Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen And The E-Street Band - August 30, 2016

Two words sum up the experience of my 20th Bruce Springsteen concert---holy shit! It is nights like this one that remind me why I became a fan of Bruce Springsteen in the first place. With all of the speculation and second guessing about what was going to happen, no one was prepared for what actually transpired. And it wasn’t just the song selection, which was absolutely incredible.It was also the power and the energy produced that made this an unforgettable evening. The interaction with the audience. The boundless excitement that Bruce showed to the crowd and that the crowd showed right back. Every single moment seemed memorable, magical, and mesmerizing. It was pure concert bliss for over 4 hours.

Before The Night Began

Yes, I did get to witness the longest show ever performed in the United States and the second longest of Springsteen’s career. That single fact alone would rank this as one of the best concerts I ever attended, but as we’ve discussed before, length isn’t everything. The power of the performance bears a lot of weight as well. And the performance at MetLife Stadium on that warm August evening was one for the ages.

The event began with a very special opening number. Even though I knew it was coming, starting the concert with “New York City Serenade” was a rare treat for me. I had only seen this song performed live once beforeway back in 1999. I have wanted to see it again ever since. Finally, 17 years later, I would get the chance. My patience was rewarded with a stunning rendition of this beautiful lost classic from The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle. The song worked perfectly as an opener and it slowly pulled the crowd in for what would be an extended night of entertainment. Roy on the piano set “New York City Serenade” and Bruce’s short, quick, acoustic guitar notes sang out into the stadium. We were off and running. Serenade lasted almost fifteen minutes and the roar of approval at the end showed just how beloved this song, and this band, is.

After “New York City Serenade” Bruce welcomed the crowd with a grand “Good evening, New Jersey!” He then told us that they were going to try and play the songs that they didn’t get to the first two nights. I didn’t realize that would mean almost every track that people would want to hear from his first two albums. 5 songs off of Greetings From Asbury Park, N.j. kicked the night into high gear and left several jaws wide open (mine included). It was at that moment I knew this was going to be a concert like none I had ever experienced. Perhaps every third Springsteen performance that I see, I’ll get a track or two from one of the first two albums. Usually “Spirit In the Night” or “Growing Up.” Almost never would I experience more than two and never would they be 9 out of the first 10 songs played. We were well over an hour into the show before Bruce played an original that wasn’t from his first two albums.

“Summertime Blues,” played by sign request, served as the perfect segue from Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. to The Wild, The Innocent, and the E-Street Shuffle. I’ve always loved the E-Street version of “Summertime Blues” and it was even more fun on that night in the Meadowlands. After ending the song, Bruce stepped to the microphone and announced “We haven’t played this one in quite a while.” The band then ripped into “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” and all of us were sitting on the Jersey Shore with Bruce, experiencing the boardwalk life, and feeling the thrill of the rides and the smell of the surf.

A blistering “Kitty’s Back” would follow and then the moment of the night for me occurred. I was able to witness a live performance of “Incident On 57th Street” for only the second time in my Springsteen concert attending career and it was brilliant! Goosebumps broke out all over my skin as the song played on. And when we got to the end of the number, Roy’s piano continued, just like it does on the album. Roy wasn’t stopping and most of the fans in attendance knew what that meant. Springsteen paused with guitar in hand and gave us all a sly look as if to ask “should I do it?” More than a few of us screamed “Do it!’ And with that, the opening notes of “Rosalita” hit the air and every single person in MetLife Stadium was on their feet. The rare album sequence performance of “Incident on 57th Street” into “Rosalita” was absolutely awesome and one of the best gifts I ever received at a Springsteen concert.

And the night was only getting started!I got to witness Springsteen’s cover of “Pretty Flamingo” for the first time ever and it did not disappoint. A brilliant performance of “Atlantic City” came next and served as another segue, this time into the pack of Born In The USA songs that would follow. “I’m Goin’ Down,” “Darlington County,” “Working On The Highway,” and “Downbound Train” left my throat raw from screaming and singing at the top of my lungs. A gorgeous version of “I’m On Fire” followed to wrap up the Born In The USA package. I was stunned and speechless by that point, but Springsteen was nowhere near done.

