backstreets.com - photographer unknown
backstreets.com – photographer unknown

by Robert Gillis

Oh, man… Of the seven Bruce shows I’ve seen in my life, I think last night was the best (or second best) after Worcester 88. The fans were REALLY into to it and Bruce played the greatest oldies, his very best, and the party songs (and new stuff!). Played over three hours. Unbelievable. I still can’t talk much from all the singing.

To be honest, I wasn’t at all psyched up about the show — not one bit. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the man in concert, and besides all the work stresses this past month, I was treating it as a non-event. Almost, “Oh, yeah, Thursday is the Bruce show.”

Man, was I wrong. This was mind-blowing.

The people we sat with last night had seen three of the other Fleet shows and said last night was the best. Surprisingly, Sue had an AWESOME time. While she’s never been a Bruce fanatic and didn’t know many of the older songs, she was dancing and hugging me. She said she had “new respect” for Bruce (who she’s only marginally liked in the past) and said he put on an incredible show and impressed her.

The show started a little after 8, with the E Street Band filing out one by one to the stage (no music, just applause). Clarence, who’s gained a lot of weight but is still a great sax player, got the most applause besides Bruce. Don’t agree with David’s comment that he was “mailing in” his performance, but he definitely can’t keep us with Bruce anymore. He doesn’t have the energy.

I had really no idea what Bruce was going to be playing; according the Lucky Town digest he’s mixed the playlist around every night. In fact, according to what I read on the digest the set lists were VERY different EACH NIGHT. For example, in other Fleet shows he’s opened some nights with “Adam Raised a Cain” and also played “Jungleland” and “Mansion on the Hill” and “Trapped.”

Bruce is talking much less on this tour than ever before, preferring to play more songs. Also, this was a distinctly “HAPPY” show. Nothing from Tunnel of Love, Human Touch or Nebraska. With few exceptions, this was an all-out party.

Bruce and the band were on fire all night; Bruce was clearly into the show (Patty and Clarence a little less so) and his guitars and harmonica solos were scotching. The Boss looks fantastic. Hair definitely receding, but despite looking a little seasoned he looks terrific. He was CLEARLY into the show!

Backstreets: He opened with one of my very favorites. And from the first words, I knew this was going to be an awesome set. He sounded great.

Ties that bind. A lot of fun. The crowd really extended the ties that “BYE-EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE- EYE — NNNND.

Prove it all night. Incredible. I recall that he did this one in Worcester 1992. My God, what an anthem. Love this one. The crowd, of course, went crazy.

Two hearts (with Steve). Fun song, never a favorite.

Promised Land: Loved it. “Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man!”

Factory was done much slower than usual, with an almost country twang. Haunting. Unforgettable. The lights on Bruce for this song were harsh blues and red — very effective.

Bruce’s new arrangement of The River blew everyone away. It began with a long sax intro by Clarence, with what I thought of as a Jazzy-Blues sounds. This segued into Bruce’s harmonica with the same musical motif, again, long, blues, melodic, sensual, dark. Then … A not quite acoustic but definitely not full blown out “River,” then fading into the same sax music. IN-CRED-IBLE.

Youngstown is NOT one of my favorite Bruce CDs but I do like this song with its rift of “My sweet Jenny.” Nice rendition of this one.

Murder Incorporated WOW! We were screaming by this time. Never heard this one live either but it’s always been a killer favorite. They NAILED this one. Bruce’s guitar playing was furious! We were dancing so much it hurt, pounding our fists into the air: “Bobby’s got a gun that he keeps beneath his pillow!”

Badlands. Solid rendition of this song.

Out on the street Here’s a song that’s fairly canned on the “River” album but is INCREDIBLE live. I remember Daria singing OH-OH-UH-OH at the 85 show. Bruce really had the crowd into this one.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out was incredible, and Bruce used it to introduce the band, telling an amusing story of being lost in the woods, searching for the river of life. “I want to go to the river of life,” Bruce says, “I want you to go with me. And I commit to go with you.”

He continued, promising love, companionship, and “cold beer at a reasonable price.” He told us of a kind gypsy “sitting in front of a red Mercedes Benz.” The gypsy tells him, “You’re walking alone because you won’t give it up. You’ve got to give it up sometimes. You’ve got to surrender sometimes … ” The she adds, “You need a band. You need knowledge” then he introduced Roy. “You need some mightiness and strength and rhythm” (for Max). “You need some mystery (for Phantom Dan Federici.) “Love and Companionship” (Patty) and it was here Bruce started singing “My Girl” to Patty. He introduces Clarence with the usual preamble (“DO I HAVE TO SPEAK HIS NAME? DO I HAVE TO SAY HIS NAME?!!”) Then Bruce unplugs his guitar and leaps off the stage, walking up and down the aisle by the left side of the stage playing guitar for at least half a minute before he climbs back onstage.

For you: This has NEVER been a favorite of mine; I headed to get a $2.25 pretzel at this point, but rushed back in time for …

Working on the Highway was a lot of fun; extended drums at the beginning,

Ghost of Tom Joad. Bruce dedicated this one to the Boston Food Bank.

Racing in the street Oh, man, what can I say. This one gave me (and the thousands of others) chills. It just doesn’t get any better than hearing the opening piano notes of this one and knowing it’s coming.

During a dynamic and energetic Light of Day Bruce brought the lights up and became a preacher. He sang of being “resuscitated … rededicated … regenerated … reliberated … resexualized …” He “rapped” all the towns he’s been to, such, and added, “Unlike my competitors, I can’t promise you life everlasting, but I will promise you life … right now.”

Stand on it: Crowd liked it and Bruce did a good job, but NEVER one of my favorites. Bruce climbed on the piano at one point.

Hungry Heart. The house lights are all on, and the crowd starts singing. Loved it. Bruce starts walking around, and near the end a woman climbs up on stage and hugs him. Bruce cries out in mock terror, “Security!”

Credit: crystal-dog.blogspot.com
Credit: crystal-dog.blogspot.com

All the lights came up again for a extraordinary Born to Run. You would have thought by this time you were on the Born in the USA tour. He followed this with Thunder Road

If I Should Behind. Wow. Done quietly, but nearly everyone in the band: Nils, Steve, Clarence (huge applause for him) and Patty sang a line. Really nice. Steven had a very funny line: “I came for you, if I should fall behind, come for me.” And near the end they were all pretending to fight over who would sing next, grabbing the mike.

Ramrod. I went crazy. To quote Janice on “Friends:” “Oh … My … Gawd!” RAMROD! For me, the most memorable of the night — I was dancing so much I was in pain the next day. Never heard this one live, but the whole crowd knew it. We were crazy at this point. “There’s a cute little chapel nestled in the pines.” Man. No words describe how good this one was. Ramrod — a new ultimate Bruce favorite.

Hope and Dreams. The
kids in front of us had asked if I ever heard this one — Bruce just wrote it. Awesome, beautiful song.

I realize just how much I’ve missed Bruce.

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