How can it be possible, that after 40 years, in his early 60’s, the loss of what seemed like the bands essential member, that Bruce and the E Streeters are better than ever. What a powerful opening night. Two hours and 35 minutes, no breaks, just bringing the power. The band was in mid-tour form, the addtion of the horn section adds a depth to the sound that is remarkable. Seventeen players on stage at once, an incredible symphony of sound. And I will get it out of the way, Jake Clemons, Clarence’s nephew is a great sax player, took all of his uncle’s solos, and nailed each and every one of them. While Clarence can never be replaced, the music goes on and Jake fills that gigantic void, and the emotion of it being a Clemons in that spot is sometimes overwhelming, you can feel E Street Nation wanting him to succeed, a great deal of love is shared between Jake and the audience.
The band entered to James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, and they certainly did, right from the start with “We Take Car of Our Own” which is a tremendous show opener, great power, blows the roof right off the arena, and you virtually never sit down again. Badlands in the #3 slot, was great out of Wrecking Ball, and the horn section brings the E Street Shuffle to life. From the new CD Death to My Hometown is special, and powerful. I think the most telling thing I can say is that until late in the show, two hours in, arguably the only 2 songs Bruce had done, that would unquestionably be in his “top 10” most famous were Badlands and Thunder Road, and it didn’t matter, it had been a great show. Thunder Road was as good as I’ve even heard it, again taken to a new level by the horns. I think the encores were somewhat of a surprise, given the heaviness of the new material and the fact that these songs hadn’t been played in warmup shows at the Apollo and in Austin, but are the gospel/hip-hop Rocky Ground, the house lights went on and the band blasted into Born to Run. Now I had thought the song had possibly been retired, given its absence in the prior 2 shows, but not to be the case, it was as crisp as ever. Now I am one who can go without BTR, but it was solid tonight, and that was followed by a song I usually start packing up for, Dancing in the Dark, but tonight it smoked, and then American Land. The new finale seems to be Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, which the audience taking Clarences line of “kid you better get the picture” and then a dramatic pause after Bruce sings “and the big man joined the band” the band goes silent for what seemed like close to 2 minutes, while the audience roared with affection and nephew Jake pounded his heart and looked up. It was an emotional moment for sure…..Clarence will never be gone as long as they keep performing 10 Avenue.
All in all, an A+ show, yes Bruce can be a bit corny at times in his sixties, but he can still bring it like noone else. And let me not forget during Waiting on a Sunny Day Bruce runs into the middle of the floor pit and signs from a stage planted there, but then falls back on the hands of the audience and is passed hand by hand back to the stage, shades of Spirits in the Night and the 70’s.
Now on to Greensboro for show #2,