New Jersey’s Brendan Byrne Arena threw a welcoming party for the state’s favorite son, and that son, Bruce Springsteen, delivered his trademark rock ‘n’ roll marathon to a crowd of adoring fans.
A lot of time has passed since Springsteen last played in the Garden State. During that time away, a lot has happened to the artist and his music. Two kids, a new wife, two albums –“Lucky Town” and “Human Touch”– that debuted high on the charts and have since gone into a freefall. On top of that he parted ways with the E Street Band, a group of fellow Jerseyites with whom Springsteen recorded a massive collection of quality music.
But Springsteen’s music has never been about chart success. Instead, it’s been about the people who buy the tickets to his shows. Each concert outing was a three- or four-hour journey into a land of homespun lyrics built around the age-old stories of boy meeting girl and working-class struggles. Where other artists simply walk through stage shows, Springsteen left skid marks as he bared his soul.
At midnight, over 20,000 fans headed for home seemingly happy.
For the artist, his first U.S. outing since 1988 with a new band was like bringing a new girlfriend home to the family; except the family really liked the old one. Springsteen had been backed by the E Streeters for nearly 20 years, and when he let them go, diehard fans were mystified and upset.
But the new band performed well and the crowd seemed to accept it. Springsteen opened the show with “Better Days” from “Lucky Town” and rolled through more than three hours of songs before the night was over.
The pace of this outing was a bit slower than normal for Springsteen, though still exciting, moving and enjoyable. Yet it took most of the 12-song first set before Springsteen and the band hit their stride. While his shows used to be filled with songs of struggle and despair (tinged with a certain fatalistic hope), the new Springsteen is putting a lot of emphasis on family values, love and finding one’s self.
The band handled the new material and the classics well, although there were some points during the older tunes when the sound of Clarence Clemons’ blazing saxophone was noticeably absent. And perhaps Max Weinberg’s drums were missing from “Born in the U.S.A.,” which would blow the roof off in past outings but was a tad weaker this time.
Unlike past shows, however, Springsteen was uncharacteristically active on the guitar, creating potent solos on songs like “LocalHero” and “Lucky Town.”
Springsteen relied on songs from his two latest albums to introduce his new band and new approach to music. But when he did dig into the song treasure chest he came out with winners. From the poignant and moving “The River” to a stripped-down “Thunder Road” to the teen anthem “Born to Run,” Springsteen connected with the audience.
The show’s momentum seemed to slow only on one of the new slower tunes. But when Springsteen took the stage for the seven-song encore, he seemed right at home.
Clearly the encore was a boiling point for the show, powered by songs such as “Glory Days,””Working on the Highway,””Bobby Jean,””Hungry Heart” and an all-out version of “Born to Run.” Springsteen chose to send his fans home on a mellow note with “My Beautiful Reward.”
Springsteen had a lot to prove going into this show. When the show was over, fellow Garden Staters had accepted and welcomed him home.