Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band East Rutherford New Jersey / Giants Stadium Sunday, July 28, 2008 By Robert Gillis
Sometime in 1984, my best friend David attended a party at his alma mater, Harvard, and heard a version of “Santa Claus is coming to town” and loved the way the singer performed it. “Who is this guy?” he asked. “Bruce Springsteen,” his friend Steve told him. So David headed out the next day and picked up Springsteen’s latest album, called, “Born in the USA,” and fell in love. A few weeks later, David showed up at my house in Dorchester with a copy of the album for me. He told me I had to hear this; it was great, and proceeded to play the B side, beginning with “No surrender.” I was also hooked and we started collecting Springsteen’s older albums to get to know the man. In 1985, David’s future wife Daria invited us down to New Jersey to see our first Springsteen show at East Rutherford, New Jersey, Giants Stadium. I remember the chills as Springsteen belted “Born in the USA,” “I’m on fire,” “Bobby Jean,” “Trapped,” “Jersey Girl” and the incredible “Downbound Train.” It was the beginning of my admiration for Bruce Springsteen, and another defining moment in my friendship with David. For nearly twenty-five years, the music of Bruce Springsteen has made a difference in my life. Springsteen has been there with me through all of it.
Flash forward to 2008. A few weeks ago, David and Daria sent an email: They had tickets to the July 27 show and wanted Sue and me to come down to see it.
Tonight’s show was the sixth that David and I have seen together, my 18th Springsteen show and a return once again to where it all began — Giants Stadium — that made the night extra special.
- Very little emphasis on the Magic CD
- A three hour, non-stop, 30 song set!
- First US show after the two month European leg and first outdoor US show of the Magic tour.
- Springsteen was wearing two black armbands, no doubt as a tribute to Danny. I was surprised that Danny wasn’t mentioned at all. There may have been some sort of memorial on the stage but I was too far away to see it if there was.
- I found the acoustics at the Stadium a little lacking in some places, and Springsteen sounded a little hoarse a few times.
- Springsteen REALLY played to the audience this evening; getting very close, shaking hands, getting kissed.
- Something very new — Springsteen is now taking requests by signs! Apparently this started during the European leg of the tour. Fans have been holding sign requests for years but now it’s part of the show — several times, Springsteen asked people for signs, looked them over, and chose one and played the song. It was almost like a night at the improv!
- There wasn’t a lull at all tonight — no breaks, just great song after great song, and a lot of surprises
Setlist: Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Radio Nowhere / Lonesome Day / No Surrender / Adam Raised a Cain / Spirit in the Night / Summertime Blues / Brilliant Disguise / Atlantic City / Growin’ Up / Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart / I’ll Work for Your Love / Youngstown / Murder Incorporated / The Promised Land / Livin’ in the Future / Mary’s Place / Working on the Highway / Tunnel of Love / The Rising / Last to Die / Long Walk Home / Badlands
Encore: Girls in Their Summer Clothes / Jungleland / Born to Run / Bobby Jean / Dancing in the Dark / American Land / Rosalita
“Hello Jersey!” As Springsteen took the stage and the music for Tenth Avenue Freeze-out began, Springsteen paced the stage, playfully encouraging the audience to increase the volume of their singing. He kept smiling, as if to say, “Nope, louder,” and kept it up for a few minutes before plopping down in front of the mic and then slowly climbing up to behind the song — not sure what that was about! Clarence still gets cheers at the line, “Change was made up town and the Big Man joined the band!”
Radio Nowhere – Springsteen didn’t start this one with his trademark, “Is there anybody alive out there” but just ripped into it. To be honest, vocals seemed just a little rough. Steve’s inclusion in this one was good.
Lonesome Day – Beloved, amazingly powerful and beautiful. Soozie Tyrell, who has added so much to Springsteen’s music, shines on this track; it would be hard to imagine anyone else playing violin on “Lonesome” (or many of the other “Rising” tunes). Love it. Crowd was on their feet cheering.
No Surrender – Gone is the boring acoustic version; we’re back to the hard-rocking 1985 version from BITUSA. No surrender is an ANTHEM; it should always be played this way, full blown.
