Live Music: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, East Rutherford, N.J., 5/21/09

Written by Concert Reviews, Music

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I admit it. I’m jaded. After seeing more than 50 Bruce Springsteen shows over the years, with and without the E Street Band, it’s gotten to the point where I just don’t look forward to the shows as much as I used to. The thing is, while I might not look forward to the shows with the same youthful eagerness, I always seem to leave the shows feeling re-energized, my ever more flagging faith in rock and roll renewed. That’s certainly what happened when I saw Springsteen and the band on the first night of their recent two night stand at the Izod Arena.

While I’m sure the E Street Band plays great shows all over the world, and I’ve seen a few in other cities myself, there is nothing quite like seeing them at home in NJ. It’s like a bunch of dear old friends getting together for a few hours to party like we used to back in the day. We might not be that young anymore, but we show a little faith, and our faith is rewarded.

More than one of our old friends was missing at this show. Organist Danny Federici is gone, a victim of melanoma, but his presence is very real at every show. On this night, drummer Max Weinberg was also absent due to his Conan O’Brian commitments, ceding the drum throne to his son Jay for the evening. The 18-year-old Weinberg was a dominant force throughout the show, giving the older guys and ladies a bit of a kick in the ass now and then, and upping the energy quotient substantially. Springsteen’s sheer joy and pride in the young drummer was evident throughout the show. The Big Man, Clarence Clemons, was moving slow, and sitting at some points, but his sound is still as big as his giant heart.

The show was a dark ride for the most part, with Springsteen promising a party, but often delivering something more substantial. When the second song of the night is the angry “Adam Raised A Cain,” you know you’re in for some strong medicine. The three-song “recession block” that includes “Seeds,” “Johnny 99,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” provided a powerful reminder of what was going on outside of the shaking walls of the arena.

What Springsteen is selling, though, much like a certain popular President, is a little something called hope, and even in the darkest moments, that flame still burns as brightly as the sea of glowing cell phones that demanded encores from the band. Personally, I was thrilled to have old favorites like “She’s the One,” and especially the still soul-stirring “Jungleland” in the set, as well as the majestic “Kingdom of Days,” my favorite song from Springsteen’s most recent album, Working on a Dream, in the evening’s set list. Other highlights included a wonderful live arrangement of “The Wrestler” from the new album, and a sign request for “Growin’ Up.”

Yes, I’m jaded, but more than 30 years after my first Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show, I still manage to be blown away by the rock and roll dream that this band represents, and proud that we can still get together “somewhere in the swamps of Jersey” and rekindle our friendship.

Setlist:

Badlands
Adam Raised a Cain
Outlaw Pete
Radio Nowhere
She’s the One
Working on a Dream
Seeds
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Raise Your Hand
Growin’ Up (sign request)
I’m Goin’ Down (sign request)
Prove It All Night (sign request)
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run

Encores:

Hard Times
Thunder Road
Jungleland
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Rosalita

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