Bruce Springsteen Readies the Wrecking Ball at Giants Stadium
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
October 3rd 2009
Bruce Springsteeen is the last of a dying breed. For well over 30 years, he has held the distinction of being Jersey’s favorite son, and his popularity may well be at an all time high. Such longevity is unheard of in today’s music world. Springsteen has managed to outlive Giants Stadium, the venue that helped signal his arrival as a certified rock star when he first performed there in 1985. The Boss was tapped to close out the (somewhat) historic venue with five farewell shows before it will be reduced to rubble at the conclusion of this year’s football season.
Springsteen and the E Street Band marked the occasion by playing one of their most successful albums in its entirety each night. On October 3rd, the choice was “Born in the USA,” the 1984 breakout that has sold over 15 million copies in the US. In addition to the album’s twelve tracks, Springsteen would add a mix of old and new that had the 50,000 in attendance in a state of complete ecstasy.
I’ll start by saying I had never seen Bruce Springsteen live before, so I was more than excited to finally get the chance to see the man many consider one of today’s best performers. The most difficult part of the show was simply getting there. The trek from Southern Connecticut somehow required four different train rides, the final one a short trip from Hoboken to the Meadowlands that resembled a college campus on homecoming weekend, with frat boys and 50 year-olds alike readying for the party.
We were lucky enough to be on the field for the show, which was divided into two different pit sections. After arriving only a half an hour before the doors opened, we found a spot in the first pit that put us relatively close to the stage. While the tickets listed the show time as 7:30, the stadium was nearly empty as that time rolled around. Apparently the Jersey faithful knew something we didn’t, for the E Street Band wouldn’t take the stage until an hour later.
Once they did, Springsteen began the marathon set with a song titled “Wrecking Ball” written just for the occasion. It wasn’t Bruce’s best work, but the fans appreciated the effort and sang along with the words displayed on the huge video screens framing the stage. The band then broke into a raucous version of “Out in the Street.” Working on a Dream epic “Outlaw Pete” followed, complete with a desert montage presented on the screens. The song is one of Springsteen’s most unique, but at eight minutes, it seems a little bit much for a live setting like this.
One of the highlights of the show was the next song, “Hungry Heart,” which featured the 60 year-old Springsteen leaving the stage, running about thirty yards down field, and then crowd surfing his way back to the front. The show as a whole did not rely on overblown theatrics like most stadium shows. Instead, Springsteen provided the type of energy that is rarely seen in today’s performers, racing to all ends of the stage and firing up the crowd between songs with the enthusiasm of a southern preacher.
After an already frantic start to the show, Springsteen and the E Street Band, which at times swelled to eleven members, segued into the nights main attraction, Born in the USA. The crowd sang at the top of their lungs to the title track, and then didn’t miss a beat during lesser known numbers such as “Darlington County” and “Downbound Train.” It was apparent the crowd of 50,000 was of the die hard variety.
One of the night’s most poignant moments was “I’m on Fire,” where Springsteen sat in a chair at the end of the stage to perform the song. On the video screen, three teenage girls in the front row sang along to every word. When Springsteen reached out and clasped hands with each of them, the look on their faces was priceless.
The next track “No Surrender” followed and was met by a huge reaction from the crowd and was another one of the night’s high points. During “Dancing in the Dark,” Springsteen brought a Syracuse orange-clad thirteen year old on stage for a “birthday dance.” While he may not be Fred Astaire, even at 60 the Boss still has the moves.
After closing out the Born in the USA portion of the set, Springsteen would assemble the members of the band that had helped make the record at the front of the stage for a great photo opportunity. It was a terrible idea to not bring my camera.
Springteen and the E Street Band would continue to thrill fans with selections both old and new. “The Promise Land” from 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town was followed by “Last to Die” and “Long Walk Home” from 2007’s “Magic.” The songs, and the crowd’s reaction to them is a testament to the band’s longevity and amazing staying power. Could you imagine the Rolling Stones playing two news songs that the those in the crowd not only were familiar with, but sang along to as if it were the band’s biggest hit? I can’t.
Springsteen and Co. would finish their set with an epic rendition of their signature track “Born to Run.” Without leaving the stage, the band took their bows and then began the “encore” portion of the set by taking requests from the crowd. This involved Springsteen grabbing elaborately crafted signs from those at the front, and then tallying the results. The first request was a cover of Tom Wait’s “Jersey Girl.” This was followed by a long, drawn out version of “Kitty’s Back.” Like “Outlaw Pete,” there were many in the crowd (including myself) who were quite ready to move on by the end of the song.
“Detroit Medley” would then follow, featuring a collection of Springsteen’s favorite 60’s Motor City classics. The collection is an appropriate tribute to the struggling city. After 2001 “American Land,” (which could easily fit on most Dropkick Murphy’s records), “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” featured a guest appearance by a pint-sized member of the crowd who happened to know every word.
The two hour and fifty minute set would come to a close with “Thunder Road” from 1975’s Born to Run. After a long ovation, the crowd would reluctantly make their way for the exits. I was thoroughly exhausted. It’s almost unfathomable to think that Springsteen puts on such a spectacle every single night, and yet he has been doing it for decades. His energy and passion is unsurpassed, a main reason why he has been able to remain relevant for so long. Throughout Springsteen’s 30+ years career, artists, trends, and even stadiums have come and gone, but the E Street Band has remained a constant. It doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon.