Bruce Springsteen must wear really comfortable shoes. My black and battered Ben Shermans didn’t quite offer me the comfort and arch support needed to withstand the Boss’ three hour set at
The show started with a rousing rendition of “Summertime Blues,” the first of several covers that revealed Bruce’s rock roots. Hersheypark Stadium is really nothing more than your average college-level football arena, but it was perfect for Bruce and his band. Aside from some muddled sound early on – Clarence Clemons’ sax solo on “Radio Nowhere” was almost completely buried in the mix – the acoustics were top notch for such a big show. Visually, the show benefitted from three jumbo screens, two of which displayed the band for those of us 80 yards away. Granted, Bruce is pretty dang personable, and he’s the only man I’ve ever seen pull off a two-hour, solo/acoustic set at a venue like the Wachovia Spectrum, but the screens helped clue us in to what other concertgoers were feeling.
Last year’s Magic didn’t dominate the set list too much, allowing the band to take requests from the audience after solid performances of “Out in the Street,” “Spirit in the Night,” and “Promised Land.” Bruce and “Little Stevie” Van Zandt pulled signs bearing song titles from the crowd, and while some of the choices were weird (“
Beginning with distorted harmonica and yells, “Reason to Believe” recalled the grainy yet powerful aura one gets from spinning old blues recordings. When the band joined Bruce, it got even better. “At the end of every hard-earned day / people find some reason to believe” is repeated throughout the song, something Springsteen clearly wanted to impart on people this Tuesday night. He’s finally managed to integrate some hope into his more politically leaning songs (People unite under anthems, you know), allowing his introductory speech about the meaning of “Livin’ in the Future” (The Patriot Act is bad) to not drag as much. “Reason to Believe” is also a cousin of sorts to “
Of course, another way to make people feel hopeful is sex. I’ve read on the Internets that it makes folks feel mighty fine. At 58 years old, Bruce Springsteen is still sexy. Not just in his tender odes to loving (“Prove It All Night,” “She’s the One,” and a holy-shit-this-really-happened performance of the Springsteen/Patti Smith tune “Because the Night”), but in his demeanor. Bruce plays up a preacher persona on stage, but less discussed is how damn flirtatious he can be. Three thoughts were visible on a blonde woman’s face as the television screens displayed Springsteen, dressed in a tight black button-down and jeans, sprawled out in front of her: 1) I could felate Bruce Springsteen, 2) Everyone can see me thinking about felating Bruce Springsteen, and 3) I could felate Bruce Springsteen. Hearing 30,000 people laugh at the same time is quite the sound, and Bruce played it up. Side note: Did I mention Patti wasn’t here?
Aside from a beyond bizarre performance of the obscure “Part Man, Part Monkey,” a song Bruce liked enough to put on not one, but two rarities compilations, the second half of the regular set was perfect. Magic’s “Last to Die” and “Long Walk Home,” along with “
As great as the two-hour regular set was, and it was pretty flippin’ great, the encore was somehow even better. Hearing the twinkling piano of “Because the Night” was a big moment for me, but hearing a certain other twinkling piano part, this time accompanied by harmonica, was even bigger.
Given that there’s only one road to get to and from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I can understand the logic behind leaving at any point during the encore. However, anyone that did so is still a massive fool. Following “
The set-up was perfect: As they dragged out the clamor of “Born of Run,” Springsteen and Van Zandt pointed stage left, out to the bleachers. The cameras cut to a hand-made banner saying “Rosie.” Back to Bruce and Stevie, pointing more emphatically. Back to the banner. The fans go crazy. Back to the band, nodding their heads in affirmation. Cue the jangly guitar and the funky sax and that ever-lovin’ organ that mark the opening to “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight).” Like the sighting of a rare white elk, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band tore through this beloved classic. Adding some more funk via “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” ensured that this would be the most spoiled crowd ever. At least until Bruce decides to play Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. in its entirety.
In spite of all of these jaw-dropping choices, the show still wasn’t over (I know!). There was a pointed performance of “