Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | deltufophotography.com
Spirit in the Night: Bruce Springsteen takes on Citizens Bank Park for night two
Philly has always been close to Bruce Springsteen’s heart. It was one of the cities that first supported him when he was a young performer, and that has enjoyed his return countless times. In fact, it was early support and interviews by WXPN’s David Dye (himself a young man at WMMR at the time) that helped bring interest in Bruce to the area. Last night at Citizen’s Bank Park, the same venue where just two nights ago he broke his US set length by playing a 34 song set that lasted an astounding 4 hours and 3 minutes. For a performer in his late 60s, over 5 decades into live performance, this is unprecedented.
Having shot close to 1500 shows as a photographer, it’s hard to describe seeing Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg and then Bruce Springsteen step out onto center stage. I am sure the crowd of nearly 40,000 was going nuts, but I couldn’t hear a thing. There were signs simply showing “4:07”, which would mark the longest show in Springsteen’s career, rising above the pit. Just like Wednesday night, Bruce opened with version of “New York City Serenade” that included a string section and had the total number of musicians on stage close to 20.
After that, there was little in common with the two Philly shows. With the string section exiting, The Boss stormed into a rousing version of “Out In The Street,” raging from side to side across the massive stage like a panther, shaking hands and grabbing signs held up by fans that he’d later use to puzzle together his setlist. Then it was “Sherry Darling,” a more energized version of the classic with some outstanding work on the sax by Jake Clemons, nephew of the late Clarence Clemons.
Special guests are common at Springsteen shows and we were treated to two songs, “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City,” and “Spirit of the Night,” with Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez, who performed on Bruce’s first two LPs and was an original member of the E Street band.
As I was only given access to the beginning of the show with my photo pass, I reached out to professional concert-goer Ron Ozer (of Delaware’s Arden Concert Gild) for his take on the remainder of the performance.
The Key: How many Bruce shows have you attended and how did this one compare?
Ron Ozer: This is my fourth Bruce show and while Lincoln Financial Field in 2002 (The Rising tour) was unforgettable, this show was even better for its deep setlist and theatrical comic flair.
TK: What was the highlight?
RO: The opening of “Spirit in the Night,” with Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez on stage with tambourine was my favorite moment. Bruce kept pleading with us in his Asbury Park preacher on the boardwalk style, “Can you feel the Spirit?!” We certainly could, and we knew what song was coming!
TK: Was there any version that surprised you, that he took to a different level?
RO: To hear “Loose Ends” – a deep track from his collection Tracks, not a song he does often – was a great surprise. The song connects to how this tour began, with full performances of The River. “Loose Ends” was originally on The Ties That Bind, the early version of The River that was scrapped. The song was released 20 years later in 1999.
TK: Any band performance highlights?
RO: “Badlands,” which was the end of the main set (before a very brief pause that I suppose indicated it was encore time!) had the fiery intensity of the original, but was informed by the world weary life experience of a band of professionals on the road for 40 years.
TK: Tell me a few interesting things that struck you about the show.
RO: The early use of “Rosalita,” usually a barnstorming, show-ending piece of comic intensity, brought the show to a crescendo after only an hour, suggesting that the show would be more than just one Bruce show, but a series of shows that offered different takes on the songwriting history. “Rosalita,” with its staging including five of the band members playing right up front in a group, feels incredibly like a bar band grabbing a small room in Asbury by the throat even though you are with 40,000 screaming fans.
Also during “Shout” near the end, Bruce played at being worn out, he asked if we were done, and he looked ready to drop. Then he took a large sponge and wrung it out over his head, drenching his head and shoulders, even splashing the guitar. He revved back up for another verse. Then Steve brought out a black The Boss cape, put it around his shoulders and he slowly moved off back stage like an elderly pensioner. Stevie began pretending to end the show with department store like announcements while Jake was shaking his head making it clear, hey folks this ain’t over. And Bruce sauntered back in and took the song out in style as always.
Despite the non-record setting set length, it’s hard to imagine an encore more unforgettable than “Streets of Philadelphia” / “Backstreets” / “Born To Run” / “Dancing In The Dark” / “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” / “Shout” / “Bobby Jean” and the closer “Jersey Girl.” 33 songs, from perhaps the biggest single musical icon of our time. Philly style. Hopefully it won’t take me another 1500 shows to photograph him again.
New York City Serenade
Out in the Street
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)
I’m Goin’ Down
It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City (with Vini Lopez)
Spirit in the Night (with Vini Lopez)
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
My City of Ruins
American Skin (41 Shots)
The Promised Land
She’s the One
Racing in the Street
I’m on Fire
Because the Night (Patti Smith Group cover)
Streets of Philadelphia
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)