About a dozen songs into a show that would go on for hours, Bruce Springsteen advised his crowd: "This is the last night of the tour. Anything can happen."
What happened was pretty typical, though. He played nearly 30 songs and delivered many moments of joy and transcendence, including an encore for the ages, during a show that lasted about three hours and 10 minutes without a significant pause. His endurance is still amazing.
By the time he finally hit the stage at the Sprint Center -- 8:50 p.m. -- the crowd of about 16,000 was on the verge of ravenous impatience. He gave them two relatively obscure openers, "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own" and "Cynthia," which got warm responses.
Then he raised the heat dramatically by pulling out material everyone knew: "Radio Nowhere," "No Surrender" and "Out in the Street," which prompted the first big sing-along. Then he and the band played the intro to "Hungry Heart" and stood back and listened to the crowd roar back the first verse and chorus.
From where I was standing (by the mixing board) the sound was bad for the first several songs -- trebly and muddy. It seemed to improve gradually as the show went on. Either that or I adjusted to the muddy vocals.
As he has done in other stops on this tour, Springsteen took a few requests via signs brought in by his fans: "Cadillac Ranch" was one (great to hear that one); so was "Working on a Highway."
The oddest request produced one of the lighter moments of the night. Someone brought in a sign that said, "Let Max sing." So Springsteen turned the microphone over to his drummer, Max Weinberg, who gamely sang a few bars of the Shirelles' hit "Boys."
After that, Springsteen gave his violinist, Soozie Tyrell, some spotlight. She joined him for a cover of the Stones' version of Bobby & Shirley Womack's "It's All Over Now." [tks. Mike Webber] Then came one of the evening's best moments (for me): a hellacious version of "Candy's Room."
I liked most of the setlist, even (or especially) the songs that seemed to disinterest some of the people around me, like the grimy-blues version of "Youngstown" and the solo/acoustic reading of "Devils & Dust" (though I'll admit neither is a great arena song). But he has no trouble rejuvenating the place from a perceived lull, so he played "The Promised Land" after "Youngstown" and it got a huge response. And he played "The Rising" after after "Devils" and the place went nuts all over again.
He ended his first set with a bristling version of "Badlands" that the crowd would not let him finish. It was the perfect setup for a mind-blowing encore that started with a dedication to the late Danny Federici and a lovely version of "Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy)."
Then he hauled out the heavy artillery. The Sprint Center isn't even a year old, but it has seen its fair share of roof-rattling moments. None has matched his one-two-three punch -- with the lights turned up -- of "10th Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born to Run" and "Rosalita." He could have ended there, but he had more ammo to unleash. After warming the crowd up for this weekend's Irish Fest with "American Land," he took another request, of sorts.
He segued from a cover of "Save the Last Dance" into "Dancing in the Dark." He relived the video's Courtney Cox moment by pulling a girl who looked like she was about 9 years old (and who had been holding a "Save the Last Dance" sign) on stage. She and he did this funky little shuffle together, then she sprang into a perfect cartwheel. Bruce responded by doing some kind of goofy somer-flop. Then he carried her in his arms back to the edge of the stage, kissed her cheek and returned her to the crowd. It was pretty adorable.
He ended with "Rockin' All Over the World," another song that celebrates rock and roll as a diversion or a means of escape: "We're goin' crazy and we're goin' today." By the time he was done, though, Sunday night was about to become Monday morning, and it was time to return from his wild world to reality, sanity and another work week. The escape sure was fun while it lasted.
| Timothy Finn, The Star
Setlist: Ricky Wants A Man of Her Own, Cynthia, Radio Nowhere, No Surrender, Out In the Street, Hungry Heart, Spirit in the Night, Boys (Max), Cadillac Ranch, Working on a Highway, It's All Over Now, Candy's Room, Gypsy Biker, Youngstown, The Promised Land, Living in the Future, Mary's Place, Devils and Dust, The Rising, Last to Die, Long Walk Home, Badlands. Encore: Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy), 10th Avenue Freeze-Out, Born to Run, Rosalita, American Land, Save the Last Dance/Dancing in the Dark, Rockin' All Over the World.