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The duets with Patti Scialfa have been a highlight of the Broadway run, benefitting from pin-drop acoustics and superb sound design.
Listening to their voices intertwine, I was catapulted back to , 30 years ago this winter, watching Bruce and Patti share a mic and a surprising amount of personal space on "Brilliant Disguise.
But that's the miracle of any Springsteen performance, in any setting: For the lifelong fan, Springsteen on Broadway packs in more history than Hamilton.
Some commenters have expressed surprise at how "non-partisan" the show is, given Bruce's political outspokenness, but I'm not sure that's accurate.
The introduction to "Long Walk Home" may not spell it out, but naming names isn't necessary; the message is lost on no one. Tonight's intro was longer and decidedly angrier than it was last fall:.
I've seen things over the past year on American streets that I thought were resigned to other, uglier times — things I never thought I'd ever see again in my lifetime.
Folks trying to normalize hate…. We've come too far and worked too hard, and too many people have paid too high a price for us to allow that to happen….
We're going through a terrible chapter in the battle for the soul of our nation. Did Bruce know that Gary Cohn, Trump's recently departed economic advisor, was in the audience?
No word on whether Cohn enjoyed the show. Other moments took on unexpected nuances. The show's dreamlike final section finds Bruce outside his boyhood church in Freehold, where "the words of a very strange but all too familiar benediction" suddenly come rushing back.
But these were the words that came back to me. And they flowed differently. He's referring, of course, to the Lord's Prayer, which he recites before the show-closing "Born to Run.
For 45 years Bruce Springsteen has not only avoided phoning in the hits, but has appeared physically incapable of doing so. For all sorts of reasons some laid bare in this show , the man can't do anything halfway.
So a fan returning to Broadway, five months into the run, could legitimately wonder if the star might feel hemmed in by repetition, caught in his own scripted trap.
Can a performer known for spontaneity pull off his trickiest magic yet — making a static setpiece appear genuinely alive out there?
Would he tire of playing the same gig, night after night after night? Sure, some moments felt rushed, and at others the narrator seemed distracted or impatient.
But the setting clearly suits him, and after so many shows he's developed an easier give-and-take with the theater audience, playing off our silences, our laughter, our pent-up urge to leap from our seats and sing along.
So does it matter that the second act basically turns into a concert? Should it bother us if "Dancing in the Dark" doesn't really fit the storyline?
Perhaps you were hoping for more about fame, fatherhood, New York City, the '90s, or a few more songs from this century?
Hey, we all were. But this is his story, not ours, even if we each have our own too long Bruce Springsteen tale to tell.
That's the singular achievement of Springsteen on Broadway. And though we may never stand outside St. Rose of Lima Church in Freehold, New Jersey, we know exactly how it looks and feels to that eight-year-old kid with his toy soldiers and horses, and to that year-old homesick troubadour, searching the sky for his beloved copper beech tree, and for the boy he left in its branches.
The best a fan could hope for? But Springsteen on Broadway really is that good, and five months in, it's only getting better. Springsteen on Broadway runs Tuesday through Saturday nights.
Returning from a holiday break, Springsteen on Broadway is back to its original setlist, with Patti Scialfa recovered from the flu and back on stage.
Performances will continue Tuesday through Saturday nights throughout this month, through February 3, before another break. Patti Scialfa is ill and unable to perform, prompting the first changes in the Springsteen on Broadway set since the official opening.
Springsteen talked a bit about fatherhood saying something to the effect of, "I guess I'll say something about the kids instead" after explaining that Patti had been sick over Christmas weekend.
We've got magic to do, just for you We've got miracle plays to play We've got parts to perform, hearts to warm Kings and things to take by storm As we go along our way — "Magic to Do," Pippin.
For decades, his concerts have been described as feats nothing short of miraculous, and he has discussed his own songwriting in terms of a magical act: Now he does it again.
Written and directed by the man himself, Springsteen on Broadway is an act of alchemy, taking familiar elements — from his songbook, his concerts particularly his solo tours , his memoir — and combining them, with a new venue, to create something we've never seen before, something that has had preview audiences… well, spellbound.
Opening October 12, the performance starts simply — not with a familiar "Good evening, New York City! In fact, as simple starts go, this is almost as basic as it gets: That is just one of "the elements that will come in handy should you come face-to-face with eighty thousand screaming fans who are waiting for you to do your magic trick.
Waiting for you to pull something out of your hat, out of thin air, out of this world…. I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable 'us.
With just guitar, piano, harmonica, and a very talented magician's assistant billed as Patti Scialfa Springsteen, Bruce makes good on this implied opening promise.
Chekhov would probably agree: And Springsteen doesn't let us down. It's hard to say exactly when it happens — it's a gradual effect, a gathering of forces, a calling-up of spirits, great greasepaint ghosts on the wind — but by the end of this at-times mesmerizing performance we've found that proof of life.
Springsteen on Broadway is a true theatrical performance, with a script, an arc, and a fourth wall to break. It might have been difficult to imagine this new endeavor as anything but a stay-put solo tour, as a residency.
But this is not a series of concerts — it's a one-man show with all due respect to Patti that Springsteen has carefully crafted, rehearsed, and honed to perform night after night.
