Guthrie. Seeger. Dylan. These names have become synonymous with American poetry and music. Bruce Springsteen has earned his spot amongst these heroes of the common man. On his High Hopes tour, The Boss exhibits his trademark tenacity and showmanship which, at 64 years of age, is still on par with - and usually exceeds - every other singer out there.
With the recent losses of both Danny Federici and Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons, Springsteen has carried on and evolved with the E Street Band. With Clemons’ nephew Jake taking saxophone duties (the bloodline is evident – in appearances and style) and Tom Morello adding his own fiery guitar to the mix; The Boss has complemented his own sound and raised it to a new level. Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman) was absolutely astounding, especially when trading off singing duties on the opening track, The Clash’s “Clampdown,” which set the place ablaze (according to Bruce’s website, this was only the second time the E Street Band has ever played the song).
Another temporary absentee was Little Steven Van Zandt, who was off filming for his new TV series "Lilyhammer." While his backing vocals and guitar were missed, those gaps were filled admirably by Nils Lofgren, as well as every other E Streeter. The Mighty Max Weinberg, still a powerhouse on the drums, played like a man possessed (pretty sure he’s a cyborg). Patti Scialfa, or Mrs. Bruce, also did her part to bring the E Street sound to life. At any one time, there were upwards of 20 musicians on stage, including a five-piece horn section and five back-up singers. This was a deep south religious revival, if there ever was one.
Bruce stepped forward and grabbed one of many crowd signs which he held up. It read, “Help a New Yorker TRAPPED in GA.” Immediately, the band broke into the Jimmy Cliff cover “Trapped,” which became one of the night’s most glorious sing-alongs. “Death To My Hometown,” a fantastic Irish-tinged rocker off of 2012 album Wrecking Ball, was also a shining light of a tune.
During “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” a reworked Springsteen classic on the new High Hopes album, Morello cemented his godlike status as a leading American guitar slinger and rock singer. His guitar solo during this song was…well, there are no words for it. Mind blowing does not do him justice. You just need to see this live. Like Springsteen, Morello does not fear going political once in a while. Hell, written on his guitar was “ARM THE HOMELESS,” no doubt a jab at the Georgia governor who just this week signed a pro-gun bill into law allowing weapons into churches and bars. Jesus, help us.
High Hopes has garnered critical praise, though not all songs on it are Springsteen originals. The title track is a Havalina’s tune, while the catchy “Just Like Fire Would,” was first recorded by The Saints. Having said that, it was another album which took precedent over the new stuff. After only the second song, Springsteen said, “I’m in a river kinda mood,” and kicked off the rocking with “The Ties That Bind.” All in all, the band hit seven tunes from the 1980s album The River. “Cadillac Ranch” was a barn burner that had every butt out of every seat (and lawn!). Fists pumping, fans screaming “Cadillac! Cadillac!,” and a general euphoria setting in which lasted until the last notes of the last song were sang.
Naming the evening’s highlight would be unfair to every other song sang. The Boss put forth 1000 percent, as did each and every member of the E Street Band. Every song was memorable. For many longtime fans, this was/is a spiritual journey. For those who showed up to hear only the hits, an awakening, of sorts, transpired last night. “Badlands” and post 9/11 “The Rising,” only added to the transition for most. And before the crowd could lose it after each song, Bruce jumps in with a “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR!” and busts down the door of the next great song. Audience members barely had time to react.
The encore brought even more joy, with The River’s “Drive All Night” and “Ramrod,” along with Born to Run’s title track, and the most fun any band should have, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” When the opening chords of “Dancing In The Dark” first reached fans’ ears, that scene from the video rushed through the synapses in the crowd and one can only assume that about 90 percent of the crowd visualized Courtney Cox dancing with The Boss. A few seconds later, Springsteen pulled a young girl from the front row and danced with her. But he was not finished. Soon, the girl was hoisted onto Bruce’s shoulders where she remained for the duration of the song. When he sang, “Hey, Baby!” he crouched down and the girl sang, “Hey, Baby!” into the microphone. This went on way longer than a man of his age should be able to withstand.
The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” seemed almost too much to handle for many in the audience. A state of martial law could not be far behind. For just short of three hours last night, Walt Disney World was not the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Every. Single. Person: On their feet. Now, if your name is Bruce Springsteen, you are thinking, “How can I top this?” As a tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young and the recent news that the band is taking a break due to his ill health, Bruce and the band ended the show with “Highway To Hell.” A true showstopper.
1. Clampdown (The Clash cover)
2. Adam Raised A Cain
3. The Ties That Bind
4. Jackson Cage
5. She's The One
6. Independence Day
7. High Hopes
8. Just Like Fire Would
9. Tougher Than The Rest
10. Cadillac Ranch
11. Trapped (Jimmy Cliff cover)
12. Point Blank
13. Heaven's Wall
15. Death To My Hometown
16. Wrecking Ball
17. Shackled And Drawn
18. The Ghost Of Tom Joad
19. The Rising
21. Drive All Night
22. Born To Run
24. Dancing In The Dark
25. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
26. Shout (Isley Brothers cover)
27. Highway To Hell (AC/DC cover)