PHILADELPHIA, Pa. –
“Go see him in Philly.”
That’s what Bruce Springsteen’s longtime PR rep told me earlier this summer when I expressed a desire to see him play a stadium. I assumed New Jersey would be the primo location, but she convinced me otherwise.
“His Philly shows are always amazing.”
I’m glad I listened.
Sunday night I met my faithful concert partner, my cousin Mike, up north to hit the first of Springsteen’s two nights at Citizens Bank Park (why pass up an opportunity to visit Tony Luke’s, too?).
Many of us – guilty as charged- use the word epic to describe things that might not quite reach that level, but no doubt, this night was the definition of epic.
By the end of a marathon three-hour-40-minute set, Springsteen was soaked from both sweat and water that he doused himself with from a sponge — and probably 10 pounds lighter from when the show began.
It is unbelievable that the guy turns 63 this month. His energy is unflagging (though he did look wiped by the finale of “Twist and Shout”), his obvious joy of performing is contagious and his interest in freshness is commendable.
This is a show that has morphed tremendously since the tour kickoff in Atlanta in March. Yeah, that was one great, for sure. But since this super-sized version of the E Street Band has had time to gel on a jaunt that has already traveled the globe and continues through December, they’re able to mix up the set list like jigsaw puzzle pieces and grab a few fan requests in the process.
On Sunday, Springsteen greeted the 45,000-plus who packed the home of the Phillies with a smile, open arms and the declaration, “My people!”
His opening quartet of songs – Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” “Out in the Street,” “Sherry Darling” and “Hungry Heart” – were designed to set the mood for an end-of-summer “house party” as he called it. Those who were there were thankful to have gotten an invite.
As is the case with any Springsteen show, the set list zigged and zagged with surprises such as “Human Touch” – a recent addition to the tour – and requests fulfilled for “Cadillac Ranch” and Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” which Springsteen said the band hadn’t played live in 20 years. While not perfect, its rugged delivery had heart, which was all that mattered at that point.
Given the proximity to his home state, Springsteen also brought out Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl,” a song that my colleague – and Springsteen fan – Aaron Gould Sheinin remarked was “the best song [Springsteen] never wrote.”
I can’t keep up with the rotating Springsteen set lists like some fanatics out there, but I think this was the first tour appearance for “Jersey” (check the ever-thorough http://www.backstreets.com/setlists.html for confirmation.)
Springsteen had played nearly three hours before the encore began and was probably running on pure adrenaline through part of it.
The band’s live renditions of “Born to Run” have always been some of my favorite concert experiences, with the houselights up and fans singing and thrusting fists to the anthem. But it was truly spine-tingling in stadium form (I’ve seen Springsteen both solo and with the E Streeters more than a dozen times, but this was my first stadium experience).
The tear-inducing tribute to Clarence Clemons rang loud and long during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” but it was a tremendous run through “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” that cemented the show’s awesomeness.
Springsteen has been on fire lately, no doubt. But although even his recent stadium shows in Boston didn’t quite hit the 30-song mark, our Philly date produced a 33-song set list.
See. Told ya it was epic.