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Sunday, 22 September 2013

Rewind: Metlife Stadium 22nd September 2012 Bruce's Birthday Show

Notes from Backstreets: Of all the Bruce Facts I have at my fingertips, Latest-Ending Stadium Show isn't one of them. But I have to think that 1:55 AM has a decent shot at the title. So without trying to rate or rank the three 2012 MetLife Stadium shows, how will Night 3 be known? Certainly by at least one of the following:
With the National Weather Service announcing severe thunderstorms moving in, just the field was cleared in the hour before the show's expected start time. Then, at 8:30pm, the entire "seating bowl" was evacuated, and everyone found a place inside the building. The rain came shortly thereafter, quite heavy at times, and a bolt or two of lightning — the real issue — was spotted.

So an air of boredom, anticipation, and worry set in over the hallways and access ramps. Would the show happen at all? What's the curfew situation? Would the show have to be shortened? Will public transportation and shuttle buses still be running? Will the babysitter stay late? If the show is cancelled, do we need to rearrange our plans for tomorrow? Beer sales seemed to be going through the roof; would the crowd still be standing if the show was given the green light?
If Bruce ever tours for Amnesty International again, please have them look into MetLife stadium's need to have the "Please clear the field" announcement playing incredibly loudly on an endless loop for the entire hour-and-a-half of the evacuation. It bordered on the surreal, and I'd have given up many state secrets to get them to turn that off.
At 10pm, the all-clear was announced, and the crowd reentered the seating bowl. This all happened relatively orderly, though my heart goes out to GA folks who had waited a long time to get a spot down front. That territory was not easily reclaimed. The walk-on music ("In the Midnight Hour"... ha!) kicked in at 10:30pm and the band briskly got to their places. Deciphering their sprint was the first in a series of efforts to try and read the tea leaves: was this going to be a regular show or an Express version? It turned out, of course, that the band played a full show, but no one knew what was coming. Bruce didn't address it one way or the other, and the intensity of the first run of the show put those worries to the side. The eight-song run up to and including "We Take Care of Our Own" was smoking hot, and the first five seemed to be audibles. Tour premiere "Cynthia" was announced as one of Little Steven's favorites. "A little E Street Underground Garage," said Bruce, and if previous live versions had failed to thrill some, this worked nicely. "Cover Me" was part of a wet-weather three-fer (with "Who'll Stop the Rain" and "Downbound Train"), and the time the song has spent on the bench has served it well — Bruce sang the heck out of this one with some extended blistering guitar work. We were off and running. But where to?

When Bruce took the stage for the first time, he came to the lip to check out the rain. Though it was drizzling, he gestured "Eh, no problem." Then he came to his mic to say, "I think I just invited 55,000 people to my birthday party!" And with the late start, it was official that we'd all be together when Bruce turned 63 at midnight. He referenced his birthday several times over the night, but only in Jersey would the audience start spontaneously singing "Happy Birthday" when midnight arrived right as "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" was ending. "Let me hear it!" said Bruce, "Is it midnight?" As the crowd finished, Bruce shouted out the keys to "In the Midnight Hour" and we were off and running with another great tour premier to follow "Janey." (While we're here, "Janey" was a welcome change-up in the show, a bit of mellow beauty with a nice Ed Manion solo and some sweet harmonies from Nils.)

At the end of the night, after "Tenth Avenue," Bruce's family wheeled a Telecaster-decorated cake onstage. His mom, Adele, and sis, Ginny, were there, along with his mother-in-law and brother-in-law, too. A fun, beautiful moment to share, and Bruce seemed surprised enough that he was clearly trying to figure out how to all at once introduce and corral his family, blow out some candles ("Don’t light them all, I just winded myself!"), and try to keep the crowd engaged. He handed out a couple pieces of cake to the crowd, including, as Steve said, the "band's first fan," Obie. With everyone onstage, now what? "Twist and Shout," with Adele and others taking the harmony parts. But the band was only allowed to start playing after Bruce stuffed some tissue in his mother's ears: "It's loud over there," said Bruce, "Can a boy deafen his mother on his birthday?"

Overall a nice balance in the song selection tonight, including a guest re-appearance by Gary U.S. Bonds. At first they appeared set to do only "Jole Blon," as Bonds headed back down the ramp at the song's close. Uh-oh... another sign of a shortened show? But Bruce called him back up for a repeat of Night 2's Bonds two-fer. At this rate, maybe he'd come back out at 2:45am for "Quarter to Three"?  (Sadly, no.)

"Pay Me My Money Down" perhaps wasn't quite what the crowded wanted at the time, but the horns showpiece made up for it. And tour premiere "Into the Fire,” dedicated to fallen firefighter Rich Nappi, resonated.
But would he do "Jungleland"? Night 3 in Jersey, he had to, right? And as Curt Ramm came forward to begin the tour premiere of "Meeting Across the River," the crowd realized what was about to happen.
Jake performed The Solo a few times over the summer, but now Jersey got to see it. It was a thing of beauty. All at once you're enjoying the song and the sound... and you're thinking about Clarence, and you're rooting for Jake, and you're maybe a little nervous for him... and you're watching him nail it in front of 55,000 people. Bruce hugged him at the end, and that didn't feel staged. Then the powerful vocal closing with the verse sung (not spoken) and the howling wails. That capped the main set and made a memory.

And so a show with intermittent rain that started two hours later than expected ended after almost three-and-a-half hours. As I scan the upper deck at 1:50 in the morning, it remains packed with people dancing the night away. Bruce is busy running up and down the steps, cutting and serving cake to the crowd and wiping frosting off his guitar strings. Nicely done, band. Nicely done, Jersey. Happy birthday, Bruce. - Jon Phillips reporting - photographs by A.M. Saddler (1,4-7,9) and Guy Aceto (2,3,8)

 To complete the set I've added a few videos from other shows close to the date of this one on the 22nd September due to links for that particular song not being available from the night in question. Hope that doesn't spoil your enjoyment. Click on the links to enjoy the music.

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