As of writing this, I’m exhausted, my legs hurt, and I’m convinced I’ve lost a substantial portion of my hearing.
I saw my first Springsteen show. All three hours and 20 minutes of it.
Saying Bruce is dynamic live is blatantly obvious. Let’s be honest, the man is a freaking evangelical machine, whose pistons keep churning away whether you can keep up or not. As The Boss growls, whoops, hollers, and pumps away, all you can do is move continuously to his beat and swagger – which I did- for 34 songs.
The core of this show was The River, Bruce’s 1980 double album behemoth that indirectly pays tribute to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound era by way of influence and style. It’s also the important twain between his tough street kid ideals on Darkness on the Edge of Town and the harrowing voice of the downtrodden on Nebraska. Starting with the organ-fueled outtake “Meet Me in the City,” Bruce and the tremendous E Street Band set about bringing his self-described “coming of age” album into the present.
Many of The River’s songs aren’t live staples but they should be. “Sherry Darling,” “Two Hearts,” “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” “I’m a Rocker,” “Drive All Night” – all terrific, all energy, all heart, as Bruce’s baritone kept the guys hopping and the girls swaying.
But the other nuances certainly helped. There was the mighty vocal interplay between Bruce and his lead sideman Little Steven; Bruce crowdsurfing with adoring fans; his leading 20,000 in a singalong of “Hungry Heart;” Roy Bittan and Charlies Giordano’s beautiful piano duet before the bleak “Point Blank;” Jake Clemons possessing the spirit of his uncle, The Big Man, in every note he played. And on and on and on over the album’s 20 varied and emotional tracks.
Mind you, that just comprised Part One. Part Two began with the awesome River outcast “Roulette,” which provided Max Weinberg with his best drum workout of the night. From then on, it was classics all the way. We got “Prove it All Night,” “Candy’s Room,” “The Rising,” “Thunder Road.” We also got “Because the Night,” featuring an impassioned finger-tapping guitar solo from Nils Lofgren. The clock read 10:40 pm; was this the end?
We still had the five-song encore, and another 45 minutes to go. All Bruce had to do was say “Have you had enough?” (which he did), and the crowd found their third and fourth winds, especially as the house lights went up for its duration. “Badlands” and “Born to Run” were the expected gems as they transitioned into a sublime “Dancing in the Dark” and the marathon “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” While he could have ended the show on a softer note, Bruce chose instead to tackle the Isley Brothers classic “Shout” for what seemed like 10 minutes. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough J. Geils frontman Peter Wolf seemingly appeared out of nowhere to sing along and keep the party going.
That’s why, because of this experience, I ache for all the right reasons.
And that’s why I’m going back for more the next time Bruce hits the Hub!
– Ira Kantor