It's greasepaint and footlights, without either of those being literally true. Which might not be remarkable for any other extravaganza on the Great White Way, but for an artist who rarely plays the same set twice, who is known, loved, and lauded for his on-stage spontaneity, it might seem a startling change of pace.
It's not quite a new trick for an old dog, though. The secret that's not quite a secret among Springsteen fans is that his concerts are rarely quite as unscripted as they appear.
Sure, he can turn his band on a dime, call audibles left and right, teach his horn section a new song on the fly. But there's also a careful choreography to an E Street Band concert not necessarily evident the first time you see it.
The second time you see it, you might be astonished to realize how much is a clockwork part of the show: Springsteen is a showman par excellence.
And making things seem spontaneous is part of his job, part of his craft — call it the illusion of the first time.
Which makes a Broadway show of this kind a not-so-illogical endeavor. It all happens on a spare stage. In keeping with his career aesthetic — Springsteen's staging over the years has been minimal, other than the occasional Super Bowl fireworks or mammoth flag backdrop — there's very little to distract from the performance itself.
There's not even a curtain. Theatergoers arrive to find the set waiting, all blacks and grays; the dark brick wall in the back, by appearances, could be a freshly painted set or the old bones of the place.
There's a barred window stage right; dim, industrial pendant lamps; and most prominently, a grand piano. Heather Wolensky's scenic design evokes a black and white photograph — say, Springsteen photographed by Eric Meola 40 years ago, under a fire escape on a city street.
Lighting designer Natasha Katz will soon work subtle wonders with color on this near-black box stage, illuminating that back wall, streaming in like sunlight or like beams through cellar windows.
Wrecking Ball imagery also comes to mind, with the tools of Springsteen's trade on view and little else: Stacks of black road cases are the closest things to props.
The acoustic guitars will come. Those road cases give the proceedings a backstage ambience and some on-brand cool; they also present some irony.
Never has Springsteen been as unpacked or as settled-in for a run of shows. He's going to live here for a while.
Given that, this looks like a space that he'll be happy to call home. And he does appear at home in performance here — in Springsteen on Broadway he's our Leading Player, our Stage Manager, talking directly to the audience, cracking jokes, sharing his stories, journeying to spots mystic and exotic Big Sur with Mad Dog qualifies, right?
Starting at the very beginning a very good place to start , the first song out of the gate should come as no surprise for a show inspired by Springsteen's autobiography.
It's right there in the title, and Springsteen doesn't resist its natural place in the show: If his preceding "magic trick" litany sounds familiar, it's because you've probably read it: Anyone who thought Springsteen might be breaking out his glasses and sitting down to read from the book, however, as he did on stages when promoting his bestseller, will be relieved during the vivid childhood recollections of "Growin' Up" to witness how he interweaves the text with the music.
The naturalistic performance establishes the standard operating procedure for the entire evening.
He's bringing select portions of his memoir to life, telling a story in words and music to the extent that at times you can't really say where the songs stop and the stories begin.
It's all one big story, and one big piece of music. But what is the story? It may not be what you think — that's another magic trick that Bruce pulls off over the course of the night.
Beginning with such straight autobiography that it's almost paint-by-numbers, he engages in some of sleight of hand that brings us somewhere else entirely by the end of the night.
It begins subject-by-subject and chapter-by-chapter. Then there's the freedom of escape "Thunder Road," sung with great tenderness.
Up to this point, the show seems to write itself. These are stirring, moving performances, each one: The memory of that sound echoes so much through "The Wish," you can only imagine how much it echoes through the writer's mind.
Something as simple as the smell of Nescafe coffee in the air, when Bruce describes it at the piano "Now, when it rains in Freehold…" , carries an evocative ache that you just can't get on the printed page.
Anyone familiar with Springsteen's songbook — and particularly Chapter and Verse , the autobiography's companion album — might envision the songs that will follow.
After tracing some E Street glory and man, does "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" on the piano not disappoint, confident and soulful , we'll find ourselves in the realm of "Brilliant Disguise," "Living Proof," and "Long Time Comin'.
It's gradually revealed that the story Bruce is choosing to tell is not that of his biography, his rise to superstardom, or his family, but of his engagement with the world around him.
Somewhere in the middle of the evening's performance, after establishing his roots, Springsteen pans back.
Linearity begins to drift; eras conflate. This is where the us begins to become believable. He zooms out to tell an American story as much as a personal story, reflecting his own growing awareness of his country and its people, the revelations he met with as he left "the fucking boondocks" to go out into the world, the hopes and promises and challenges and failures of America.
The trajectory of Springsteen on Broadway is not so much boy to man, but from the sugar-dusted peaks of his Sugar Pops to the western mountains he recalls vividly from his first journey from coast to coast.
That awakening for Springsteen — to the beauty of America, and to the promises and improbabilities of the American Dream — entered his writing in the late-'70s and early '80s; Bruce himself traces the subject back to Darkness on the Edge of Town.
And that's where it appears here, as he introduces a jangly "The Promised Land" with a passage from the book, the most direct "reading" he gives all night.
He describes that first cross-country trip, "where I saw the United States at its fullest, and I was overwhelmed by its beauty.
