EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—What is there left to say about Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band? After more than 35 years, and hundreds of shows, it seems that everything that can be written has been written. The man and his music have been dissected, analyzed, deconstructed and reconstructed.
I saw my first Springsteen show in October of 1973 at The Capitol Theater in Passaic. I’ve lost count along the way, but I must be closing in on 50 Springsteen shows at this point. A number of these shows have been high points, not just in my concert-going experience, but in my life.
To be honest, the thought of a stadium show did not fill me with anticipation. I’ve been to a few. The sound is never good, and the performers are too far removed from even the best seats in the house. But when Bruce Springsteen plays in New Jersey, The Aquarian has to be there.
It was hard to escape the fact that this was the first show I’d ever seen the E Street Band play without keyboard player Danny Federici, who died a few months back. His shoes have been ably filled by Charles Giordano, who toured with Springsteen in the Seeger Sessions Band. Federici couldn’t be missed though, because his spirit seemed to be everywhere on the stage.
As usual with a Springsteen show, there had been a lot of speculation about what songs might be included in the set. He’s opened many of the shows on this tour with “Radio Nowhere,” from the Magic album, but on this night it was clear that something special was in the air when the opener was “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” a history lesson on the formation of the E Street Band.
Over the course of the next three hours plus, and 30 songs, the 58 year-old Springsteen astonished the sell-out crowd with unexpected choices and unholy energy. If there were lulls, they were few. There were stunning versions of “Murder Incorporated,” “Youngstown,” “Atlantic City,” “Tunnel of Love,” “Jungleland,” and “Last To Die,” along with set staples like “Badlands,” “Lonesome Day,” and of course the state anthem, “Born To Run.” The choice of “Rosalita” to close the night sent the crowd home happy.
Beyond all expectation, the sound was actually pretty good. Special mention should be made of the video screens which let everyone in the stadium get a good look at the show. I don’t know who directed the video shoot, but it was wonderful, creating cinematic art on-the-fly.
The years have created a familiarity among the musicians in the E Street Band that results in an interplay that is almost telepathic, and yet the hunger to make each show special is obviously still intact. It is clear that these musicians were born to do this, but the joy written across their faces on a summer evening indicates that it’s never grown old for them.
The Set List:
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” “Radio Nowhere” “Lonesome Day” “No Surrender” “Adam Raised a Cain” “Spirit In the Night” “Summertime Blues” “Brilliant Disguise” “Atlantic City” “Growin’ Up” “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” “I’ll Work For Your Love” “Youngstown” “Murder Incorporated” “The Promised Land” “Livin’ In the Future” “Mary’s Place” “Working On the Highway” “Tunnel Of Love” “The Rising” “Last To Die” “Long Walk Home” “Badlands”
“Girls In Their Summer Clothes” “Jungleland” “Born To Run” “Bobby Jean” “Dancing In the Dark” “American Land” “Rosalita”