Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
(Palace of Auburn Hills, MI - November 5th, 2007)
There are few American musical acts - or, for that matter, many true rock 'n roll bands anywhere - that have matured as well as New Jersey's Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. As the body of Springsteen's work grows, each progressive offering seems to take on its own ageless quality, drawing from rhythms, chord progressions, keyboard lines and guitar leads that often ring out with passing familiarity.
Tonight, here in front of a packed 32,000 aged demographic of avid followers; nay believers, Springsteen allowed the musicola Wurlitzer to finish its merry introductory jig before announcing his arrival onto stage under cover of darkness. "Deeeetroit, is there anybody alive out there?" he screams, as suddenly a main spot is focused in on him; the crowd up on its feet, the "Brooocing" filling the packed house. Tearing into his first single from the new album, lit in green 'Radio Nowhere' kicks of the proceedings.
The rousing 'Night' is brought forth next, but being that Springsteen's often-blistering two-hour-plus set was heavy on new material from the new CD 'Magic,' his latest original recording with the E Street Band, it was no surprise that the majority of tonight's songs all came from said critical spawn. That said, and after a trademark "1, 2, 3, 4 ..." , 'The Rising's violin-infused cut 'Lonesome Day' is followed by 'Gypsy Biker - complete with a familiar harmonica riff opening, before galloping into a full band, and then the hushed tones of the quieter title track ("This really isn't a song about magic. It's about tricks.") bring the trio to a close.
At 58, Springsteen is more urgent than five years ago with the E Streeters and as refreshed as I've ever seen him. Able to balance his various political messages about the deception and despair brought by the Bush administration, The Boss is quite adept at conducting the band with the slightest flick of his Fender Telecaster, his harmonica work an emerging new stage presence in itself.
Bathing albeit quickly in the warmth of the love for a few momentary seconds, Springsteen nods his head gently. "Detroit, thanx for hanging out and coming to see us tonight." The harmonica-driven 'Reason To Believe' (from 1982's dour 'Nebraska') is followed by a pounding 'Jackson Cage,' before bleeding directly into the blood-red lit 'She's The One.' "This next song's called 'Livin' In The Future, but it's really about livin' in the here and now," Springsteen admits, as he and the band create a smile on your face from ear to ear within seconds. Its bright and sassy hook and a too-cool-for-school vibe create a sweet, melodic foundation, to which Clarence Clemons drops in to add some pure sax love to the proceedings.
"Let's bring everyone back home," he next exclaims as the hugely applauded, yet strangely pedestrian-like 'The Promised Land' is sung to his followers. "Do we have any lovers in the crowd tonight?" is the twice repeated question that proceeds the bathed-in-blue 'I'll Work For Your Love' (complete with lyrics sung from an ever-smiling face), but it's his spot-on rendition of 'Tunnel Of Love' that allows those there that haven't purchased 'Magic' to finally sing-along. Complete with its pre-requisite audience participation 'Ooh, Ooh's,' the song's climax also brings both he and wife Patti Scialfa so close to the mic's tip that you'd swear they had snuck a fleeting kiss just prior to the final 'Ooh'!
Mighty Max Weinberg's drum solo, followed by Springsteen drinking water and then spraying it up in the air over himself - just as the light hits him and he starts into his riff - may be a jaded image, but works like it was just invented. The sing-along 'Working On The Highway' - culminating in an Elvis-like guitar hip sway pose - is followed by the quiet, intricate; and yet bold 'Devil's Arcade,' before under bright red spots, 2002's 'The Rising' weaves it nu anthem-like spell over us all.
Unlike classic shows with the E Street Band, this one almost seemed like a Springsteen show with the E Streeters as sidemen. He rarely used Clemons or guitarist Steve Van Zandt as a physical foil. If proof was ever needed, a linear guitar/string line teases us into 'Last To Die,' which is tailed by the keyboard flourishes of 'Long Walk Home.' Bringing the musical juggernaut home with 1978's 'Badlands,' featuring the colossal beats of Max Weinberg’s drums, Gary Tallent’s bass, the chime-topped keyboard chords of Roy Bittan and Danny Federici, Clarence Clemons’s saxophone, Soozie Tyrell’s fiddle and the triple-barreled guitar strumming of Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt and Springsteen himself, the song rose everyone from their seats.
Taking this two hour performance into overtime a breezy slice of '60s pop in the form of 'Girls in Their Summer Clothes' is up next ("This is for all the Michigan girls from a young boy from New Jersey"), and is followed by a powerhaus rendition of 'Ramrod' - a song he admits "... has been unplayed for over five years, but does that matter ... nooooooo,". But it's as the song nears its final curve, and with Van Zandt leaning further into the mic than before, that Springsteen's words echo seemingly louder than ever. "Is it closing time? Is it pizza time? Is it sexy time? I don't know ... what time is it?" To which Van Zandt's screamed reply is, "No, it's Boss time!"
With all the arena lights fully on, a cranked up 'Born To Run' literally rips through the souls of all present. The lazy-pop radio hit 'Dancing In The Dark' is next, but it's the final encore number that truly puts the cherry on the cake. The Irish-embodied 'American Land,' a song so spirited that the words had to be shown on the screens high above the crowd for their vocal participation, was easily one of the highlights of this most exuberant, quite liberating rock 'n' roll extravaganza's.
Culminating in a close up of Springsteen informing the crowd that they had just "witnessed the legend ... that is the E Street Band," paying a final shrug of a lack of knowledge to a small front row banner that posed the question 'Why Isn't Lil' Annie Walker Here Tonight?!,' the band graciously bow, wave, and are finally gone from sight.
Review By: Russell A. Trunk
See ‘The Boss’ performing live with the E Street Band! Get your Bruce Springsteen Tickets from BarrysTickets.com today!