BY ADAM BONANNI “How does he do it?” was the question that lingered in my mind up to The Boss’s appearance at the Spectrum Wednesday night. Over 30 years of touring, and I couldn’t imagine him mustering up the same kind of energy rushing through me as I headed down Broad St. to see him with the rip-roarin E Street Band for the very first time! Which only proves the shortcomings of my imagination, because the guy put out like a man half his age. Taking the stage with the ground-shaking opener “Thundercrack,” Springsteen was smiling ear to ear, eyes skyward, making direct eye contact with the cheap seats, as if to say ‘I’m still lookin’ out for the little guy.’ Couldn’t help but do the same myself, although, unlike The Boss, I wasn’t looking at a banner that said I had sold out every seat in the Spectrum 47 times.
Every song was an absolute pleasure for Springsteen and the E Street Band to work through, and it’s doubtful I’ll see another family of musicians so seasoned and at home on stage. Even songs like “Hungry Heart,” which has probably been done to death and back onstage, was given a rowdy spin. Trading his pipes for the register of 18,000 voices, Springsteen allowed his audience to sing alongside the band as he busied himself with a run through the crowd. “Can we do it?” The Boss shouted as he allowed a hundred people to hoist him across the floor back to the stage. This may be a spectacle performed at every one of his shows, but to witness such an enthusiastic and excited bond between and a superstar of his caliber, I’d believe you if you said it was the first time he’s pulled this off. Which is sorta the magic of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, I suppose — they make every night feel like the first time.
Things got a bit more serious when he settled into the heart of his show; tonight’s centerpiece was a full run through Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s an album I find myself returning to, but I feel, as Springsteen himself conceded many do, its tough what to make of it compared against its predecessor Born to Run. At any rate, its clear the album holds a great deal of meaning for all of us gathered here tonight. Anthems like “Badlands” and “The Promised Land” sent the crowd into a fervor, while “Racing in the Street” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” had the arena hanging on his every word. Springsteen bookended the tail-end of Darkness with a dozen or so of his greatest hits, unable to resist playing “Born to Run” one more time. On stage at least, he’s a young man again, living vicariously through his storied back catalogue, cruising through the Jersey wilds of a gloriously misspent youth, chrome wheel fuel-injected and stepping out over the line. Hail, hail, rock n’ roll!
DAN DELUCA: On this three-hours-plus night, which began boisterously with the roller-rink organ obscurity “Seaside Bar Song” and ended with the final, delirious release of “Rosalita,” Springsteen found himself in the same old dump that he had played 32 times before. “The Spectrum will live forever!,” he bellowed early on, celebrating the grimy old venue that he first performed at in 1973, and where he played his first arena-sized headlining gig anywhere, in October 1976. The album Springsteen was promoting at the time was Born to Run, the breakthrough opus that turned him into a household name to readers of Time and Newsweek. And it was that operatic tour de force that Springsteen chose to perform in its entirety at the first of his final four shows at the Spectrum, which will close its doors for good after a final Pearl Jam show on Halloween. MORE