Few artists can successfully tour behind nearly 40 year-old material But when it’s in support of arguably the best double album of all time, it’s not an issue. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “The River” tour kicked off at an overstuffed Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh Saturday night to a sold out crowd of around 22,000. The show features the full album peppered into his trademark marathon and a stripped down, core only version of the E Street Band. Tom Morello is gone from the roster, as is the horn section, save for Jake Clemons, the late Big Man’s overly capable nephew. Without fanfare, the band strolled out promptly at eight o’clock marching single file.
After opening with “Meet Me In The City,” they tore through over 30 songs, including some choice outtakes. The clear highlight of that sub group and overall showstopper was the cover of the Patti Smith Group’s “Because The Night,” where Nils Lofgren twirled in his Mad Hatter ensemble and scorched one of the best seven minute solos in recent memory. Clemons proves to be a worthy successor to his late uncle Clarence, whether he shines out front with the dual solos on the extended version of “Drive All Night,” or subtly supplements the groove while the Boss wails on his Telecaster or Soozie Tyrell works the fiddle on “Cadillac Ranch.”
Most identify Springsteen as the quintessential rock star, but he is also one of music’s deepest thinkers. The somber tone exchange between father and son on ”Independence Day” was a direct contrast to the rowdy “Hungry Heart” sing along which followed as the crowd took two verses and the chorus. Springsteen looked relived at the chance to give his pipes a brief rest. The megahit ”The Ties That Bind” is about putting down roots and the album itself, he professed, is “ the record I was trying to find out where I fit in.” It is a voyage of self-discovery and finding your place in this world.
Before launching into “Rebel, Rebel, he tipped his cap to the recent passing of David Bowie, citing the Londoner’s support of his music dating back to 1973. He followed with the only number from “Born In The USA” where he pulled a young lady holding a sign that said, ”Be my last dance before I get married.” onstage for a local version Of the “Dancing The Dark” video that featured a young Courteney Cox many years ago. He closed out by digging deeper with “Rosalita” before tipping the three hour mark with “Shout.”
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