An angrier, happier Bruce Springsteen, and an E Street Band dealing with a huge void

On Tuesday, April 3, I walked through the doors of the Izod Center for the first time since the New Jersey Nets played their final game there in April 2010, to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the first time since October 2009.

Photo courtesy of Backstreets.com

It was a very different experience, which I fully expected. The death of Clarence Clemons left a huge void, both musically and in terms of the band’s personality, and, while his nephew, Jake Clemons, and Eddie Manion performed flawlessly and admirably, there’s no replacing a legend.

Springsteen’s music has also branched out in several different directions for his past few albums, and Wrecking Ball is no exception. Very few of the songs on Wrecking Ball really sound like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This is not to say that it’s not quality music: It’s just different. It’s a very angry album, with a lot of edgy folk-type songs, and a lot of Irish influence.

One of the biggest differences I noticed was Springsteen’s demeanor. I am obviously a die-hard fan, and have seen him live several times, and I am used to seeing him sing with a pained expression that looks like he’s holding back a giant dump. But he was exceptionally animated during this show, singing the angry parts of songs with legitimate anger, and smiling during the more festive material, more so than I have ever seen him do.

The set list was heavy on newer material, which was no surprise. The songs from Wrecking Ball sounded like the band had been performing them for years, and the newer sounds were quite refreshing. Naturally, some classics were sprinkled in throughout the show, as well. And continuing the Springsteen tradition of pulling at least one song out of the vaults that no one in the audience ever expected to hear, the surprise selection on this night was “So Young and In Love.”

Clarence Clemons, the late, great Big Man, was recognized twice during the show. When the band was introduced early on, Springsteen saved him for last, as usual, and said to the crowd, “Am I missing anybody?” After allowing a few seconds for cheers and tribute, he added, “If we’re here, they’re here,” repeating it a couple of times for emphasis. And during the last song of the night, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” the entire band paused after the verse, “The change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band,” for a very long, very emotional standing ovation. Well done.

It’s a new era for the band, and for Springsteen. The classic songs will never be abandoned, but that being said, there will never be another set list like the one from Giants Stadium (R.I.P.) July 31, 2008, which was, by far, my favorite Bruce show of all-time.

However, if you leave a show with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band feeling disappointed or cheated, you just weren’t paying attention. It may be a new chapter in their history, but they are STILL the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND!

The set list, from Backstreets.com:

  • We Take Care of Our Own
  • Wrecking Ball
  • Badlands
  • Death to My Hometown
  • My City of Ruins
  • So Young and In Love
  • E Street Shuffle
  • Jack of All Trades
  • Seeds
  • Prove It All Night
  • Easy Money
  • Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  • The Promised Land
  • Apollo Medley
  • American Skin (41 Shots)
  • Because the Night
  • The Rising
  • We Are Alive
  • Thunder Road
  • Encore:
  • Rocky Ground (with Michelle Moore)
  • Out in the Street
  • Born to Run
  • Dancing in the Dark
  • Land of Hope and Dreams
  • Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
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