Concert: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band in Hartford, CT
There's a saying that goes "all gave some and some gave all." But on Thursday (10/25), several thousand faithful and newcomers who turned out to see Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at Hartford's XL Center got to see every single member of this massive ensemble -- from their venerable Boss to the backup singers -- pour on enough energy and soul to propel this stop on his lengthy "Wrecking Ball Tour" into the record books, if such record books existed.
But this reviewer has witnessed every one of Springsteen's appearances in the Hartford area going back to "The River" tour in 1980 -- with and without the E Street Band. And when you add up the sum of its collective parts, this show was the topper.
The planned song selection complimented a handful of unexpected and stellar choices from the hundreds of audience requests. The session was so diverse and well-paced that Bruce & Co. couldn't have possibly left a single attendee wanting for a better show, although many probably came and went home without hearing their all-time favorite.
It only took the first few numbers -- which included "Held Up Without a Gun," "Jackson Cage" and "Hungry Heart" -- to telegraph that Hartford was going to experience something very special. The latter hit, which came in at number 4 of 26 for the evening, found The Boss heading out into the crowd to an arena-spanning runway separating the front and rear floor sections.
From there he conducted a boisterous sing-along before, almost on cue, turning and falling into the arms of the audience to crowd surf his way back to the main stage.
His later returns to the runway would feature equally cool encounters, the first with a young boy who somewhat unwillingly was urged to croon a few bars of "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," after which he was hoisted atop Bruce's shoulders to thunderous applause.
His next venture out to the catwalk and to the far side of the arena brought a chance encounter with a fan who claimed to be 97 years old. As she beamed up at her image on the huge video screens, the elderly but obviously very hip senior also drunk in the audiences momentary tribute.
"She's going to be playing the drums in about 10 minutes," Springsteen shouted to a chuckling Steven Van Zandt as he jumped back on stage from the pit.
The latest Springsteen stop in Hartford checked in at just under three-and-a-half hours, and may have been lengthened by the requests he pulled from the hundreds waving posters and signs. The fan who offered "Pink Cadillac" even wrote the words down on the back of her sign, "...because she knows I'm in the early stages of Alzheimer's," Springsteen remarked.
His rendition of another request, "Incident on 57th Street," was a treat, but a rare and especially soulful solo piano take on "I Came for You," was nothing short of inspiring -- perhaps the high point of the show -- and the only number where every other band member besides Bruce got to take their one five minute break.
Throughout the show, Springsteen took several opportunities to dunk his face into a refreshing basin of water near the back of Max Weinberg's drum riser, and each time he seemed to come back to the front of the stage more charged up than the last. And the band responded in kind, with hard driving rhythms, crazy good guitar solos and blasting horn riffs.
The extended intro to "Spirit In The Night" saw Bruce prowling across the stage, conjuring up stories of spirits and ghosts who have come and gone. And the double-barrel shot of "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" into "Out in the Street" had even some of the most firmly planted fans up and dancing at their seats.
Returning for an encore as the clock struck 11 p.m., Springsteen stretched the strings on his shopworn Telecaster signaling "Kitty's Back," which served as the third and final opportunity for the powerful E Street Horns to each take a solo. Led by Jake Clemons, nephew of the late Clarence Clemons, each member did his part to support the extended repertoire that thrilled the Hartford throng.
And speaking of "The Big Man," he was not forgotten. The final number of the evening, "10th Avenue Freeze Out," featured a brief video montage that also memorialized the band's late keyboard wizard, Danny Federici.
While so much more could be said about this performance, even a stenographic record of each moment could not adequately capture the sheer energy and power that blew into the XL Center during this latest, and hopefully far from last, appearance by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street band.