Bruce Springsteen live in New Jersey
- By Zack Adams -
- Sep 21, 2012
What's new to write about a Springsteen show? There is a reason he is a legendary live performer, and reviews of his shows tend to say the same thing. His consistency turns the reviewers into the ones who need to revamp and retire the same old clichés. This review doesn’t manage to do that though.
As I entered MetLife Stadium before the show, a man in hip sunglasses who seemed to be around the age of 40 was standing alone on a massive stage, flanked by countless instruments and massive video screens. He was singing and playing an acoustic guitar. I quickly realized it was him: Bruce Springsteen. And he is 62, not 40. He was in the first song of a two song acoustic pre-show set as a treat and enticement for those who waited all day to get close to the stage. He played his debut album songs ‘Growin’ Up’ and ‘For You’ – obviously the die-hard fans would know words to each of these gems.
He saved the bigger hits for the main set three hours later. Springsteen is notorious for his careful and discerning setlist planning; this one (like many on this tour) mixed the old with the new, woven together with the theme of ghosts and spirits. That theme also serves as an acknowledgement of and tribute to the late Clarence Clemons, saxophonist and primary pillar of the E Street Band. The old in the context of the show included lost band members, an appearance by one-time band member Vinnie Lopez, aging (but still rabid) fans, and music often inspired by folk and Americana; the new included new band members (the E Street Horns, the E Street Choir), new fans, and inspired recent compositions by the man who will always be rock and roll future.
Such is the indelible mark Springsteen continues to leave on the pop music landscape. About eight years ago, it became cool for cool bands to think Springsteen is cool. Now his innovations in lyric storytelling, live performance, and rock and roll mantle-carrying are felt more powerfully than ever.
During Wednesday’s performance, Springsteen maintained his role as Reverend in the church, acknowledging that a new stadium must be consecrated by the E Street Band. The spiritual heights were climbed in the first third of the set – the climax bringing tens of thousands of people to their feet, hands raised, and imploring in harmony our ghosts, our country, and our spirits to “rise up” (‘My City of Ruins’). Lucky for the owners of the stadium, it was built without a roof; otherwise they’d be raising funds to rebuild the one Springsteen blew off (it wouldn’t be the first time he’d broken a stadium). The end of 'Racing in the Street' brought a powerful few minutes of instrumental wandering. While other shows on this tour have had a more spontaneous feel, with the band taking requests from the audience via fan-made signs, the reason may have been that the crowd was light on signage this time (some venues banned signs at other stops, perhaps leading to confusion).
At three hours and 42 minutes, it was significantly longer, more exciting, and more effective than most church services. He carefully and effectively steps between crowdsurfing, high-volume singalong (‘Hungry Heart’) and quiet, earnest storytelling (‘Mansion on the Hill’). No matter what, the bitter was always tinged with sweet. The songs of sadness and anger and suffering provided a way out. The music was the vehicle for the collective spirit of the audience: you want a way out? Sing with me.
Photos: Amy Nielsen
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