The country was beautiful. I felt a great elation at the wheel as we crossed the western desert at dawn, the deep blue and purple shadowed canyons, the pale yellow morning sky with all of its color drawn out, leaving just the black silhouetted mountains behind us.
With the eastern sun rising at our backs, the deep reds and browns of the plains and hills came to life. Your palms turned salty white on the wheel from the aridity.
Morning woke the Earth into muted color, then came the flat light of the midday sun, and everything stood revealed as pure horizon lowering on two lanes of black and disappearing into… nothing — my favorite thing.
Then the evening, with the sun burning red into your eyes, dropping gold into the western mountains. It all felt like home and I fell into a lasting love affair with the desert.
With this riot of color tumbling out, after a black-and-white '50s childhood, it's a Wizard of Oz moment. And it points the way to the rest of the show, where we're not in Freehold anymore.
The Vietnam veteran of the "G. Blues" bottleneck string "Born in the U. He drives it home with "Land of Hope and Dreams," with a segue out of "Dancing in the Dark" that'll make you catch your breath.
Love still plays a part — that, after all, has long been a subject of Bruce's work, too. Midway through the night, he introduces his wife and co-star to blend their voices for two absolutely gorgeous duets: Their intimacy points to a real hallmark of the whole night's experience.
For all the comparisons to previous acoustic tours and performances that might come to mind, Springsteen on Broadway is especially suited to one of the smaller houses in the theater district.
Springsteen has always been sensitive to venue, showing his love for the old buildings, eschewing newfangled skybox palaces when he can for arenas that show their age.
The resulting feeling of intimacy accounts for a considerable part of the show's power — it's certainly part of what you're after when you pay your money down — and it's difficult to imagine this performance playing nearly as well in a larger hall.
It's tailored for the space. Springsteen rarely if ever moves past the proscenium — he doesn't need to reach out physically into the crowd to generate some connection; it's practically built in.
But he maximizes the living room effect, stepping away from the mic at various points to let his voice be heard, unamplified, to the upper reaches.
There's a lot of room up there, for the spirits to swirl. And that's where the magic really comes in, as Springsteen conjures the ghosts not only of his own past, but of our own.
And of our present. Of aging and memory. The putting away of childish things. There's so much space, in the songs and the stories, in the building and in the atmosphere Springsteen cultivates, for our own memories to overlay his.
Our mothers and fathers, our country, our soldiers, trees in our front yards, our shared histories, these are all in the mix — as is, perhaps most of all, as Springsteen puts it, "waking from the youthful spell of of immortality.
As the old saying goes, "You'll laugh, you'll cry…. That shared experience reaches its peak with the final song of the night, "Born to Run" on acoustic guitar.
It's a song that for so many fans stirs up memories of countless nights with the E Street Band, in encore delirium — or perhaps a version very much like this one in — and it's long been one of the most communal experiences you'll find.
On Broadway it's a celebration, a benediction, an elegy, a commitment, a thank you, and a statement of community, Springsteen's palm finally beating out that proof of life before the lights go out.
Another way Springsteen might describe his magic trick — or love, or a band, or rock 'n' roll — is the equation "one plus one equals three.
It's when you get into the world of miracles, even everyday miracles. What Springsteen on Broadway demonstrates, as his performances have for decades, is that the equation actually makes sense — that in this kind of setting, something extra can happen so that there is a third thing, a bigger thing.
You plus me equals us. The mathematical proof for that may be beyond us, but it'll be thrillingly demonstrated nightly on 48th Street.
The best Broadway shows do more than educate or entertain. Something happens in a theater that differs from what takes place at a lecture or a concert.
There is present what Springsteen calls a "third entity," an experience that transcends the verbal and the musical to become something else: When it succeeds, you feel it.
This is the magic of the theater, and Springsteen, who in his autobiography describes his success as a master illusionist and a magician, aims dead center for that mysterious theatrical ether.
The show made me laugh, weep twice , and like all great theater helped me understand something not about the performer, but about myself.
Of course to hear Springsteen so intimately, in what feels like one's living room, makes the alchemy possible. Bruce has always been a storyteller, but the stories on stage have usually been in service of the songs.
Now the songs serve the stories, and because of that we get to hear them in a new way. It will be fun, once the show officially opens, to talk about story and song choices and maybe even suggest titles for Springsteen on Broadway.
What I know is I've got four months to acquire another ticket. Tonight on 48th Street, Bruce Springsteen made his Broadway debut to rapturous applause — at the outset, throughout, and of course, at show's end.
People stay in their seats. Wait, is "Brooocing" a Broadway convention? Well, while we like the idea of a bit more appropriate audience decorum for this new venture we're not gonna actually make him tell us to "shut the fuck up," are we?
While we're going to respect Broadway protocol — no reviews 'til opening night, don'tcha know, no spoilers here — a few unique moments are worth reporting.
When cheers went up in the crowd before lights went down, one might have thought Springsteen had pulled a "Boss sneak" and come out early And when Springsteen did take the stage, his first order of business was to "dedicate this show to my good friend Tom Petty I knew in the back of my mind it would be an abbreviated set, likely acoustic, but that didn't matter.
It was an opportunity to see Bruce perform once again, as I didn't have the luck, or the funds, to obtain tickets for the upcoming Broadway performances.