Adam Raised a Cain – I admit it, I screamed with joy when the opening riff of “Adam” began. Classic “Darkness” track that gets better every time I hear it.
Spirit in the Night – “Can you fffffffffeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllll the spirit?” Springsteen asks like a preacher, and the crowd goes crazy. He sits down on the stage — what’s going on? He’s right next to the pit, closer, closer. The fans go wild. He’s singing right next to people. One fan steals a kiss and squeals. The crowd goes insane! A great gift to the faithful tramps.
Now it’s time for the new custom – the signs! Hundreds of people are holding up handmade signs with song titles. “Let’s see what you got!” Springsteen begins collecting the myriad of colorful signs with song requests. “That’s a good one,” “That’s a good summer song,” etc. Then… He’s makes his choice. “How’s your summer going?” he asks — the crowd’s response makes him add that we don’t sound so good and he bursts into… Summertime Blues! - Always a fun song and Clarence’s deep-voiced “boss-man” voice is still hilarious: “I’d like to help you son but you’re too young to vote!” (Made more amusing by the realization that Springsteen’s eldest son is about 18 now!)
Brilliant Disguise – In-credible. I don’t believe Springsteen’s played this song a great deal since the TOL tour, but Patti stepped up and the two nailed it. Springsteen on one diamond vision screen, Patti on the other — it was PERFECT.
Atlantic City – Another gift to the fans from the shore. This was definitely a Jersey-centric show and this classic was very well received.
Growin’ Up – This one was really sweet, performed at the request of a ten-year-old sign-holder. “This song was written… a quarter-century before you were born,” Springsteen told her, “So it must be good!” He then added, “Your daddy was a wink in his mama’s eye!” And later in the song, he added, “There you were: a little egg inside a little egg inside a little egg…. and meanwhile…” and then he exploded into, “Well the flag of piracy flew from my mast, my sails were set wing to wing!”
Janey, Don’t You Lose Heart – Dedicated this to his friend Jane. Nicely done.
Springsteen was collecting signs again and chose a particular one because
“extra artwork gets special attention” and broke into, I’ll Work for Your Love — Quite possibly one of the strangest tunes Springsteen has written in decades. This Catholic-icon riddled metaphor is just too silly to be taking seriously.
Youngstown – Damn powerful tune from “Tom Joad,” Youngstown is sung with blazing red/yellow lights illuminating Springsteen and the message is very poignant. I love the lyrics, particularly, “Seven hundred tons of metal a day / Now sir you tell me the world’s changed / Once I made you rich enough / Rich enough to forget my name.” All these years into his career and Springsteen is still speaking for the working man who did the dirty work at his own health expense while others got rich. One of the few tracks from GOTJ that I LOVE.
Murder Incorporated — The non-stop express just kept rolling as it barreled into this powerful classic. Incredible guitars here.
The Promised Land – That harmonica — what talent. When Springsteen plays the harmonica on this or on the acoustic “Born to Run,” or “Thunder Road,” or “The River,” — there is so much raw emotion and passion when he plays.
Livin’ in the Future - This is where Springsteen does his “speechifying” about American politics of the last eight years, rendition, wire tapping, and surprisingly, there were boos — not the “Brrrrruuuuuuuuuuuccceeeee” sound but real boos. But when he mentioned an attack on the constitution the crowd went wild and applauded. Either they know the message or they didn’t want to hear it tonight – dunno. The “magic” album is replete with subtle (and not so subtle, in your face) references to the current war and state of affairs in America. This is one that captures it best. Love it.
Mary’s Place – Clocking in at 14 minutes, this has become one of the signature “house party” songs for the band (despite the lyrics indicating a wake). Springsteen dedicated it to a man named Wayne Myers, and did the “preacher” speech about building a house by the river of love, and the river of hope, and the river of compassion… We counted six houses and all, prompting me to comment that we knew Springsteen was rich but now he’s just flaunting that wealth and that he can build all those houses! David added that the flood insurance would be expensive. You never know what Springsteen will hilariously “preach” about and tonight it was about building the houses by the rivers and we had to come with him. He remarked he was glad the rain held off. He was really playing to the fans, just soaking it all in. Speaking of soaking, as he doused himself with his water-sponge he sprinkled some on the fans and said, “Jersey baptism — it’s good for the soul!” He did the knee-slide (at age 58, that’s damned impressive) and seemed to be having a great time. The crowd loved it.
