Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia Springsteen by Jeff Rabin

Bruce Springsteen

Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia PA

September 7 2016

by Jeff Rabin

 

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I doubt anyone at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia was complaining about ticket prices after Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band delivered a 4 hour, 5 minute performance at the first of their two Philly performances (9/7/16).

In what is being reported to be the longest North American Bruce show ever (and second longest of all time), the fans were treated to a musical biography of the man they call The Boss. The first ten songs came from the first two Springsteen albums, “Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ” and “The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle.” This may not have been exciting to younger fans raised on “Radio Nowhere”, but this was a gift from the gods for old Springsteen fans. Opening with “New York Serenade” featuring a string section, one could only be amazed at the maturity, complexity and pure bravado of Springsteen’s early work. Piano-driven, polyrhythmic, jazz and blues-influenced, these early masterpieces like “Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street” and “Spirit in the Night” were fully realized orchestral soundtracks composed by a young man growing up in the shadow of the musical melting pot that is New York City. These anthems were destined to be massive crowd sing-a-longs performed in huge stadiums, except that the birthplace of these tunes was the rock clubs of north Jersey and NY’s Greenwich Village.

It’s fairly ambitious opening a show with a slew of songs that predate the interests of much of your fanbase, but Bruce is an Artist. He has a story to tell, and he will do it the way he sees fit. Having recently completed an autobiography, Bruce told the crowd that the next song was his biography at that point in time: “Growing Up.” He announced that “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” was the song he played when he auditioned for John Hammond (Yes—the same John Hammond that signed Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan to Columbia Records). Further confounding expectations, Bruce played “Rosalita” along with the other songs from his second album, rather than saving this all-time great number for its usual spot later in the show.

The oldies continued with the first fan request he accepted, “The Fever”, written by Bruce for Southside Johnny. This was followed by “Thundercrack”, announced as being played just for the Philadelphia audience. Is Bruce aware that for years the only people who knew this song were fans in the Delaware Valley who saw the show or owned the bootleg from The Main Line where Bruce played this song a year before his first album came out? Bruce verbalized his amazement that perhaps a quarter of the crowd were singing along to “Thundercrack” before he even sang its first line.

Now that the audience had a taste of what an E Street Band show must have been like in 1973, Bruce forged ahead with the rest of the show. Insert a standard Springsteen concert review at this point: Bruce led the band through a collection of songs from every time period and virtually every album, a mix of rocking classics, acoustic numbers and deep album cuts. Every band member had a moment or two to shine. Vocals were uniformly strong all night. “American Skin (41 Shots)” with its Police-like sound and lament-like vocals was noteworthy for its timeliness. “Darlington County” started with a “Honky Tonk Woman” tease. “Working on the Highway” was a simple but earthy rockabilly raveup. “Because The Night”, written for Patti Smith, became a lead guitar showcase. And “Badlands” was the most exhilarating, muscular song of the evening, bringing the set to a rousing close.

The hour long encore featured the usual Bruce encore numbers, with a few surprises. His Oscar-winning “Streets of Philadelphia” led into “Jungleland” which then stormed into “Born to Run.” The houselights up, the crowd on its feet, everyone singing along, “Born To Run” is the gem of the Springsteen discography; the unique and complex compositions of the first two albums were mere foreshadowing of Bruce’s ability to pen such an indelible classic, and everything that came in the decades afterwards was written by the man who gained the absolute artistic freedom that comes from creating an album as timeless and successful as “Born To Run.”

And just because he was having fun and because he’s The Boss, Bruce trotted out four more rockers, including a total workout on The Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” Citizens Bank Park became one big frat party that nobody wanted to have end.

 

 

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