The Boss Rocks Garden State
By Jennifer Zatorski
There was only one thing that I really wanted to do this summer — see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert. The reunion tour that began in Barcelona in April was scheduled to arrive in New Jersey in June. As a Jersey resident and a Bruce fan, I had dreamed about seeing the Boss in concert for years. The closest that I had ever come was seeing him join the Wallflowers onstage for an encore at a local club. Tickets for the 15 New Jersey shows sold out in a matter of hours, making Springsteen the top-selling artist in the history of the Meadowlands Sport Complex. I was lucky enough to get tickets to two of these sold-out New Jersey shows — July 26 and August 2.
The scene outside the arena was reminiscent of the boardwalk of Asbury Park, the shore town where Springsteen and the E Street Band got their start. There were games, food vendors and even a mini beach, complete with a volleyball court. Bruce karaoke was the most popular attraction, though, as fans tried their best to imitate a man whose vocal stylings cannot be matched.
Inside the stadium, the anticipation and excitement was unbelievable. At about 8:10 p.m., the crowd began to chant "BROOOOOOCE!" Our cries were answered shortly as the members of the E Street Band took the stage one by one. Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen were the last two to walk on stage, to thunderous applause. Springsteen remarked that it was wonderful to be in the "Great State of New Jersey." On July 26, the band opened with "My Love Will Not Let You Down," from the recent Tracks release. On August 2, the rare " Take 'Em As They Come" was the opener.
Springsteen and the E Street Band played for close to three hours both nights. There were so many amazing moments that it is hard to know where to begin. The chemistry between the band members was incredible; they performed with more passion and heart than I had ever seen onstage before. Springsteen danced, he wiggled his hips and he ran all over the stage. He serenaded those fans seated behind the stage. Springsteen even preached to the entire arena and announced that he was looking for the "Ghost of Tom Jones." His hilarious sermon during "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" relayed the mythical origins of the E Street Band. Springsteen's energy level and sense of humor were amazing.
There were many outstanding songs. The band alternated between old favorites and more recent offerings, including songs from Springsteen's solo offerings. "Prove It All Night," "The Promised Land," and "Two Hearts" started the shows off. The setlists varied from focused and intense songs to more light and fun ones. The stark rendition of "Point Blank" was riveting. The arena was cloaked in darkness as Springsteen sang "Jungleland." The brooding acoustic songs "Youngstown" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" were transformed into electric blasts by the entire band.
On the lighter side, the audience lent their voices to "Badlands" and "Hungry Heart" thanks to Springsteen's encouragement. "Out in the Street" and "Working On the Highway" caused everyone to start dancing in the aisles.
The most sentimental moment occurred during the song "If I Should Fall Behind," which became a E Street statement of purpose. Nils Lofgren, Steve Van Zandt, Clarence Clemons and Patti Scialfa each joined Springsteen at the microphone for a verse.
The encores were the highlights of the shows. Springsteen played "Freehold," a new acoustic song that was inspired by a visit he made to his Catholic grade school. The song was filled with sentimental and humorous remembrances of his day as a young boy. The song reminded me just how truthful Springsteen's lyrics really are: He sings about his own experiences.
The most climactic moment of the encore was "Born To Run." I have never experienced anything like this at a concert before. The arena lights flashed on and stayed that way for the whole song. The whole arena was on its feet, singing and waving their hands. The band was on fire with Springsteen screaming the lyrics and running back and forth from one end of the stage to the next and Weinberg pounding on the drums. It was a moment you wished would never end. What was to follow was my all-time favorite Springsteen song, "Thunder Road." It was as bittersweet and beautiful as I had imagined and hoped it would be. Both shows ended with "Land of Hope and Dreams."
According to Springsteen, this tour was about the "rebirth and rededication of our band" and the "ministry of rock and roll." The passion of these concerts assured all that were in attendance that music is alive and well. I feel fortunate to have been one of the many who experienced the extreme talent of all these musicians. I have never been to a better concert and doubt that I ever will.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, August 31, 1999