Working on the Highway – “One of our road songs!” David said as Springsteen started this BITUSA classic. Great job on this one. Fun song.
Tunnel of Love - Certainly a surprise — during the TOL tour this was with few exceptions the opener and was prefixed with a long intro — tonight it was drums and barreled right into it. Patti was playing scorching guitar and her vocals sound fantastic. Love this song.
The Rising – I still get chills thinking of the firefighters on 9/11 when I hear this one. I was singing along with this one and I happened to catch David with his eyes closed and hand over his heart. “Best lyrics ever,” David said. They ARE incredible beautiful and powerful: “I see you Mary in the garden / In the garden of a thousand sighs / There’s holy pictures of our children / Dancing in a sky filled with light / May I feel your arms around me / May I feel your blood mix with mine / A dream of life comes to me / Like a catfish dancing on the end of my line”
Last to Die – Maybe it’s just me, but I think Springsteen is not in favor of the war. I could be reading too much into it, though. Discuss.
Long Walk Home – I love this and it is fantastic live. Another subtle nod to today’s politics: “You know that flag flying over the courthouse / Means certain things are set in stone / Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t.” Great vocals by Steve as well.
Badlands – I hate to admit it because the crowd was on its feet and the lights were up but Badlands just feels like it needs a rest. I love the song but there are SO many other Bruce songs out there, why keep using this one? See also Born to Run (below)
Girls in Their Summer Clothes – For the encore (7 songs worth!) the rain began, just a little bit so many people began ducking in the ramp alcoves for cover. Springsteen talked about the local food bank and encouraged support for them. He then added that he was dedicated the next song to “One special Jersey girl,” and we assumed he would play the very appropriate Jersey Girl but he broke into Girls in their summer clothes. Awesome.
Jungleland – Here’s an amazing track from the BTR album that just doesn’t get played enough. Definitely another gift for the faithful.
Born to Run – I’ve said it before and I know it’s definitive Springsteen but BTR needs to be retired for a few years. It just doesn’t do anything for me anymore. The crowd obviously disagreed as the lights came up and everyone went crazy, but Springsteen has a catalog of perhaps 1000 songs (released and unreleased) — play something else! Maybe it’s like Jimmy Buffet always playing Margaritaville — the fans would be disappointed if he didn’t. For me, I’d just like something different.
Bobby Jean – Springsteen stepped into the spotlight and said, “This song was written for and is dedicated tonight to my dear friend Bobby Gillis of Foxboro Massachusetts, who tells me my music has made such a difference in his life.”
OK, that most certainly did not happen but I love this one. The version of “Bobby Jean” on Springsteen’s “Live 1975-1985″ is from August 21, 1985 — the very night, in this very stadium, where we attended the first Springsteen show. I want this one played at my funeral (“Bobby G.,” sounds enough like “Bobby Jean” to make it work.)
Dancing in the Dark – Springsteen didn’t pull a girl on stage for this one — and I half expected him to do so given the level of audience involvement tonight — but still a great tune.
American Land – this new classic celebrates all the generations of immigrants who came here in search of the gold-paved streets and worked to make the nation great. That and the Celtic party beat make this a keeper.
Rosalita – Rosie is probably THE quintessential Springsteen song and closing with it tonight was another gift to the tramps. Thanks, Boss!
Yes, the first show back in the states had some bumps and a few strained vocals, but was an unexpected powerhouse, a three hour plus set of 30 songs and contained many surprises. It was great to see the man in his hometown again, and return to where it all began for me. Great show.
God, I love Springsteen.
As the four of us we left Giants Stadium to the last throes of Rosalita and the smell of incredibly burnt (read: incinerated) pretzels, I was amazed that all these years later, David’s and my shared love of Bruce Springsteen — and our thirty-year friendship — is still thriving. It felt good.
On to Foxboro!