To write about Bruce Springsteen is to write about forty years and hundreds of songs across more than twenty albums. The Boss has sold out the enormous Giants Stadium more than fifty times in just twenty years; in one night at Giants Stadium, Springsteen plays to more fans than most bands play to all year. It’s that massive.
In front of a soldout crowd in chilly East Rutherford, Springsteen arrived on stage at 8:15 and began with “Wrecking Ball”, a brand new song unveiled to commemorate his final shows at Giants Stadium (the building is being replaced with the brand new $1.4B Meadowlands Stadium). “I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey some misty years ago,” Springsteen sang for a fitting eulogy. “Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I’ve seen champions come and go.”
A string of Nebraska cuts followed, including the non-album take on “Atlantic City”. The crowd-pleasing singalong “Hungry Heart” snuck into the middle of two Working on a Dream songs before the setlist took a sharp turn: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band set their sights on 1975′s Born to Run.
“Thunder Road” began with Springsteen on harmonica and exploded into a full Band experience. Powered by saxophonist Clarence Clemons, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was enormous; rarely seen “Night” sounded great. The anthemic “Backstreets” united the crowd and concluded the first half of Born to Run.
Springsteen and his Band performed a colossal rendition of the album’s title track; “She’s the One” followed and sounded great. The powerful “Meeting Across the River”, featuring a trumpet solo from Curt Ramm, was played for just the second time this decade before a thunderous performance of “Jungleland” had the audience in a frenzy. Springsteen and the Band took a bow in a moment that found The Boss celebrating not only Born to But also the incredibly important E-Street Band that made the album come together in 1975.
Featuring a singalong with a random child in the audience, “Waiting on a Sunny Day” had the entire stadium singing, “I’m waitin’, waitin’ on a sunny day, gonna chase the clouds away, waitin’ on a sunny day”. Two more cuts from The Rising, including the staple title track, and a few from Darkness on the Edge of Town rounded out the end of Springsteen’s set before the E-Street Band started what was technically an encore with “Raise Your Hand”, a ’60s hit written by Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd, and Alvertis Isbell.
The next few songs were requests, taken by Springsteen in the most diplomatic fashion: fans were encouraged to toss cardboard signs on stage of the songs they wanted to hear. The Boss raced around the crowd collecting signs, some of which were used as stage decoration (“It’s Boss Time” was placed in front of drummer Max Weinberg). “The E-Street Shuffle” (which, according to The Boss isn’t a dance at all) was the first of the requests. “Growin’ Up” followed; midway through the song Springsteen recounted a recent dream about his sixtieth birthday, which led to an impromptu “Happy Birthday” song from the crowd.
Folk-singer and guitarist Willie Nile joined the Band for the next three songs, including an excellent cover of Stephen C. Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More”. “American Land” was a great, and “Dancin’ in the Dark” was the night’s biggest singalong…
…that is until The Boss screamed “Hey Patti, won’t you come out tonight?”, a reference to his wife and E-Street Band member Patti Scialfa who was curiously absent from the performance. The line was also a reference to “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song tells the story about a musician and his love, the titular Rosalita. In New Jersey, there is no bigger Bruce Springsteen song. At Giants Stadium, there was no bigger singalong. The entire crowd couldn’t help but jump and dance to Springsteen’s rapid-fire delivery over the E-Street Band’s bouncy tune.
Anchored by the eight-song Born to Run, Springsteen’s two-hundred minute setlist spanned twenty-nine songs. With hundreds of songs at his disposal, The Boss should be commended on his set selection. The full set:
Working on a Dream
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Born to Run
She’s the One
Meeting Across the River
Waiting on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Into the Fire
Raise Your Hand (Eddie Floyd cover)
The E-Street Shuffle
Dancin’ in the Dark
Hard Times Come Again No More (Stephen C. Foster cover)
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band were absolutely amazing. To perform for more than three hours is no small feat, but to perform nearly thirty incredible songs during that time is astounding. Springsteen performed into exhaustion, frequently visiting the crowd and even dancing with an older woman who was pulled on stage during “Dancin’ in the Dark”.
It’s hard to imagine a better goodbye to Giants Stadium than a five-night stand from The Boss and his legendary E-Street Band, and the first night of those dates proved to be nothing short of spectacular. Oh, yeah, there were fireworks as well, as if it mattered. Springsteen’s performance was the focus of the evening, and everything else just slipped out of mind, into the swamps of Jersey.
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