Making our way to the Air Canada Centre, it was clear that this was not going to be an ordinary show night, with a security perimeter setup around the entire arena.
Biden, and Mme Trudeau, our Prime Minister's wife. As we entered the arena, we were handed a program which outlined the ceremony and included bios of all the performers.
Also on the bill: While I thought that scheduling was unusual, I was certain there would be a surprise or two as the evening progressed.
After the parade of athletes and a few other announcements before the television audience joined the proceedings, it was off to the races.
But an hour or so in, there was no mistaking the chorus of "Bruuuuce" that greeted our man as he stood solo, center stage, acoustic guitar at the ready.
Springsteen launched into "Working on the Highway" first — an odd choice, I thought, perhaps a selection that he knew the non-fans in the audience would recognize, but it was clear that this was definitely a Bruce-friendly crowd.
The second song, "The Promised Land" was absolutely sublime, and Bruce appeared to get emotional and lose himself in the moment. Last we were instructed by the Boss to put on our dancing shoes as he busted out "Dancing in the Dark.
Before you knew it, Bruce's acoustic performance was over. Quick, but enjoyable despite the sound issues.
Surely this wouldn't be the last we would see of him this evening, I thought — and fortunately I was right.
After Bryan Adams finished playing his smash hit "Sumer of '69" with his band, he summoned "The Boss" and they launched into a full-band version of "Cuts Like a Knife.
Springsteen had performed the song acoustically himself a few years back, but this was a chance to see him let loose on the song's standard rock arrangement, sharing vocals with Adams.
Springsteen stayed on stage for one more song as Bryan explained it was time to return the favor and play one of Bruce's tunes. What followed was an impressive version of "Badlands," complete with chanting from the Bruce-centric crowd.
Kudos to Bryan's harmony vocals, and to his band for stepping into some very large E Street Band shoes and doing the song justice. There was no sax player to be had, so the sax solo was replaced with guitar solos.
The crowd continued the "whoa-oh-oh-ohs" as the song concluded and as HRH Prince Harry took the stage to embrace and thank both Bruce and Bryan.
Alas, this wasn't a concert but a ceremony that was being televised, so strict timelines needed to be adhered to. In the Prince's address to the athletes and crowd, he had mentioned that the atheletes had asked him last year to get Bruce for the closing ceremonies, so he proved to be a man good to his word!
Unfortunately that did not include a surprise guest appearance from Bruce, but it was fun nonetheless as they performed a medley of some of their greatest hits, finishing with "Takin' Care of Business" — which I thought would be right up Bruce's alley, but it was not to be.
As we made our way out, we were wishing some U. We shook his hand, thanked him for his service and sacrifice to our country, and told him how proud we were of him.
He spoke of how he wanted to continue in some fashion with the Invictus movement, and I can certainly understand why. Invictus is latin for "unconquered.
With all due respect to Bruce and the other performers, to me that was the highlight of the evening. You can watch the Invictus Games Closing Ceremony at ctv.
Working on "cuts like a knife" backstage with brucespringsteen just before we went out and sang it for real at the invictusgames Toronto.
What a moment to hang on to, thanks Bruce. A post shared by Bryan Adams bryanadams on Oct 1, at 2: The night before Springsteen's birthday, he rehearses again for invitees Monmouth University.
Thursday night at PNC it was all about Sweet Melissa, and although the event is called the Laid Back Festival, there was nothing laid back about it — especially when Bruce Springsteen joined in.
And how sweet it was. Shana Tovah to all! Geils Band's number one album — and one would have thought the 80's had come back to life.
It was a highlight of an evening filled with pure joy. But what is Christmas without Santa Bruce had been sitting in section , enjoying the show and saying hi to his neighbors and friends.
He actually told a woman sitting next to me, whom sees him at the gym a few times a week, "See ya tomorrow! Jackson Browne asked if this was still the Garden State Arts Center — part of the epic Running on Empty was recorded here, and he opened his set with "You Love the Thunder" as a tribute to that night 40 years ago.
Other standouts with his fantastic band were "The Pretender" and my personal favorite "Redneck Friend," which I had not hear Browne sing in years "Honey you shake, I'll rattle, we'll roll on down the line Jackson was joined by Steven for his classic "I Am a Patriot," adding some very timely lyrics about racism, bigotry, and current events.
You could see the joy in their strut, revisiting this epic song together as on the Vote for Change tour.
And then it was time for Bruce to make one more Jersey Jump on stage, for a nearly nine-minute performance of "Take it Easy" into "Our Lady of the Well," justr as it's sequenced on the For Everyman album.
After hanging back on "Our Lady of the Well," Springsteen the guitar-slinger threw in some sizzling riffs to finish off one of the least laid back evenings I've spent.
A Workshop, Springsteen's first run-through of Springsteen on Broadway set for a small group friends and family at Monmouth University.
He mentioned that the last time they'd played together, at Hyde Park in London, they'd had the plug pulled on them by the authorities, so this time he hoped they'd be able to finish their song.
After playing it once, they made a snap and wise decision to play it again. Afterwards, as Bruce left the stage — grin still plastered to his face — he could be seen wiping a tear from his eye.
