Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band April 13, 2008 American Airlines Center
Better than: Actually going to New Jersey and having to put up with all the meatheads on the Shore.
Texans got all the New Jersey they could possibly handle at the American Airlines Center last night.
Sure, most of the credit goes to Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band—but the crowd obviously expected their presence; they were the performers listed on the ticket stubs. The real icing on the big, fat New Jersey-filled cake Texans got served last night came four songs into the encore of Springsteen’s two-and-a-half hour set when fellow New Jersey rock icon Jon Bon Jovi joined the Boss and Co. on stage for a performance of the song “Glory Days.”
The appearance was a tad unexpected, although not altogether surprising (Bon Jovi is scheduled to play the AAC on Monday night), and the crowd offered the show’s special guest quite the warm welcome—especially the women in the audience, who shrieked with glee. But Bon Jovi only stayed on stage for that one song. He knew his place; this was Bruce’s show from the second he entered the arena. And, man, did the Boss ever deliver.
The guy’s a true performer. He plays to all parts of the arena, making eye contact and waving to individual crowd members, and he does it all with just the right amount of swagger—even his clichéd rock star poses are incredibly endearing and enviably cool instead of just plain tired and hokey.
(It helps that he just might be the coolest person on the planet.)
There were plenty of highlights throughout the night: Springsteen’s jokes about leaving his three teenagers back home while he and his wife, E Street violinist Patti Scialfa, went out on tour (“The pot brownies were coming out of the oven before we left”); his banter with a particularly “wild bunch” near the stage (a group of tweenagers Springsteen would later invite on stage with him during the encore); and obviously, the music itself.
The biggest hits with the crowd, to no surprise, were the bigger commercial hits he and the band performed: “Radio Nowhere”;
Patti Smith’s “Because the Night” (a mainstay in Springsteen’s cover stable) which, as everyone in the universe knows, is a Bruce-penned song; “Badlands”; and the encore performances of “Jungleland,” “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark.”
If there was anything to knock about the evening’s set list—and, believe me, finding fault in a show like this takes some serious nitpicking—it was the fact that eight of the songs performed come from Springsteen’s latest release, 2007’s Magic. Clearly, these songs went over the heads of many in the audience. That’s a shame, too, given that a few of these tracks—“Girls in The Summer Clothes” and “Livin’ in the Future” in particular—fit perfectly in the mold of the most classic Bruce tracks. And yet, while performing a number of these songs, Springsteen had to go above and beyond in calling out for crowd participation. And, unfortunately, his energy wasn’t wholly matched throughout the evening.
Given that this isn’t the northeast, I guess that’s to be expected. At Bruce concerts in that part of the country—where I grew up and had previously seen his live show—it doesn’t take nearly as much effort from the Boss man. There, Springsteen fandom is seemingly ingrained in the minds of the people. Here, it takes a little more work.
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Although the crowd disappointed to some extent (for the record: If you’re going to a Springsteen show so you can “sit and enjoy” the music, you’re probably too old for the live music experience anyway), Springsteen didn’t—not in the slightest—and neither did The E Street Band who were, as always, in top (if underappreciated) form.
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: Like I said, I’m from the northeast. So, yes, I’m a fan. And so are all my friends.
Random Note: Last night was drummer Max Weinberg’s 57th birthday. If you don’t know Max from his E Street ties, you likely know him from these ones.
By The Way: Yes, in case you were wondering, Bruce did knock the Bush administration. But that's no shocker. --Pete Freedman