The album that was the purpose of the entire tour finally had a couple of songs performed. “Hungry Heart,” and “Out In The Street” would be the only representatives from The River that night, and that was okay with everyone in the crowd. By that point, Bruce could do no wrong. A fantastic rendition of “Living Proof” was next, but sadly, most people sat through it. Showing once again that the 1992 Springsteen songs just don’t get any love, which is a shame. I was extremely happy that Bruce pulled out “Living Proof” and it only added to the unique spirit of the night for me.

Five fan favorites wrapped up the main portion of the evening. By the time the crowd was chanting the Badlands chorus, over three hours had passed since the opening notes of “New York City Serenade.” And we still had an encore to go. The encore provided another first for me at a Springsteen concert. Seeing a performance of “Secret Garden.” I forgot how grand that song is! I would later learn, thanks to the wonderful fan site Backstreets (www.backstreets.com), that it was only the 4thtime ever this song had been performed live. No wonder I forgot about it!

MetLife Stadium Going Crazy For Bruce!
 Even though I’ve seen “Jungleland” performed quite a few times, I have never witnessed a version like this. Perhaps it was the intensity that the night demanded, the song selection that led up to it, or just the setting that we were in, but this was one of the best “Jungleland” I’ve seen. Springsteen sang with an intensity that we haven’t felt on this song for a while, and Jake Clemons absolutely nailed the solo made famous by his uncle. After the solo, Jake stood on the stage, motionless and Bruce walked over and embraced him. It was a very touching moment in an emotionally charged night.

“Dancing In The Dark” found Bruce playing dance leader and pulling people from the pit onto the stage to dance. One wise gentleman held a sign that read “I’d go a bit woozy if I could dance with sister Soozie” (referring to none other than violinist Soozie Tyrell, of course). He got brought on stage. Another witty fella held a sign that read “My wife gave me permission to dance with Patty”. He got hoisted onstage, although it took a little extra effort to get him up. He was a big man and apparently it’s not as easy to climb onto the stage as people think. A girl with a sign that said “Last dance before school” got raised up. And a random girl got to dance with Bruce. All of these people were in their glory. All of these people lived a moment in their lives that they will never forget. He even let them all join on the microphone and sing the chorus with him. Who does that? And that is what makes Springsteen such a master. I am sure the security detail absolutely hates that he brings people on stage like that, but Bruce isn’t hearing it. He wants everyone in the building to have the night of their lives every time they perform.

The night ended with the same song that ended the previous two MetLife Stadium shows, “Jersey Girl.” By this point it was well after midnight, but no one had left for the parking lot. The New Jersey crowd sang along with “Jersey Girl” to finish the night and a lot of guys held their ladies, swaying and swooning to the Tom Waits classic that Bruce has made his own.

When it was all over, Bruce had performed for over 4 hours (1 minute over to be exact) and I was exhausted. I was euphoric, but I was still exhausted. After 20 Springsteen concerts, I had never witnessed one quite like that and it immediately went to the top of my list as best Springsteen concert ever. In a few months, we will see if it still remains there, but I don’t see any way that this could be knocked off the top of the perch. It may even be the best concert I’ve ever attended. The night was full of magic and memories that are going to stay with me for a lifetime.

New York City Serenade
Blinded By The Light
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City
Spirit In The Night
Summertime Blues
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Kitty’s Back
Incident On 57th Street
Rosalita (come Out Tonight)
Pretty Flamingo
Atlantic City
I’m Goin’ Down
Darlington County
Working On The Highway
Downbound Train
I’m On Fire
Hungry Heart
Out In The Street
Living Proof
Candy’s Room
She’s The One
Because The Night
The Rising
Secret Garden
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
Twist And Shout
Glory Days
Jersey Girl

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