An emotional night for all involved — especially the very lucky audience. It was such an unlikely occurrence that it seemed not only improbable but well nigh impossible that Bruce Springsteen would make an unannounced appearance on an Asbury Park stage on two successive nights.
It was unlikely even in the mid-'80s, when he was out and about on what seemed like a weekly basis. And we have a new album. Yeah," he smirked, "I only do this every 20 or 30 years.
But against all odds, there he was again for the encore. After the outstanding full set from the Disciples, Stevie called out, "Where's my brother from another mother?
Trademark Fender guitar in hand, Bruce joined his old friend at center stage and helped close the show with two songs.
There were many songs in the set that Springsteen could've guested on, but really, there was only one that would do for this type of an evening: It's difficult to overstate the emotional impact of the song on fans of the Jersey Shore music scene; like "I Don't Want to Go Home," it is, in a sense, every bit a part of their shared past as it is for its performers.
On Saturday night, even if it were just Van Zandt by himself at the mic, the song would have packed a powerful punch. But with these two lifelong friends and music partners sharing the mic at center stage, the performance became one for the ages.
What to close with, then? How about a Chuck Berry song? How about "Bye Bye Johnny"? How about Bruce taking the second verse, which more or less tells the story of his own life:.
She remembered taking money out from gathering crop And buying Johnny's guitar at a broker shop As long as he would play it by the railroad side And wouldn't get in trouble he was satisfied But never thought that there would come a day like this When she would have to give her son a goodbye kiss At the song's conclusion, a beaming Bruce leaned into the mic and shouted "Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul!
The audience stood and clamored for several moments, but to no avail; there would be no encore. Van Zandt and his new Disciples will be performing many shows in the coming months, but there will be few to match what happened at the Paramount Theatre.
Friday night, a sold-out Paramount Theatre bore witness not just to the world premiere of Just Before the Dawn: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'n' Roll , but the long-awaited onstage reunion of many of the key figures in the history of Asbury Park's legendary Upstage club.
While many of the musicians in attendance have appeared onstage together in various capacities over the years — many still live in the area — such gatherings have become increasingly rare.
And the appearance of Asbury's unofficial "holy trinity" of Southside Johnny Lyon, Steven Van Zandt, and a surprise unbilled Bruce onstage together is also not something even longtime area residents have seen often.
Yet, here they were, gathered in celebration of their unique shared history in the short-lived venue on Cookman Avenue. As per usual for film premieres, many people associated with the film were in attendance for the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival event.
The documentary itself was well-received, as the audience greeted the appearance of familiar figures onscreen with warm applause. It's a fairly straightforward doc that employs all the standard techniques — archival film footage, candid interviews, voice-over narration — and audiences looking for a brief history of a familiar place and time with some great music will come away satisfied.
Entertaining as Just Before the Dawn is, however, it barely scratches the surface of its subject. The history of the Upstage and the larger story of Asbury Park's rise and fall are vast and complex topics that don't easily lend themselves to the minute documentary format.
Historians like Daniel Wolff Fourth of July, Asbury Park and Charles and Margaret Horner Classic Urban Harmony have been wise to explore this complicated history not by being all-inclusive, but by honing on particular aspects of the story — a key theme or genre, a particular series of events.
The story of Asbury Park in many ways is a story of America in microcosm, a conundrum that demands a long-form, multi-episode format.
Unfortunately, much of the tale still waits to be told. Their appearance onstage a few minutes after the intermission was no great surprise to many in attendance.
Indeed, no small number of tickets were snatched up in the hours just prior to the event, as word filtered out that a Springsteen appearance was in the offing.
Nonetheless, a thrilled audience leapt to its feet when the curtain drew back to reveal Little Steven and his new Disciples lineup augmented by a certain Freehold native on Gibson guitar and, to his left, former local whiz kid David Sancious and another local bandleader by the name of Southside Johnny.
Southside burst into a Jukes-esque, horn-drenched "Blues is My Business," and the night was off and running on all eight cylinders.
After the Berry tribute, Steven and much of his band departed, leaving Southside joined by Jukes bassist John Conte and ex-Jukes drummer Joe Bellia at the front mic to belt a cover of B.
Dressed in work shirt and jeans, an unassuming Bruce hung back from the center mic for a good portion of the show. On a night celebrating the communal spirit of the Upstage, the frontman role was shared by many, with Asbury Jukes keyboardist and official ringleader Jeff Kazee somehow managing to coordinate the comings and goings of an endless array of musicians and instruments without any apparent mishaps.
The Upstage Jam Band returned with Messrs. Springsteen and Lyon in tow, backing the two of them as Bruce took lead vocals on a version of Little Richard's "Lucille" punctuated by DeSarno and Ryan guitar solos.
Bruce calling for Sancious to play the Hammond B-3 was priceless; "When I first saw him, he was playing the organ," he commented afterward.
He remembered all the words! Bruce left the stage briefly to make way for Jeff Kazee's lead vocal turn on "Fortunate Son" before reemerging to wind down the set.
Southside stepped back to center mic to lead off the Jukes classic "I Don't Wanna Go Home" with a few bars of "Stand by Me," which was followed by a set-closing, all-hands-on-deck jam on yet another Chuck Berry medley, "Johnny B.
