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ISBS Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live at Giants Stadium – October 3, 2009

By Brian | October 4, 2009 | Share on Facebook

Good evening, New Jersey!

Last night at Giants Stadium, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a three-hour extravaganza that proved conclusively that adrenaline can power a rock & roll band every bit as much as an electric guitar.

Billed as his farewell to Giants Stadium (a new Giants Stadium is nearing completion in the parking lot next door, and will open for business with next year’s football season), Bruce and the band powered through twenty-eight songs (setlist), providing the required momentum for the near-perpetual motion machine that is his loyal fan base.

The show began with a song written especially for the occasion, Wrecking Ball. While poignant and apropos of the occasion, all but the most diehard Bruce fans will, I’m guessing, admit that this song is a mess – with rambling lyrics that hardly rhyme, no melody to speak of, and a barely passable chorus. It reminded me right away of Freedom, the sub-standard song Paul McCartney wrote for the Concert for New York City back in 2001.

But after that formality, the stadium lights went down and the real show began. First, there were four songs from Bruce’s massive catalog, including what has become one of his audience participation pieces, Hungry Heart. Then, the centerpiece for the evening – for each of these Giants Stadium shows, Bruce has been picking an album to play in its entirety. Past nights have featured Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run, but this show’s feature was Born in the U.S.A.. I’m not sure how the Springsteen faithful felt about the choice, but I certainly enjoyed it, given that Born in the U.S.A. was the first Springsteen album that made me aware of his music back in the 1980′s. They played all twelve songs without so much as a word in between, pausing only briefly between songs so Bruce could swap out guitars. When it was over, Bruce and the band took a bow, taking a moment to mention Danny Federici, the only non-surviving contributor to the album, who passed away in April of 2008.

The show continued with five more catalog hits, culminating in Born to Run, which brought the few in the crowd who had dared to sit down back to their feet. After that, a “by request” song, which involved Bruce walking amongst the floor seat crowd & taking a handful of their homemade signs, many of which said Jersey Girl. Of course, there were enough choices amongst the myriad of signs in the audience, that it was really Bruce who chose the song, not the crowd, but no one seemed to notice or care about that little technicality.

The show ended with five more numbers, including Kitty’s Back, an honest-to-goodness roadhouse blues number that featured some amazing keyboard and organ work by Roy Bittan, and a fantastic trumpet solo by a guy I didn’t recognize (anybody?), something called Detroit Medley which included classic, non-Springsteen hits like Devil with a Blue Dress On and Good Golly, Miss Molly, American Land, Waiting on a Sunny Day – another audience participation piece, and finally, the classic Thunder Road.

As was the case with other Springsteen shows I’ve attended, I was impressed with the man’s stamina and showmanship. In the first set, he walked through the crowd to a small podium about a third of the way across the floor seats, and then “crowd surfed” back to the stage. At other times, he bounded across the wide stage, shaking hands with fans in the front rows, and allowing them to paw at his legs and feet while he sang. Three times during the show, he brought children onto the stage to sing or dance with him, including one little girl who was holding a sign that read “13th Birthday Dance????” and an even younger, adorable little blond girl (age 9 or 10?) who sang the chorus to Waiting on a Sunny Day as a solo in front of 70,000+ people, all while chewing on her gum and staring up at Bruce.

Despite all of this energy, it is still apparent that Bruce and his buddies are getting older (Bruce turned sixty this past September). The sweat that was pouring off of him, especially in the beginning of the night, made me wonder if he was going to make it through the show. Occasionally, he would take a breath during a song, and allow the (willing) audience to fill in the lyric for him. Max Weinberg, his fifty-eight year old drummer, was exhaling forcefully throughout the set as if to say, “Man….this hurts!” and would occasionally stop playing with one hand to get himself a drink of water. Clarence Clemons, who I was surprised to learn is now sixty-seven years old, stayed fixed to one spot on the stage. When the band finished its Born in the U.S.A. run-through, they had to awkwardly gather on the side of the stage around Clemons to take their bow. All of that said, though, the advancing age of the performers hasn’t taken a single thing away from the music itself, which sounded as energetic and fresh as it did on the original recordings, or in past shows I’ve seen.

