On the second anniversary of the death of Clarence Clemons it was hoped by many that maybe Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band might come out and play an album show like 'Born to Run' and make it a really special show, but he and they don't really need anniversaries or album shows to make a concert special. A special concert needs two things, firstly an audience who are up for whatever Bruce and the band would deliver. Tonight's crowd (as most Springsteen crowds) is a real mixed bag, of young and old. Lots of young people, many with parents in tow, and parents with kids in tow. We were sitting next to a family with youngsters who couldn't have been more than 7-8 years old and they danced their little selves ragged. When Bruce asked during the playing of 'My City of Ruins' how many people had not seen the E Street Band before the roar was amazing!
Secondly, of course you need a band that is on fire to make a show special, and tonight was one of those nights when the band and Bruce himself performed way above what anyone of us could expect and connected with the audience in ways that few other bands seem to do these days.
Links in the report are more often than not audio versions of the songs, links for videos from the show will be in the Setlist and as I find them I will add them. All links will be written in this colour.
Bruce and the Band strolled onto stage at around 7.27pm and never left until 10.52pm (so in one sense there wasn't really an encore as the band stayed on stage and only left when Bruce shuffled them all off with pats on the back before the wonderful climax to the show.
'We Take Care of Our Own' kicks it all off followed closely by 'The Ties That Bind'. Two songs in and Bruce is running the length of the stage grabbing signs. One sign says "I've Just Gotta Have Your Pick!", Bruce reads the sign out loud, sticks his hand in his pocket and hands the lad a guitar pick.
The sign gathering brings two very different songs. One that he had written for Gary U.S. Bonds in 'Jole Blon' and the other a step back in time to the first album from 1973 with 'It's Hard to be a Saint in the City' both played with tremendous passion.
'Radio Nowhere', 'No Surrender', 'Wrecking Ball', 'Death to my Hometown', a beautifully long version of 'My City of Ruins' that included a moments silence for Danny and Clarence and then a wild slice of almost gospel tinged 'Spirit in the Night' with Jake Clemons coming centre stage and providing some mighty fine sax blasts that his Uncle Clarence would of been well proud of and then a stomping verision of 'The E Street Shuffle' led into another couple of sign requests. For that we got 'I'm On Fire' from 'Born in the U.S.A.' and 'Tunnel of Love's' 'Tougher Than The Rest'.
I often wonder how different things might have been if Bruce and the band had released a full band version of 'Nebraska'. Bruce stated at the time that the songs didn't seem to work well with the band and that's one of the reasons why the album was released with it's dark solo intensity. But tonight three songs from that album showed what just might have been, 'Atlantic City', a blistering 'Murder Incorporated', and then a 'Nebraksa' double header of 'Johnny 99' and 'Open All Night' (performed in The Seeger Sessions style) really had the crowd bouncing and the band performing to their limits.
'Darlington County' and then 'Shackled and Drawn' demonstrated how easily Bruce is able to fit the old and the new together.
The home stretch was just as wonderful (some people bemoan the fact that this section of the set on this tour seems to stay the same but you've got to admit that it's a classy bunch of songs that keep the energy of the show moving along to the climax) - 'Waitin' on a Sunny Day', no matter how much some people dislike it, the song has the crowd bouncing and singing along and of course huge cheers for the little boy who Bruce picked to sing with him rattled around the stadium. That's followed by a 1-2-3 punch of 'The Rising', 'Badlands' and 'Land of Hope and Dreams' (the reinstated Reunion tour version rather than the 'Wrecking Ball' album version).
Normally after this the band would head off stage and the crowd would be screaming and shouting for an encore but as the band have no where really to go if they went off stage they stay on an dazzle with a great finale. 'Born to Run', sign request for 'Rosalita', 'Dancing in the Dark' (with ladies dancing with Bruce and a young lady dancing with Jake and eventually strapping on a guitar and joining in on the final chorus), 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out' (with another moment of rememberance for Danny and Clarence). 'We are not going anywhere yet", said Bruce before launching into 'Twist and Shout' and The Isley Brother's 'Shout'.
A perfect evening was rounded off with Bruce aiding the band off stage and him about to walk off also, thought better of it, got handed an acoustic guitar and performed solo a "Rock and Roll Lullaby" (his words) in the form of 'Thunder Road'. You could have heard a pin drop in the stadium when he began the song, it was quite moving, and apart from a couple of spots in the song where the audience joined in there was a real sense of peace and reverence as Bruce played.
Three and a half hours for a man who at the age of 63 looked like he could have gone on for longer. Some credit as well has to go to Max Weinberg, his mother passed away the day before the show, she was 95 years old, and yet Max, no doubt grief stricken, played through the pain and at various moments was a joy to watch as he pounded away beat after beat.
Personally speaking it was a great show. It was a 50th birthday gift from my beloved wife Kerstin and thus was the top gift I've ever had. To be able to share in that joy with my wife at my side was lovely as well.
My City of Ruins
E Street Shuffle