Goode" into "Roll Over, Beethoven. It was a rocking, satisfying night of music that reflected the true Upstage spirit, with familiar Asbury Park faces like LaBella and Marc Ribler mixed in with the talent-laden lineup of assorted Disciples, Upstagers and Jukes all generously sharing the limelight.
Even with Bruce and Southside doing the yeoman's share of leads, there was plenty of room for each musician to have a moment or two to shine, just as they had in the old days.
As it did in , the Springsteen tour of Australia and New Zealand finished in an industrialized section of Auckland on a warm summer's night.
Three years ago Born to Run was played in its entirety and "My City of Ruins" was dedicated to the people of Christchurch.
On Saturday night the show began with three Born in the U. Both tour closers sent Kiwis and Aussies and global denizens of E Street Nation into the night with aching feet, strained vocal chords and the usual conjecture about when if?
Bruce and the band would be back again. There was a marked difference Saturday night from the tour finale, however, and it wasn't found on stage. It was dripping from the eyes and down the cheeks of people throughout Mt Smart Stadium.
Women, men, young, old. Tears that fell throughout the night but poured during a final acoustic "Thunder Road. Tears of joy and sadness like I've never seen at a concert before.
We're all getting older; appearances to the contrary the man himself is closing on 70, and the E Street Band has herculean numbers on its odometer.
Does that explain it? After losing so much grace and greatness in , are we more aware of the mortality of our heroes? We know this won't go on forever: If so, Saturday night in Auckland — and I don't care how corny this sounds — was all sevens.
Blatant, unapologetic corniness is a symptom of repeated exposure to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Each Springsteen concert is like a beam of white light through a prism that results in a rainbow of perspectives and opinions. This summer tour closer would be the rare gig that all factions could agree on — it was a Get Off Your Ass and Dance show through and through.
And that's clearly what Springsteen had in mind: Bruce had a firm hand on the wheel all night, the collective eyes of the band locked on him even more than usual, a breakneck pace maintained by The Boss from the band's entrance at 7: You'd be hard pressed to find a trio of songs less open to misinterpretation than "Darlington County," "Working on the Highway," and "Glory Days.
Darkness had yet to fall on Mt Smart Stadium, so no spotlight was needed to watch Bruce saunter from the stage to the lip of the pit, all Stones-y riff and working-man shirt.
In his Born to Run book Bruce wrote about knowing that he "played," not "worked," for a living, but on this night he was working hard to connect with people in the rectangular, rugby field dimensions of Mt Smart Stadium.
During a typically exuberant "Working on the Highway" he put a fine point on it, challenging the crowd — "Lemme see ya work that thing!
An audibled "Glory Days" — the mic guy was sent scurrying back after retrieving it from the pit stage and Kevin had to be told directly by Bruce which guitar he needed — had Bruce imploring his consigliere "C'mon, work that thing Steve!
At one point Steve slipped a pair of party glasses on Bruce's face. A quick peek at a video screen provided an answer. Are the people with me?
A sufficiently affirmative response made him cry "It's ass-shaking time! These Born in the U. But as Bruce drew a "99" in the air for another audible it was clear he was going with his gut, and his gut said roadhouse.
The band modified accordingly and a trashy, honky tonk "Johnny 99" ensued with Soozie, Nils and Jake doing solos and joining Bruce on the pit stage lip to a stomping finish.
And c'mon the sax man did, all for the sake of those "in the stands. Putting things back together… after they've fallen apart. You gotta use your hands now.
Since I've written [the song] it's become about a lot of different things, mainly about the things that we lose as life goes on. The older you get, the more that loss weighs on you.
Big, bad-ass, beloved, missing Clarence. Bruce out amongst us before directing his band to the song's gentle finish. Nightfall blanketed New Zealand's North Island as Jake held onto his anger during a roaring "Wrecking Ball" and the show's core temperature began to rise.
Bruce yelled "Promised Land" to his bandmates before his harmonica sang and we were reminded that the quality of our lives may rise and fall but Springsteen's catalog of songs never wavers.
We just relate to those songs differently. Max's high-hat signalled "Candy's Room," and we were in that rare concert zone when it feels like the ground below us could fall away but we'd remain floating in place.
Max's jackhammered snare gave way to Bruce's wailing guitar and in a few seconds Roy's intro to "Because the Night" unleashed the most intense version of the song on this tour.
By the time Captain Lofgren finished his whirling dervish solo we were swept up in a current and dropped on our heads and barely had time to breathe before "The Rising" started and the cycle repeated.
For one last time the furious perfection of "Badlands" had us bouncing in place and shouting like mad. A wild, joyous, goofy, exhausting "Rosalita" ended this foursome of '70s thunderclaps that's a fountain of youth to older fans and an affirmation of rock 'n' roll's power to those weaned on a variation neutered by corporate-owned radio monopolies and TV "talent" shows.
After thanking Auckland and saluting the Auckland City Mission for doing God's work, Bruce said "This is the last night of our tour down here" and breathlessly thanked a litany of tour personnel with special shout outs to longtime concert producer George Travis and "Ms.
Barbara Carr" of Jon Landau Management. Bruce repeated "until the end… forever friends" in a whisper and pointed to the heavens with both hands, acknowledging a stadium full of forever friends while my ex-pat heart broke for so many friends left behind in the States Max pounded the "Hiding on the backstreets" crescendo into our skulls, and Bruce delivered a vocal performance as raw and real as the words themselves.
