Live review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
In just two shorts years, Bruce Springsteen will turn 60. That fact alone isn't terribly remarkable. Bob Dylan is 66. Mick Jagger is 64. What differentiates Springsteen is that, at this relatively late stage in his career and life, he clearly still gives a shit, and is willing to do the work to make not just relevant new music but to ensure his old songs remain relevant, too.
It's what made him an inspiration to a younger generation of hip understudies like the Hold Steady, Josh Ritter and the Arcade Fire. It's also what allowed Springsteen to easily sell out two nights at the United Center, in part based on that formidable back catalog of classics but also in no small part due to the reception of his latest album "Magic." If Springsteen's previous solo acoustic tour demonstrated how a star might age gracefully, Springsteen's current outing with the E Street Band proves that senior status is nothing to be afraid of.
Of course, everybody knows the Boss can bring it. The question was which way he would choose to bring it. Unlike the occasionally turgid "Rising" tour, this time out Springsteen and crew (minus wife Patti Scialfa, home with the kids) made a much stronger case for the songs on his new "Magic," playing a whopping nine of its 12 tracks. Though he muddled through the best of the bunch, "Livin' in the Future," the rest alternately raged and soothed.
As for Springsteen's back catalog, several former fixtures and fan favorites, such as "Thunder Road" and "The River," were long gone, set aside to forestall burnout. Yet others, including the redoubtable "Badlands," "The Promised Land" and even "Dancing in the Dark" – closer to the Ramones than its synth-rock origins, replete with pogoing and slashing guitars – remained as strong as ever. And then there was the immortal "Born to Run," still Springsteen's masterpiece some 30 years later.
"Thundercrack," an early E Street constant, was even older, dusted off for the few (if any) fans in the crowd who were on hand to see one of Springsteen's five-nights at the now long gone Chicago club the Quiet Knight back in 1973, opening for the Persuasions. For straight rock, you couldn't beat "No Surrender," "Cadillac Ranch" and "Adam Raised a Cain." For operatic Bruce the crowd got "Backstreets." Even "Reason to Believe," from the stripped down "Nebraska," was given a rousing band reading.
Then there was "American Land," a song from the "Seeger Sessions" that's made its way into Springsteen's current set as closer. The track was the closest Springsteen will ever come to channeling the Pogues, paying tribute to the nation's immigrant roots while never once forgetting to rock. And expect him to do the same tonight, again, as always.
Joshua Klein attended the October 21, 2007 performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the United Center.