the baldy, standing center stage and doing the memorable Courtney Cox swing from the song’s classic video. It got even better when he let the guy strap on a guitar and strum along to the finale. All three dancers joined Springsteen at the mic to call and response, “Hey baby!” at the end. Bruce loves bringing people up with him, and while it’s surely mind-blowing for those who are chosen, it’s plenty fun to watch, too.
“Shout” and the other 34 songs played
There are plenty of touring musicians known for their marathon performances. But no one — NO ONE — does it like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. At 66 years old, Springsteen can put on a three-and-a-half hour set with barely a pause and a comparatively minuscule encore break and still seem like he could play for another three-and-a-half. Sure, he got winded running into the crowd during “Hungry Heart”, but he hardly let on and never let up. He even played up his age during “Shout”, dousing himself with a sponge of water and having Van Zandt drape a cape over his shoulder like James Brown. As he turned and walked off stage feigning exhaustion, he revealed “The Boss” embroidered on the cape’s back. The crowd went wild, “reenergizing” the singer, encouraging him to come deliver another few refrains.
No disrespect to any other performer putting in lengthy, hit-filled sets, but Springsteen is and always will be The Boss. Pay respect.
East Rutherford, NY, August 23rd, 2016
New York City Serenade
Something in the Night
The Ties That Bind
Spirit in the Night
Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Harry Reser and His Orchestra cover)
Out in the Street
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Death to My Hometown
Mansion on the Hill
Jack of All Trades
American Skin (41 Shots)
The Promised Land
Working on the Highway
Because the Night (Patti Smith Group cover)
She’s the One
Land of Hope and Dreams
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
Jersey Girl (Tom Waits cover)