“Are you ready to be entertained? Are you ready to be transformed?” Bruce Springsteen yelled when he came on stage on February 4 at the TD Garden in Boston. Bruce kept his promise as soon as he strummed his trademark Fender Esquire guitar.
When Bruce announced that he would be touring the entire album The River and stopping in Boston, I was overwhelmed with joy. My friend and I bought two general admission floor tickets, with hopes of winning the pit lottery to get very close to the stage.
As the winning number was announced and we found out we had made the pit, everyone around us erupted with excitement as we hugged random men and women we had met only minutes before. Tears dripped down my face. We were going to be in the pit at a Bruce Springsteen concert! When we entered the pit, we snagged a spot slightly left of the center of the stage, behind one row of people.
When Bruce and the band took the stage, it was almost unreal. Standing about ten feet away from me was the kid from New Jersey who grew up to be a man who changed the face of rock and roll.
“I wanted the record to contain fun, dancing, laughter, jokes, sex, love, tragedy, faith, lonely nights, and of course teardrops,” Bruce said as he introduced the album. He conveyed all of these ideas in a captivating three and a half hour performance.
The show began with a beloved outtake from The River, “Meet Me in the City,” which had been hidden from fans for over 30 years until the December 2015 release of The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. Then Bruce took us “down to The River” as he performed the entire 20-song double-album in order.
Everyone in the crowd was up on their feet for the fun, lighthearted “Sherry Darling” and the classic rocker “The Ties that Bind.” I was surrounded in the pit by generations of fans singing every lyric of every song, holding on to every word Bruce growled into the microphone. During “Hungry Heart” fans went wild as 66-year-old Bruce crowd surfed over the pit while singing. The ever-personal title track “The River” weighed heavy on the audience and the Boss himself, as he made you believe the pain in every word he sang.
Springsteen nuts like myself had the opportunity to hear songs the band rarely plays live from The River, and they were played to perfection. His lyrics resonated in the air as pit members stared up at him in awe during “Point Blank”, “Independence Day”, “The Price You Pay”, and “Stolen Car.” Bruce lightened the mood by whipping out some maracas as he shared the inspiration for the song “I Wanna Marry You”: “I wrote this song as a daydream, where you’re just standing on the corner watching someone you’ll never meet walk on by, and you’re imagining an entire life with this person.”
Steve Van Zandt, also known as Little Steven, playfully crowded around the microphone during some back-and-forth moments with Bruce in “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” and “Two Hearts.”
The true show-stopper was the gut-wrenching ten minute ballad “Drive All Night.” The lights darkened except for one blue beam illuminating Bruce’s face as he belted the most raw, passionate song on the album, filling each and every person in the Garden with a flood of unexplainable emotion. Jake Clemons, nephew of the late great Clarence Clemons, played his uncle’s saxophone solo to its justice.
After the last song of the album, “Wreck on the Highway,” Bruce and the band kicked it into full gear with the tour debut of the outtake “Roulette,” giving die-hard fans immense satisfaction. The Garden was shaking during Darkness on the Edge of Town favorites “Prove It All Night” and “Candy’s Room.” During “Because the Night,” guitarist Nils Lofgren spun in circles until he couldn’t walk straight while destroying his solo. The entire night, drummer Max Weinberg kept a hard, steady beat in the back of the stage with no time to rest while E Street original Garry Tallent rocked on the bass.
No Springsteen show would be complete without “Thunder Road”, “Born to Run” , “Badlands”, and “Dancing in the Dark.” The house lights went up during the encore, exposing every person in the arena dancing and singing to favorites like the world depended on it. “Rosalita” caused the energy to skyrocket, and just when everyone thought it couldn’t get more exciting, Bruce broke into one of the greatest party songs of all time. Boston native Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band took the stage to join Bruce and the band for “Shout” by the Isly Brothers.
You haven’t truly seen something magical until you have seen the “heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band,” as Bruce likes to put it. Every time Bruce sets foot on stage, rock history is being made.