Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band - August 11, 1999

Every Saturday The Rock and Roll Guru gives a comprehensive review of a live concert.

New York City Serenade, Trapped, and Sandy. Need I say more? If you’re a fan of the Boss, then you know hearing these three songs on the same night is the rarest of rare treats. Well, for my final Bruce Springsteen concert of 1999, that’s exactly what I got to witness.

Some Bruce concerts are just destined for a level of greatness that others will never even come close to comparing with. The elements have to be just right and everything has to line up perfectly. When it happens though, the night is pure magic from the opening notes to the final one that hangs in the air like a silhouette.

Late summer in New Jersey on the second to last night of an amazing 15 night stand in the Garden State; these are all proper elements to make an amazing show. This would be one of the best (if not the best) Bruce Springsteen concerts that I ever witnessed.

The evening kicked off with the rarely played (and never played on that tour until then) Night. An amazing, hard and heavy opener from Born To Run. Anytime a song from that album is played, it’s gold. This was followed by some expected classics before the first rarity of the evening came out.

Trapped was performed and it was the first time I had ever heard it in any form. A rare B-side from a charity single that Bruce released years ago, Trapped is an amazing song that certainly deserves more recognition. Needless to say, the die-hard fans ate that song up and took it as a sign of good things to come. They should have, because the night was only getting started.

The rarely played Downbound Train was next, and since I grew up on both Born albums, this was a HUGE treat for me. I never dreamed that I would get to hear that song in concert, and then, bam! Wish granted. I sang every word to that song with a big grin on my face. Downbound Train. Wow!

After a tight performance of the highly under-appreciated Mansion on the Hill, another beautiful rarity was pulled out in the form of Independence Day. Prior to this concert, I liked this song, but after this concert, I fell in love with this song. Bruce sang it with such intensity and meaning on that hot August night in Jersey. You could feel the emotion that was put into the song when it was written and the true feelings pouring out of Bruce and into the microphone were abundantly clear. He was giving us a performance to remember, one for the ages.

As if these rare beauties weren’t enough, there was more to come. After a blistering performance of the standard songs for that tour, and an eloquent version of Ghost of Tom Joad, a silence fell over the arena. It was interrupted by a single piano note. This was followed by another and another. Then a twill by Roy led into a piano roll and the audience tried to figure out what was about to happen.

When Bruce sang the first lyrics, “Billy, he’s down by the railroad tracks,” most of the audience erupted. New York City Serenade was being played for the first time in forever. This is a rare gem that has only been performed a handful of times since 1975. A remarkable, powerful, brilliant ballad, that is incredible live, New York City Serenade was the biggest treat of the night. It was not the final one, but to me, it was the best one. At the end of the song, in which Clarence delivered a sax solo that was so touching it could move you to tears, Bruce shouted to the audience, “That’s for you!” Simply breathtaking.

The newly created Freehold, an acoustic autobiographical romp through Bruce’s life was played for the second time on that tour and was just as enjoyable as it was on opening night. The remainder of the encores was typical for that particular run of Bruce shows, but after Land of Hopes and Dreams, Bruce had one more gift to give the much appreciative audience.

As everyone began to gather their belongings, feeling that the show had to be over, Bruce had time for one more. Sandy from the band’s second album, The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle was played to the delight of the crowd. The carefree days of hanging out on the Jersey shore with no worries and no responsibilities came flooding back to many in the arena that night. The younger members of the audience (myself included) were just stunned at how many deep tracks the band could pull out and play effortlessly. It was just another reason why the E-Street Band is one of the greatest in the world. They proved it on that August night in 1999 by delivering one of their most magnificent performances ever. A standing ovation by the delighted audience was the appropriate response. It’s what we gave them.

Prove It All Night
Two Hearts
The Promised Land
Downbound Train
Mansion On The Hill
Independence Day
Murder, Inc.
Out In The Street
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Working On The Highway
She’s The One
The Ghost of Tom Joad
New York City Serenade
Light of Day
Bobby Jean
Born To Run
Encore 2
Thunder Road
If I Should Fall Behind
Land of Hopes and Dreams
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

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