The big four of "Born to Run," "Dancing in the Dark" the only song to acknowledge sign wavers on this night , "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" and "Shout" got one last blowout before a tear-jerking acoustic "Thunder Road" brought the tour to a close.
Bruce said, "Thanks for a great night. We'll be seeing ya. Friends huddled in circles, others stood alone, smiles creasing faces that ain't that young anymore.
Glistening eyes took one last look around the quickly dissipating closing-night crowd, paths crossed on tour about to bring us home to our everyday lives.
Lives that, unlike a Bruce show, offer no guarantees. Lives that for some had been on hold for five weeks after this tour began on a January night in Perth, Australia when Bruce declared the band's allegiance with a "new American resistance.
With a raw longing for this magical circus to continue we bade tearful goodbyes and told each other we'd do it again someday.
While that may or may not be true, we also swore forever friends. And that, my friends, will be true… until the end. Bruce Springsteen often refers to his time on stage as his job.
Tuesday night in Christchurch it was his calling, and he wore that calling on his sleeve. Bruce knew it; all 30, people in attendance knew it: This one was necessary.
This one would echo long after the band left AMI Stadium — a temporary structure built after Christchurch's rugby stadium was heavily damaged in the February 22, earthquake — as a tribute to those lost and a celebration of being glad to be alive.
When this show appeared on the Summer Tour itinerary it was easy to imagine it being special. That earthquake killed and left its historic city center in ruins.
Multiple aftershocks have rocked the Canterbury region. A tsunami threatened the South Island's east coast last year.
The citizens of Christchurch have been roiled and frustrated and discouraged by redevelopment delays. It's no exaggeration to say this Christchurch concert has been anticipated for generations.
An optimist says this particular show by this particular band couldn't have come at a better time. A pessimist says no show could live up to such weighty expectations.
What does The Boss say? The Boss says it's ass-shaking time. The Boss, as always, is right, and everything, absolutely everything, is alright.
To understand tonight's cathartic show you must know about Wendy Davie. She's an emergency room nurse who married a Christchurch boy, raised three kids and on February 22, did what so many of her fellow citizens did: She then volunteered herself to a trio of policemen.
They drove her into Christchurch's devastated CBD, where she checked in with a commander who gave her his jacket and helmet and sent her to the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building.
There she helped set up a triage area for victims of the pancaked five-story structure, a place where 18 people lost their lives. Later that night, after a tearful reunion with her family in their quake-damaged home nearly every home in Christchurch was damaged or destroyed by that historically powerful earthquake , she and her husband Pete lay in bed and agreed there was only one thing for them to do: The seed was planted more than three years ago on the day the Springsteen tour of Australia and NZ was announced.
The itinerary included two shows in Auckland but none in Christchurch. Wendy's a fan, but it was lifelong diehard Pete who asked, "How fucking hard could it be?
On her lunch break the next day Wendy started finding out by setting up a "Come to Christchurch Bruce Springsteen" Facebook page.
After sending invitations to a small circle of friends, she was startled to watch the page attract more than 11, followers in ten days.
As it was difficult to contact anyone in the Springsteen organization, she informed Frontier Touring of the petition but never heard a word in response.
That word came from Springsteen himself tonight in his introduction to "My City of Ruins": Wanted us to come and play. It took a while, but I'm glad we got here.
I got a chance to drive around and take a look at the city today. I want to send this out to everyone who suffered in the earthquake, send out our love and prayers, and to the emergency services who I know are working today to contain the fires outside of town.
This is for those folks… and for all of you. Can a song possess the person who wrote it? It'll come off as hyperbolic, but Bruce was more than a preacher on this night — he was a messenger, conjurer, shaman, healer.
But tonight Bruce recalibrated it and set it loose within the hearts of the people of Christchurch like a voodoo man stealing souls and setting them free in a better, less lonely place.
Prior to this the band had hit the stage at 7: The sun had yet to set behind the stage, but the air was cool — a perfect night for a city never listed on a Springsteen T-shirt until After a guttural "Finally!
Bruce's fierce vocals were complemented by a searing guitar duel between he and Steve, who was in spectacular form all night.
Don't think it's ever occurred to me at a Bruce show, but it seemed the songs themselves were secondary to the touching of skin, the making of eye contact, the involvement of "the stands.
Everything changed with "My City of Ruins. He let the song's gentle beginning wash over the crowd before making the introduction that set Wendy's heart afire.
After Charlie's blissful organ solo, Jake laid down a sax vibe that made Bruce call out "Do it again! But slowly, slowly over the past ten years it's built itself back up.
A song at the end of the day can be about a lot of things — about my town, about your town, about New York City and even personal things that you've lost.
Bruce prefaced "Mary's Place" with the usual "Are you ready for a house party? Another sign led to a cracking "Radio Nowhere" that ended with Max pulverizing his drum kit.
Bruce ripped a solo from the Carter administration during "Prove It All Night," and then an audibled "Darkness on the Edge of Town" hit home in a city hobbled by loss and disillusionment.
