Well, damn. That was just about as great a show as I have ever seen. I've seen the Boss before—he was good, but not that good. For more than three hours at the Rose Garden last night, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band did what they are legendary for doing—playing impassioned, major-chord, sing-along anthems about life, love, and loss, and pretty much electrifying everyone in the room. I don't know if I can adequately explain why last night's concert was as good as it was, but it was downright astonishing.
Bruce's team must know he's on a hot streak right now, I think; the publicist was forthcoming in inviting the Mercury to the show, making everything easy and effortless—kind of unheard of for a big arena show, at least for us little guys at the small weeklies. Everyone in that giant room felt wanted, invited, even needed; the bright house lights stayed on for probably a good third of the concert, illuminating every corner and face. It worked, because the entire audience was rapt from start to finish. Can you imagine any other act getting away with that?
More photos and thoughts after the jump.
The emotional high point came early, after an opening streak of new songs: "My City of Ruins" was stretched out to 20 minutes, with Bruce speaking softly over a slow, steady vamp—about friends and lost ones, and passing years. "I'm old," he said, "but I got work to do." Then he added, "I love my job!" He talked about his adopted hometown of Asbury Park, New Jersey, which fell into blight and abandonment in the past 25 or 30 years, only to be revived, slowly, surely, the past of couple summers. I don't remember him mentioning Hurricane Sandy then; he didn't need to, as we were all thinking about it. From there, it was onto "Spirits in the Night" and a round of audience requests.
Pulling up handwritten signs from members of the crowd, he went through a stream of requests, kicked off by the most elaborate handmade sign, a big spinning wheel with a number of different choices. ("The Ghost of Tom Joad," "Roulette," others.) He brought up an audience member to spin it, and it landed on "Steve's Choice," and of course Van Zandt picked "Loose Ends," the River outtake that ended up on the Tracks box set, a track that frequently makes the rotation on the Little Steven's Underground Garage radio show.
Another handmade sign read, "It's my 50th birthday, play 'Growin' Up'!" And so they did, bringing the man who made the sign up on stage to sing the last verses. You can imagine how stoked the dude was (you have never been this happy, and neither have I), and it kicked off a trend of a surprising amount of audience participation. Bruce brought dozens of people up with him to sing and dance, including a team of women in "Lesbians ♥ Bruce" for "Darlington County" (video!) and two little girls to try their hand at "Waitin' on a Sunny Day."
In short, it was just an incredible, magical night, and not a soul walked out of that arena disappointed. I'm not the biggest Bruce fan—sure, I've always liked him, but you know how nuts the real Springsteen fans can get—but last night might have made me a convert. The closing string of songs (the rare "Drive All Night," "The Rising," "Badlands," "Thunder Road," a soft and stunning "If I Should Fall Behind," "Born to Run," "Rosalita," "Dancing in the Dark," "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out") was absolutely mindblowing, with the house lights on full blaze for the final half hour. It was the kind of show to make you believe in God, or at least Jersey. I don't know why Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band gave Portland such a miraculous show last night, and I'm pretty sure we didn't deserve it, but I'm definitely glad they did.