Speaking of age, I feel the need to mention that Bruce and the band aren’t the only ones getting up there in years. Conservatively, I’d say the average age in the crowd was between 35 and 40, lowered only by the fact that several of the fans had brought their young children to the show. One kid, who couldn’t have been more than six years old, had a shirt on that read “My first Bruce concert.” The parent, though, admitted that it actually wasn’t his first (it was his second), but that he liked wearing the shirt.

As a more casual fan of Springsteen than many in attendance (read: sober), it was obvious to me that this is a symbiotic relationship. Bruce isn’t gaining many new fans these days. He and the band are an aging group of folks, playing classic Rock & Roll music to an aging group of fans. And Bruce knows it. When the show ended, he thanked the crowd for their years of support and asked them to “thank their friends” as well. They have a simple, unwritten contract – he keeps recording and performing live, and they keep buying the music and the concert tickets. Everyone has a great time, and they all go happily into retirement with their old and familiar friends.

Long live Rock & Roll…

Topics: ISBS Reviews, Words about Music | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to “ISBS Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Live at Giants Stadium – October 3, 2009”

  1. Jeff Porten says at October 4th, 2009 at 9:48 pm :
    Don’t worry, the sweating isn’t from age. I saw him at the Amnesty Concert (87?), and it was the same thing then. Rumor at the time is that the man loses 10 pounds in water weight at every concert.

  2. Brian says at October 4th, 2009 at 10:02 pm :
    Well, then, last night he lost twenty-five. I think they had water pumps on stage to keep the electric equipment safe. ;-)

  3. Maria maria says at October 5th, 2009 at 6:02 pm :
    I was at all 3 Giants Stadium shows! Each show was uniquely memorable! I’ve been seeing Bruce since 1980 – I’m 48 now. We always get GA tix and get into the PIT (Faith will be rewarded) and it’s the best place to be for a Bruce concert. The down side is we stand on our feet for hours and hours before the show. And it takes us most of the next day to recover. But we do it all over again for the next show (Cleveland in Nov.) Go to Backstreets.com for reviews and setlist of the shows.

  4. Brian says at October 6th, 2009 at 12:38 am :
    Maria maria – thanks for stopping by. The last Bruce show I saw (Madison Square Garden) were general admission tickets (my brother-in-law’s the big Springsteen fan – 71 shows in his lifetime so far; I only go when he has spare seats).

    Anyway, like you, my legs were in massive pain by the end of the show. Nothing to make you feel old and out of shape like standing with teenagers who are dancing up a storm the whole time, in front of a sixty-year old man who’s bounding around the stage for three hours, while your legs hurt just from standing still. And I’m only 40!

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed the show and thanks again for stopping by…

  5. jason says at October 7th, 2009 at 7:41 pm :
    Sounds like a great show! From what I understand, Bruce refuses to play Utah anymore following a low turn-out a few years ago… definitely our loss.

    You know, Rick Springfield had some problems early in his career because people frequently mistook him for Springsteen… they’re the same age, have similar names, and they were both getting started around the same time (although Bruce caught on much quicker and has always enjoyed greater respect). Rick even wrote a song about it called “They Call Me Bruce.”

    I mention this because your last two paragraphs very closely parallel my recent experiences at R. Springfield shows. He’s in excellent shape for a guy his age, but age is beginning to catch up with him — and his audience! — and at this point of his career, it’s less like he’s a Big Star and we’re anonymous consumers than it is like we’re all a big group of friends gathering for an annual party. I’ve had — am continuing to have — a hard time accepting my advancing age, but honestly, I think I like this paradigm better than it was in when I was a kid, and these rock heroes of ours were so high above us…

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