The twosome of "The River" and "Youngstown" have been linchpins throughout the Australian tour and remained so tonight, Nils nearly laying his guitar on the ground during "Youngstown" before detonating another sinister solo.
Every song that followed was a setlist standard, and every one crackled and hissed. An inflatable kiwi was handed to an inquisitive Bruce during "Highway.
Bruce asking Steve "Is it quittin' time? Is it hamburger time? Is it sexy time? The final four songs of the main set — "Because the Night," "The Rising," "Badlands," and "Rosalita" — brought the show to a boil.
Steve mauled Bruce's face with hands shoved under Springsteen's armpits from behind during the Three Stooges bit of "Rosalita" because… well… because what else should a couple of sexagenarians be doing in New Zealand on a Tuesday night in front of 30, people?
Bruce thanked City Mission for doing God's work before playing an affecting "My Hometown" that set a plaintive stage for perpetual powerhouse "Born to Run.
A shall-we-say carefree woman on the shoulders of a guy in the pit repeatedly flashed the band, causing Bruce to swing back and forth from the video screen to the crowd.
Where I was standing no one moved. When they did it was to seek out someone to hug or gush about what they'd just experienced.
I can't pretend to know how it felt when locals watched Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band walk onto a Christchurch stage for the very first time.
All I could do was study faces, eavesdrop on conversations, put away pints with locals and ask their slurred, ecstatic opinions afterward.
For most this was their first Springsteen concert, so their jubilation was fresh, real, untouched by the taint of "Yeah but you should have seen him in blah blah blah She did admit to thinking "We did it" at some point in the night, but she's not someone in search of a slap on the back.
Unsurprisingly, Wendy was more concerned about conveying thanks to Bruce and the band for coming to Christchurch than the accolades that have come her way since Bruce's intro to "My City of Ruins" put a spotlight on her petition.
I'll let her words finish this report, as they not only perfectly summarize a special evening but capture her no-bullshit, brilliantly genuine spirit in a city where spirits have been tested but hope, however far-flung, hangs on.
When I asked what she'd say to Springsteen if she had his ear, she rubbed her eyes, glanced out the window and looked me straight in the eye.
Coming off the scintillating pair of shows in Brisbane, one of the best pairs of shows I've seen this decade, it seemed unlikely that Bruce would match those setlists or performances, considering the Hope show was more of a festival setting.
He didn't — but what he did deliver was a totally different show that was excellent and just the right one for the circumstances.
The shows in Brisbane or the Philly of the Southern Hemisphere, as some are now calling it were played in a tiny arena, whereas Hope Estate is a huge temporary amphitheater with much of the crowd far away on the lawn.
And the place is a winery, so there's a fair amount of drinking going on. Throw in not one but two opening acts, Diesel and Jet, and you could not have a more different setting for a show.
It was a unique night. Adding to the atmosphere was the good ol' fashioned Australian rainstorm, which not only showered the waiting crowd with a torrential downpour but later pelted us with large hail!
Fortunately, the weather cleared up, and Jet was able to play their set after a brief delay. And then it was Boss time.
With the strings having played their final show in Brisbane, a crisp and appropriate "Who'll Stop the Rain" opened the show. The difference in the type of night it would be was defined immediately when Bruce launched into "Badlands" and then "Out in the Street" to get the crowd going.
A sign request followed for "I Fought the Law," played a little tentatively but still a very nice nugget for the diehards.
A few minutes later another sign from the crowd brought us "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," the second of three weather-appropriate songs for the evening.
Bruce then unveiled another sign request, this one for major obscurity "None But the Brave" from the Born in the U. It was a beautiful performance of the song, the first ever in Australia… and it was met with absolute dead silence from the crowd.
So that would be the last rarity of the evening, and from there the show went into a string of big rockers, which were completely effective in getting the crowd up and dancing.
The apex of this sequence was the Born in the U. The encores opened with one last sign request. Bill Walsh, all the way from Point Pleasant, NJ, was pulled out of the crowd to play "No Surrender," which was dedicated to Bill's dad — also Bill — who had surgery over the weekend.
The crowd ate it up. The audience frenzy built through the regular encore sequence of "Born to Run," "Dancing," "Tenth Avenue," and "Shout" before Bruce launched into "Bobby Jean" to say "good luck, goodbye" to his Australian fans.
The band left the stage, and Bruce returned alone with his acoustic guitar and harmonic rack for a lovely solo "Thunder Road. And with a final wave and "We'll be seeing you," a quite emotional Bruce left the stage, ending a month of shows here in Australia.
It's clear he has developed quite an attachment with his Australian audiences after these repeated trips Down Under the past five years, and the feeling is mutual.
From this American, I say with deep gratitude: Let's do it again soon. Welcome to the inferno. Brisbane has been sizzling through a heatwave for months, and tonight it got a little hotter.
The final night of a terrific two-night stand, the show again began with "New York City Serenade. Roy Bittan's stunning piano work sets the mood as one of Springsteen's most powerful narratives unfolds.
Four years ago, as the Wrecking Ball Tour began, Springsteen crouched at the foot of the same stage and told assembled media that his ticket was his handshake and he would never rely on a show becoming rote.
On three tours over four years he has delivered on his promise… and then some. Dungeons and Dragons 2.
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