EmptyContinental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
Tuesday, Oct. 9
"Is there anybody alive out there?" Bruce Springsteen screamed at the start of his Meadowlands show, occurring roughly a week into his tour with the E Street Band behind the new "Magic" release. The refrain, which he would repeat several times throughout the evening, is from "Radio Nowhere," the album's lead-off single with which he began the evening. It serves as an appropriately multileveled theme for these currently troubled times.
Of course, it's not really a question that the Boss needs to ask because the sold-out hometown arena crowd made their loud presence known at every opportunity.
It must be said that Springsteen and his gang are getting a little long in the tooth, and this show -- featuring 23 numbers and clocking in at 2 hours, 20 minutes -- doesn't quite match the manic energy of his legendary marathons of old. But while it featured less exultant choreography and relatively little chattiness from the usually loquacious ringleader (save for a passionate diatribe about the country's loss of personal freedoms while introducing "Livin' in the Future"), the evening proved that Springsteen and company still know how to put on a tremendous concert filled with musical power and passion.
The well-balanced evening featured plenty of tunes from the new disc, including the title track, performed as an acoustic duet with Patti Scialfa; the lovely lament "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"; and the politically charged "Last to Die."
Such familiar anthems as "No Surrender," "She's the One," "The Promised Land," "Darlington County," "Badlands" and of course "Born to Run" received stirring renditions, with Clarence Clemons' classic sax solo on the latter receiving perhaps the biggest ovation of the evening.
There also were several special treats scattered throughout, from the relatively obscure fan favorite "Thundercrack" to a hard-driving boogie arrangement of "Reason to Believe" that featured sterling work from Springsteen on harmonica to a jubilant if slightly ragged "Dancing in the Dark."
Halfway through the show, a technical glitch required a quick shuffling of the set list. Although it resulted in a delay of less than a minute, it seemed somehow shocking considering the usual clockwork precision of the band's shows.
At this point describing, say, the rhythmic muscle of Max Weinberg's drumming or the garage rock brilliance of Steve Van Zandt's guitar work seems utterly redundant. Suffice it to say that everyone was in great form, with Soozie Tyrell's violin adding nicely to the mix.
The show closed, appropriately enough, with "American Land," delivered in a rousing, Celtic-flavored arrangement.