When watching Bruce Springsteen at work, the question “How old is he, again?” often comes to mind. The answer—he’s a chiseled 62—inspires a “No! Really?” Yes. For real. His full head of hair and the soul patch buttoned under his lip may be graying, but last night at Madison Square Garden for his Wrecking Ball tour stop in New York City there was no indication that The Boss was three years away from being eligible for retirement, or that he’d lost any of the pep in his step.
The concert, the second of two sold-out nights at the legendary venue, was an exercise in decades of excellence. In a navy shirt, black vest, jeans, and black boots, Springsteen and his E Street Band—including guitarist Steve van Zandt, wife Patti Scialfa, and drummer Max Weinberg—proved that rock doesn’t have to be a young man’s game. The hits, and there were many, dipped into his extensive catalogue that stretches back to the early ’70s.
There were no bells and whistles when he and the crew strolled onto the stage. In an era where most acts arrive to computer graphics and pyrotechnics, at 8:26pm they walked on to “New York, New York,” Frank Sinatra’s Big Apple homage with the venue fully lit. No drama, just Bruce and Co.
They opened with "Badlands,” from 1977’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. Next was “We Take Care of Our Own" from his latest effort Wrecking Ball.
There aren’t many other performers whose stage presence is as intense as Bruce. On “Wrecking Ball” when he sang, “Take your best shot/ Let me see what you've got” with his fist wagging, the idea that he might actually whoop your ass was worth considering.
Speaking of asses, Springsteen has got a few rules—number one being, “Get your lazy asses out of those chairs.” Singing along is a must at his shows. “You're all going home with sore feet and throats,” he yelled. Fair enough.
In addition to being an awesome drill sergeant, Bruce is a comedian of sorts. Before telling the audience that he felt like “an ambassador of love and peace,” bridging the gap between New York and New Jersey, the Asbury Park rocker took several jabs at NYC. “Where is Frank Sinatra from?” he asked. “’New York, New York’ happens to be sung by a man from New Jersey.” Then he shouted out the New York Giants, the NFL’s latest champions, quickly adding that they play their home games across the river.
The mood turned somber after brief dialogue about the recession and greedy Wall Street types. "My City of Ruins" and "Jack of Trades" followed, highlighted by blaring toots from the E Street Horns. But being the blue-collar beacon of hope that he is, spirits didn’t stay down for long. As he kicked into "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," Bruce pulled a boy out of the audience on stage to sing with. And that wasn’t the only time he got close with the crowd. At one point he went into the middle of the Garden floor, stood on a platform for a bit before falling, back first, into the audience. Yes, Springsteen did some crowd-surfing and, hand-by-fan hand, was gently plopped to the stage.
Later he’d dance with a little girl to “Rosalita.” And of course “Born to Run” got huge applause, as did “10th Avenue Freeze Out,” which featured a lengthy tribute to the late E Street sax man Clarence Clemons—his nephew Jake Clemons now plays in his place.
And that’s how the show wrapped, almost exactly three hours after it began. The appreciation Springsteen earned from male and female fans alike was astonishing, but well deserved. He’s a man’s man, and one the ladies in the house squealed for. But trust that "I love you, Bruce!" came from some tough guys, too.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)