What can I say? Bruce Springsteen is 66 years old going on 67. He’s obviously made a pact with the devil. His three hour show with the famous E Street Band last night at Madison Square Garden was a total joy, an exercise in the fury and glory of rock and roll, unadorned, with no gimmickry and lots of Chuck Berry inspired riffs.
It was a total joy, as Springsteen et al played the whole 1980 album “The River,” which is full of little gems you’ve forgotten if you ever knew them– like “Fade Away” and “I Wanna Marry You” and “Crush on You” and “The Price You Pay.” They were lost but now they’ve been found, in addition to “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street,” and “Sherry Darling,” the album’s centerpieces.
But the real joy is the set that comes after “The River,” which last night included “Dancing in the Dark,” “Rosalita,” “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” and a cover of “Shout” that ended the show. They are the Bruce classics, and the band played them with the same freshness as if they were new. This is band full of commitment, like maybe it’s their last chance. Why? They’re all rich. Why bother? And yet, it’s a miracle. These men and women (Patti Scialfa, Soozie Tyrell) are devoted to their work. “Dancing in the Dark” is 30 years old, but it soars, with Bruce and Patti each pulling dance partners (a la Courteney Cox) from the audience (until Bruce finally kicked Patti’s guy off– enough).
This show had been postponed from Sunday because of the blizzard. The group hadn’t played since the 19th– eight days– and plus, this is New York, hometown. The audience was very eclectic — from “Sopranos” creator David Chase to actress Jill Hennessy to Constantine Maroulis from “American Idol” to former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer aka Client 9. Also, the Garden was at its absolute fullest. Want to see what “sold out” looks like? Every seat in every box up to the roof was filled. Plus, the floor was almost all standing, and they stood, Bruce’s fans, like asparagus stalks. There was no blocked view seating. It was really theater in the round.
And it is theater. Three hours, a bunch of senior citizens don’t sit down, don’t go to the bathroom, take a break. They rock their little hearts out. There are mistakes. Three times Bruce tried to start “I Wanna Marry You,” and had to stop– either he or the band “f—ed up” and he laughed, and they finally got it. They don’t have backing track or backup singers filling in, or AutoTune. It’s just raw, real, genuine. After seeing younger acts recently, I fear it’s the end of an era, too. In 20 years, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will seem quaint.
Shout outs to Steve van Zandt, more and more adding on vocals and sizzling guitar, and Nils Lofgren, who spins around on the stage while slicing chords. Jake Clemons honors his late uncle Clarence, with delicious horn re-enactments. Roy Bittan, Gary Tallent and Max Weinberg remain the heart of this insanely well oiled machine. PS Some nice duets with Bruce and Patti, and a little PDA at the end. Patti is the secret weapon of E Street, the MVP.