By Mike Watterston, of Hackettstown, Host of “The Boss Hour” & “Dogbites” on www.wnti.org
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made the only stop in their home state on the current River Tour 2016 on Sunday, Jan. 31st at the Prudential Center in Newark. Of course, it was a sold out event and like always, the hottest ticket in town.
Just after 8 p.m. the band strolled on the stage to a thunderous ovation and the always-present chants of “BRRRUUUUCCCCEEE” to Bruce’s reply, “ HOW’S IT GOING NEW JERSEY?” The band kicked the night right off with “Meet Me In The City,” one of the favorites off the previously unreleased cuts on the new box set “The River Collection: The Ties That Bind.”
Then Bruce welcomed us and explained what kind of record he had wanted to make in 1979 and what the songs on “The River,” originally released Oct, 17, 1980, were meant to represent. He then invited the packed house to join the band as we go down to The River…
From “The Ties That Bind” through “Wreck On The Highway,” the band performed the entire “The River” record. It was perfect. “Sherry Darling” and “Two Hearts” had the house on their feet and then it was time for the first ballad of the night, “Independence Day.” Bruce explained this was his first Father-Son song. It was written as a conversation between these two men.
It was then back on our feet for “Hungry Heart.” Bruce ran around the front pit, along the side of the floor and walked the walkway that went across the midway portion of the arena. As the crowd sang “Everybody’s Got A Hungry Heart,” Bruce turned around and fell back into the throng (we’ve seen this before and the people love it!).
Bruce body-surfed back to the stage and to Jake Clemons’ outstretched hand. Once back on stage they didn’t stop — “Out In The Streets,” “Crush On You,” and “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch).” Then Bruce gave us a chance to sit back down again as he explained the meaning of “I Want To Marry You.” Basically it was about the glory of love, or at least the idea of what the glory of love meant to Bruce as a man on the verge of his 30th birthday back in ‘79. Next up was the haunting last song on CD 1, the title track. He dedicated it to his sister and mom who were in the next section over from me on the side of the stage.
CD 2 began in that same softer vein with Roy Bittan’s brilliant piano work on “Point Blank.” “Fade Away” was sweet and it was the first time many of us had heard this played live. They moved in fine style through the rest of side 2 and then “Drive All Night” … WOW! I have a new favorite Bruce Springsteen song. It’s originally an eight minute track and I have no idea how long this lasted but it was fabulous! And then the wrap up “Wreck On The Highway.”
What an outstanding album. When you listen to it from top to bottom you really appreciate it as one piece. I used to blow past the ballads but that night I found them all gorgeous and compelling. Now with “The River” behind us, it was time to dig into The Boss’s massive body of work. Here’s what followed:
Lonesome Day (Tour Premiere)
Working on the Highway (Tour Premiere)
Atlantic City (Tour Premiere)
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
The entire band was on point all evening long. As always, the musicianship and camaraderie were quite apparent. It was my first time seeing Jake Clemons on sax. He was masterful at his instrument and the perfect fill in for his uncle. What a band! Mighty Max on drums and Garry W. Tallent held the bottom in check all night. Bruce, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa and “Little” Steven Van Zandt on guitars and vocals. The Professor on piano and Charlie Giordano on organ were low key but masterful all night long and the amazing Soozie Tyrell was on violin. Remarkable!
“You’ve just seen…the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making – Le-gen-dary E – Street – Band!”
I host the “The Boss Hour” on WNTI.ORG on Saturday mornings from 11-Noon and prior to the Springsteen show I was lucky enough to have a sit down with “Little” Steven for broadcast on my program. Unfortunately, the interview was cut short due to time restraints but he promised that we would do a phone in at some point in the near future. He was friendly, receptive, good humored and from my few minutes with him I can tell you that he is one of the coolest guys on Earth. As you can see from the pictures, the section 9 seats weren’t too shabby either.
If you get the chance to see Bruce and the E Streeters on this tour, please do! It’s a Bruce show. There’s never been a bad one.