It’s been two weeks now since I saw Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago. I still cannot grasp the magnitude of this show. I didn’t think Bruce would ever be able to top his 3+ hour show from St. Paul, MN from May of 2009 as my favorite live show I’ve ever been to. Then he pulled out all of the stops on September 7th, 2012. Bruce and company hit Wrigley with searing falling meteor intensity and the force of a 10 megaton A-bomb. It was a relentless 3 and 1/2 hour marathon show. If The Boss with the E Street Band wasn’t enough they had a couple (cough) locals come out. Tom Morello and Eddie Vedder. Tom Morello and Eddie fuckin’ Vedder! My head was bout to explode! The most eclectic set I’ve seen from Springsteen that’s for sure. The memorable moments seemed endless beginning with “Prove It All Night” with the 1978 extended piano/guitar intro. Other rarities I loved included “My Love Will Not Let You Down”, and one of my all-time favorites “Spirit in the Night”. Morello played blistering maddening guitar on seven songs including his crowning moment the cosmic mind-bending solos from “The Ghost Of Tom Joad”. Bruce and Eddie performed a duet of “Atlantic City”. It’s a real treat to listen to Eddie’s voice live. He has a voice that could make you melt. The encore was brilliant loaded heavily with cuts from Born To Run. “Thunder Road”, “Born To Run” and a beautiful moving tribute to Clarence Clemons on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”. The best moment however, was the one song I’ve wanted to see the most live, and I finally got it. Jungleland. JUNGLELAND. I could, and perhaps I should just leave it at that, it’s really tough to put into words what this song means to me. It’s the consummate Springsteen song, maybe my favorite Springsteen song. It’s everything that’s good about Rock & Roll, about music. It’s the greatest epic album closer of any album ever made in my opinion. It’s spiritual, and you feel like you’re achieving transcendence. As for that legendary Clarence Clemons sax solo? His nephew Jake Clemons nailed it just as he did with every other sax solo that night. I was impressed. Very few songs have moved me to tears, but they were certainly welling up in my eyes. Not out of misery or sadness, but pure ebullience, ecstasy. I could die a happy man after hearing that. Bruce and friends closed out the set with a rapturous cover of “Twist And Shout” just a shade under midnight. My throat was shot, I was sweating despite it being a windy cool night, and physical sore. In a nutshell I was exhausted and there was a man onstage nearly 63 years old besting me! Unbelievable! Humans shouldn’t have that type of endurance, let alone at 63! Bruce’s fans demand a great deal from him live night after night after night. And he always delivers. Conversely Bruce expects that same passion back from the audience. We’re doing everything we can Boss! Thanks Boss… again. Here’s the write-up courtesy of Backstreets.com:
September 7 / Wrigley Field / Chicago, IL
Notes: During tonight’s “roll call,” Bruce had a special introduction to make: “Born in Chicago in 1951, Mr. Nils Lofgren!” But Nils wasn’t the only native son in the house tonight — this first of two shows at Wrigley Field felt almost like Old Home Night, with major guest spots from Tom Morello (who grew up in the Chicago suburb of Libertyville) and Eddie Vedder (born and raised in Evanston). Both Springsteen pals are lifelong Cubs fans, clearly thrilled to be on stage in the Friendly Confines, and they each pitched in on several songs. As Bruce said, it was “a cavalcade — a cavalcade of stars!”
Morello threw down perfectly wrought solos for his Wrecking Ball staples “Death to My Hometown” and “Jack of All Trades.” He was back later for his trademark electric “The Ghost of Tom Joad” duet, trading vocals and guitar leads with Springsteen (truly shredding — and scratching — by the end), and he remained on stage as that energy kept flowing for an ecstatic “Badlands” and the set-closing “Land of Hope and Dreams.” Mid-set, Vedder strapped on a guitar for “Atlantic City,” sharing lead vocals on a stellar performance. Eddie and Tom both came back in the encores.
Spread throughout the set, a trove of mid-’80s rarities. The band broke out “My Love Will Not Let You Down” in the second slot — a real highlight, with that classic chiming guitar trio of Nils, Bruce, and Steve downstage, as well as a kick-ass drum breakdown from Max. There was also a muscular “Trapped,” one of those relative obscurities that still galvanizes a stadium crowd; “I’m Goin’ Down” (which led right into the more frequently spotted “Darlington County”); and a true rarity, played live by the E Street Band only twice before, “None But the Brave.” “I think this is a tour debut, I could be wrong,” Bruce said, and he was right. “This is for all the hardcore fans out there. This was written for Born in the U.S.A. Didn’t make it on there.” Sounding surprisingly well-rehearsed (it was soundchecked in Philadelphia, at least), “None But the Brave” was absolutely majestic, Eddie Manion bringing it home at the end, blowing for all he’s worth.
The concert began with the ’78-style intro to “Prove It All Night.” Coveted as it is by those aforementioned hardcore fans, and for good reason, it made a slightly strange opener — an extended instrumental to start the show — and there wasn’t clear recognition among the crowd until the song’s main piano riff kicked in. But plenty of power there regardless, big cheers for Jake, and Nils twirling away on a fierce solo at the end. Followed by “My Love,” it was a killer one-two punch.
The next two songs setlisted were “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Lost in the Flood,” and you can gather how Bruce’s mood must have changed between writing the setlist and playing the show, as he replaced them with audibles of “Out in the Street” and “Hungry Heart.” For the latter he ventured out into the crowd, saluting fans on the “Wrigley Rooftops” just outside the ballpark, even adding a nod to the Drifters’ “Up on the Roof” as the song went along. But despite that shift to stadium-friendly crowd-pleasers, which gave the show some ups and downs, there was really something for everybody tonight. Radio hits, deep cuts, special guests, strong Wrecking Ball performances (“Shackled and Drawn” was a particular showstopper, Cindy Mizelle just tearing it up), and, in the encore, a glittery sign request from a “14-year-old lady” granted for “Jungleland.” It’s the first “Jungleland” I’ve seen with Jake, and my emotions were all over the place — though what got me in my gut was not Jake’s solo (which was pretty damn faultless), but Bruce’s wordless vocals at the end, those howls into the night sky. No wonder he keeps talking about ghosts.
And then Tom Morello and Eddie Vedder were back on stage for the last two songs, Tom in his Cubs cap, both beaming as bright as Wrigley’s night baseball lights, sharing Steve’s mic on “Twist and Shout” as they sent us home dancing. What more do you want? A cool, breezy night, perfectly dry despite the predicted thunderstorms? Yeah, we got that too.
– Christopher Phillips reporting – photographs by C.P. (1,3) and Lois Bernstein (2, 4-8)
Prove It All Night (’78 intro)
My Love Will Not Let You Down
Out in the Street
We Take Care of Our Own
Death to My Hometown (with Tom Morello)
My City of Ruins
Spirit in the Night
Jack of All Trades (with Tom Morello)
Atlantic City (with Eddie Vedder)
I’m Goin’ Down
Shackled and Drawn
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
None But the Brave
The Ghost of Tom Joad (with Tom Morello)
Badlands (with Tom Morello)
Land of Hope and Dreams (with Tom Morello)
* * *
We Are Alive
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (with Morello and Vedder)
Twist and Shout (with Morello and Vedder)