Thursday, April 13, 2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: Live Around NYC - Spring 2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band: Live Around NYC - Spring 2023
4/1 Madison Square Garden, 4/3 Barclay's Center, 4/11 UBS Arena

Three nights, three separate arenas, over nine hours of music, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band brought their larger-than-life rock show to the New York City area these past few days and delivered the goods, yet again.

I was lucky enough to catch them on my own mini-tour, at Madison Square Garden (4/1), Barclays Center (4/3) and UBS Arena (4/11) and was incredibly impressed by each outing with almost nothing critical to say.

Only a complete cynic or a fool could deny the power of this band which has been at it for over fifty years and still manages to blow it all out, song after song. When you consider the ages of the core group members – now in their seventies – the experience of seeing this outfit is nothing less than shocking.

Rather than cruise-control retirement shows they still give total effort and display a burning desire to rock. When you add in the five-piece horn section (Curt Ramm, Barry Danielian, Eddie Manion, Jake Clemons, Ozzie Melendez) and four backup singers (Curtis King Jr., Lisa Lowell, Michelle Moore, Ada Dyer) the incredibly full-bodied propulsion gives lift-off to the arena ready numbers. The motor of the whole production is, the about to turn seventy-two-year-old Max Weinberg whose drumming (highlighted particularly during the propulsive “Candy’s Room” on two of the nights) is fierce and a force to be reckoned with by anyone half his age.

Then there is The Boss himself, who, while perhaps not as active on stage as he once was, sings as strong as ever, is playing more leads than you might remember and continues to take his adoring fanbase in the palm of his hand and place them close to his heart each show. Simply put, the seventy-three-year-old is one of the great showmen in rock history and while I get tired standing for three hours a night watching, he seems like he could keep going another hour plus if the venues let him.

The three concerts stayed predominately to the same script with each era of Bruce’s robust career getting an airing. Like the early days of the looser freewheeling outfit? Then you are rewarded with a jazzy, solo filled “Kitty’s Back” and a percussion heavy “E-Street Shuffle”, the grooviest performance of this admittedly grooves deficient outfit. Revel in more recent memories with a splash of heartache? Perhaps “Wrecking Ball”, “Last Man Standing” or “The Rising” will get your hands raised and tears flowing. The desire is there for a few covers? “Nightshift” is smooth and “Trapped” had two airings to huge crowd reactions Want hits? You are in luck; they never seem to stop.

Every night, three songs into the show, the band started “Prove It All Night” and each performance was a highlight. Max slammed the band forward, while Bruce delivers a searing closing solo with a crashing crescendo; 99% of rock bands would kill to close a show with this gem of a song, and E-Street are only three songs in. Not enough? “The Promised Land” arrives two songs later and with his harmonica, pinch of Americana and a hefty dose of good old rock and roll; The Boss and company proceed to tear the roof open again.

It speaks to his incredible career that Springsteen can still fill up arenas so expertly with super hits. Efforts like “Out in the Street” and “Backstreets” had the last rows in the buildings up and singing with unparalleled crowd responses. Each night also saw special songs arrive for the first time this tour. The Ranger fans in the Garden were treated to a beautiful “Jungleland”, the Brooklyn bums found out that “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” and Long Island felt the thundering synth bass and bomb blasts of “Born In the U.S.A”; each bust out kept his rabid fans delighted.

That is where the real magic unfolds, in the crowds, as the encores roll out and the lights are turned on in the arena. The predominantly older audience get a chance, perhaps their last, to connect with their hero through the songs of their youth. “Tenth Ave Freeze Out” is a joyous explosion, “Thunder Road” evokes powerful past decisions, “Rosalita” praises the sense of adventures yet to come while “Glory Days” hits hard, as the majority in attendance easily recognize the truth, humor, and honesty contained in that tune.

However, nothing can hold a candle to “Born to Run”. On this tour it is delivered with an incredibly potent horn section that captures the essence of arena rock like no other. The crowds sing and dance, envisioning past senses of freedom, the open road, a future that was there for them, closing too soon…only to be brought back to the present with the knowledge of being alive, now, and vitally experiencing this song. A pinnacle moment in any music going fan's life; “Born to Run” is mega.

Rapturous applause and chants of “Bruuuuce” follow every move that Springsteen makes, and as he still delivers performances like these, it is easy to see why. I am no super fan of Springsteen, but I am a super fan of rock and roll in all forms, and this meaty, bombastic, straight ahead banging with a soulful legendary center tour of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band can make a believer of all in attendance any night, in any arena, anywhere. See them while you can.

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