LONG ISLAND, NY-It was a sanctimonious night at the Coliseum where Springsteen and the E-Streeters took on the crowd and dosed it with the gospel of rock. Dipping into a canon of hits from the past four decades of music, Bruce and friends tweaked and pulled at the crowd’s puppet strings like masters at the alter.
Hot off his appearance at Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday bash at the Garden where Springsteen and Tom Morello played a funked-up and fortified “Ghost Of Thom Joad,” the Boss played it like one of his last gigs on Mother Earth with the steam powered, locomotive fury of a modern day Clark Kent, able to leap tall amps in a single bound.
An army of ragtags destined for greatness from the sterile, concreted arenas of the Americas to the cheesy confines of your local Knights of Columbus banquet hall, the E-Streeters took on all, including an impromptu mini set of requests mid-show from catalogue to covers, held high by fans on placards during “Raise Your Hand.”
Their first request was the cover “Expressway To Your Heart” by the Soul Survivors that Springsteen introduced as “hailing from Long Island.” You could practically smell the bubblegum pop oozing from the stage as Bruce and Steve Van Zandt laced into the chorus on a shared mic like Lennon and McCartney did in those grainy Beatles clips. They pulled off the one-hit-wonder-like troubadours on the wedding band circuit.
For the second round of requests the band played “For You,” “Rendezvous,” and “Night” in rapid fire succession. “Night” was a ferocious workout to grimy, wasted nights on the boardwalk fueled by a stormy, syncopated onslaught of guitars, drums and sax.To a time when you didn’t get slammed with a ticket for drinking a cold, tall one on a hot summer’s eve.
The rest of the show was a roller coaster ride from the familiar (opener “Badlands”) to the obscure foot stomping Appalachian bop of the Seeger Sessions that took on the roots of folk. In-between you got the mighty bombast of “Radio Nowhere” from 2007’s Magic, “Lonesome Day” and the “Rising” that went down like group therapy.
One of the most poignant moments of the night was when the band played “The Wrestler” from the new one Working On A Dream. Starting off slowly and setting the pace for the melancholy sentiment of the Mickey Rourke character (who should have won the Oscar along with the lovely Ms. Tomei), Springsteen paced the stage solemnly, mic in hand, as the band’s somber keyboards and acoustic guitars gave way to the bittersweet tale of a worn-out man who has seen better days.
“Born To Run” was the set closer that was played with the houselights on, illuminating the happy crowd as well as the Islanders Stanley Cup banners that swayed from the rafters in time to Mighty Max’s steady and thunderous beats. On “Jungleland” they gelled into a unified force as the slow and moody strains morphed into Van Zandt’s piercing distortio, then the melodic might of Clarence Clemon’s sax solo and ending with the Boss’ operatic howl to the night.
The merry-go-round Wurlitzer strains of “Dancin’ In The Dark” and then “Rosalita” ended it all as the crowd sang along to all the words and the band lined up on stage saluting all to an incredible night of homegrown rock.