Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field | Photos and Review
They say you never should see how the sausage is made, but Bruce Springsteen’s sausage (so to speak) is more fascinating than most. That’s what made David Remnick’s 15,000 word New Yorker profile such a riveting read. Springsteen was practically a force of nature 40 years ago, and it was amazing to learn what it’s taken to counter the more mundane forces of nature now that the Boss is in his 60s: a hardcore workout regiment, regular trips to the therapist and even possibly, just maybe, the helpful shortcut of plastic surgery.
Yet watching Springsteen lead the latest, expanded iteration of the E Street Band at Wrigley Field Friday night, a band bolstered by horns, backup singers and, on this night, multiple assists from Libertyville native Tom Morello and Evanston’s Eddie Vedder, it was hard not to stand in awe of Springsteen, no matter how much help he’s had. At 62, the singer’s not quite the unstoppable whirlwind he once was—his voice is a little rougher, his stage presence slightly more modulated than during his unbound prime—but he remains remarkably close, and few know how to play a massive crowd quite as well as Bruce.
Beginning with a throwback arrangement of “Prove It All Night,” Springsteen plowed through a 28-song, three-and-a-half-hour set that drew from everything from deep cuts to massive hits, seldom played tracks such as “My Love Will Not Let You Down” and “None But The Brave” (performed for the third time ever) to such redoubtable pop nuggets as “Hungry Heart” and “Dancing in the Dark.” Warhorses such as “Thunder Road” and “Badlands” have lost none of their power, while the lesser-played cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped” proved just as galvanizing as “Born to Run.” Even material from “Wrecking Ball,” particularly the title track, had the fans amped, and found Springsteen fully engaged, drenched with sweat and smiling.
Springsteen is one of the rare arena acts who understands how to bring the fans closer to him, often simply by bringing himself closer to the fans. He regularly waded into the crowd for an extra boost of intimacy, and knew just how to balance the somber (such as tributes to his late bandmate Clarence Clemons) with the silly (like donning a fan’s pink cowboy hat during “Darlington County” or inviting a kid onstage to warble the sentimental but sweet “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”). And then there was what he called the “cavalcade of stars,” with Vedder emerging to sing and play guitar on a passionate “Atlantic City,” and Morello sharing the stage for five songs of the main set, including an incredible electric version of “Ghost of Tom Joad” that had Springsteen allowing Morello off his leash to shred away.
Both Morello and Vedder emerged again during the encores for “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” but Springsteen, in his own words, wanted to send the crowd home dancing. So out came a cover of “Twist and Shout,” with everyone beaming and singing their hearts out. The miracle of Springsteen is seeing him and his band age past the point of middle age, yet still play with the energy and poignancy of an up-and-comer with something to prove. The threat of rain long gone but the temperature dropping, you couldn’t help but be warmed by the good feelings being generated on stage, basking in the glow of the world’s first and finest fusion reactor, feeding off the energy of the crowd and the burden of expectation as it radiated from the stage.
Prove It All Night ('78 intro)
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Out in the Street
We Take Care of Our Own
Death to My Hometown (with Tom Morello)
My City of Ruins
Spirit in the Night
Jack of All Trades (with Tom Morello)
Atlantic City (with Eddie Vedder)
I'm Goin' Down
Shackled and Drawn
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
None But the Brave
The Ghost of Tom Joad (with Tom Morello)
Badlands (with Tom Morello)
Land of Hope and Dreams (with Tom Morello)
* * *
We Are Alive
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (with Morello and Vedder)
Twist and Shout (with Morello and Vedder)