LIVE: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band @ Times Union Center, 2/8/16
Review by Greg Haymes
“The subject of The River is time,” Bruce Springsteen told the crowd, “time slipping away.”
And time was certainly slipping away at the Times Union Center on Monday night. Scheduled for 7:30pm, Springsteen and his E Street Band took the stage just a tad after 8, and for the first two hours, they played the songs from their 1980 double album, The River.
It was a sprawling show, even by Springsteen standards.
Rolling into town in support of their mammoth The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, a whopping seven-disc collection, they steamrolled through a three-and-a-half-hour set of 34 songs. It was an exhausting, Herculean effort, both for the band and for the sold-out, jam-packed crowd.
It was also richly rewarding, as the first two hours featured a song-by-song performance of The River, followed by a 90-minute tear through a cherry-picked selection of greatest hits that included “Badlands,” “Backstreets,” “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run,” an electrifying “Rosalita” and more.
“Are you ready to be entertained?” he asked the crowd at the start of the show. “Are you ready to be transformed?
“Come along with us as we go down to the river…”
With a pared-back, eight-piece band behind him (minus the horn section and back-up singers that accompanied him at his last stop at the downtown arena in May of 2014), the 66-year-old Springsteen explained that The River was “my coming of age record.” Of course, he and the boys (and guitarist-violinist Soozie Tyrell) can still kick the stuffing out of the arena-ready party anthems – “I’m a Rocker,” “Crush On You” and the Coasters-esque “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).” And soul-strolls like “Fade Away” and “I Wanna Marry You” (which he described as “a young man’s song, a daydream”) still tugged at the heart.
But it was the back-to-back pairing of the album’s title song (with Tyrell on violin, Nils Lofgren on steel guitar and the Boss’ consigliere Steve Van Zandt on 12-string guitar) with “Point Blank” that cut the deepest, not only brimming over with narrative drama, but resonating the most from the perspective of age.
Despite the four-guitar army up front, “Because the Night” was driven by Roy Brittan at his white Yamaha grand piano – at least until Lofgren uncorked the best guitar solo of the night. And saxman Jake Clemmons played with impressive confidence and power throughout the evening, swooping in on his solos like a hawk.
By the time Springsteen & Co. wrapped things up with a joyous, unbridled stomp through the Isley Brothers’ gem “Shout,” some members of the crowd were heading for the exits, seemingly more tired than the bandmembers.
The review has been reprinted with permission of The Times Union.
Steven Strauss’ review and A.M. Saddler’s photographs at Backstreets
Recap at BruceTapes.com
Excerpt from Kirsten Ferguson’s review at The Daily Gazette: “’The River’ contains both raucous, barroom numbers such as ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Cadillac Ranch,’ as well as some fairly deep, dark songs like ‘Independence Day.’ Its recreation was an epic journey of highs and lows. Who else but Bruce Springsteen could keep an entire arena rapt during the quieter numbers while lifting fans to euphoric heights during the rockers? Especially enlightening were Springsteen’s quiet reflections from the stage about how his perspectives have matured in the decades since he first wrote the songs. He prefaced the romantic idealism of ‘I Want to Marry You’ by saying, ‘It’s a song of youth and life without consequences. It’s a life that doesn’t exist.’ Life lessons from Bruce Springsteen — and the airing of tunes that rarely see the light of day during typical Springsteen tours, such as ‘The Price You Pay’ and ‘Crush On You’ — made this show a thrilling affair for longtime fans. And it was great to see guitarist Steven Van Zandt frequently share the vocal spotlight with Springsteen on songs like ‘Two Hearts’ and ‘Stolen Car.'”
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND SET LIST
Meet Me in the City
1. The Ties That Bind
2. Sherry Darling
3. Jackson Cage
4. Two Hearts
5. Independence Day
6. Hungry Heart
7. Out in the Street
8. Crush on You
9. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
10. I Wanna Marry You
11. The River
12. Point Blank
13. Cadillac Ranch
14. I’m a Rocker
15. Fade Away
16. Stolen Car
18. The Price You Pay
19. Drive All Night
20. Wreck on the Highway
Because the Night
Born to Run
Detroit Medley (Devil With the Blue Dress…)
Dancin’ in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)