Springsteen In Boston: Gypsy Minstrels Tell It Like It Is

They all wore black.

The perfect color to deliver a hard hitting, high energy night of music with a purpose — and a conscience. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band had a message to deliver in the first of two shows at the TD Banknorth Garden last night — and the sold out arena was treated to new songs cauterized with the complexities of life in 2007, and soothed with classics that assured the faithful that “It’s all right, yeah!”

It all began with the sounds of a carnival organ … you could almost smell the popcorn and Jersey sea salt as the band took the stage. Black and denim — scuffed and road tested — Springsteen’s signature Fender “Telecaster” looking like the six string Frankenstein of guitar geek legend — and blasting out the opening riff of “Radio Nowhere.” “Is there anybody alive out there,” the Boss bellowed, the crowd answering back with a thunderous ovation.

From that point on it was a rock and roll thrill ride of old and new, “No Surrender” and “Lonseome Day” followed the opener. Then it was back to the new CD “Magic” for “Gypsy Biker” and the title track. The studio versions of those songs feel more like tributes to earlier — and frankly better tunes — but, in concert, they held their own. Both are direct reproaches to Bush Administration policies, but “Last To Die” with the heartbreaking chorus, “Who’ll be the last to die for a mistake” and “Devil’s Arcade” actually got the point across more convincingly later in the show.

There were aw shucks moments too. A couple in front got engaged — the bride-to-be getting a smooch from Bruce. He played “I’ll Work For You Love” to the love birds — I’d have preferred “Thunder Road.” He also followed that with “Tunnel of Love” — a killer version that included some gritty guitar heroics from both Bruce and Nils Lofgren. Bruce did some impressive guitar dueling with Nils and Steve Van Zandt all night long. The Boss has been practicing baby!

One of the joys of the whole E Street Band thing is the camaraderie that just can’t be forced. Patti Scialfa smiled more than I’ve seen her in many a show. Clarence Clemons was on fire on sax — and he had to be, “Jungleland” made the encore list. The sax solo was nothing less then epic.

Springsteen shows have always been about community, and Bruce never forgets the underdog. He helped raise money, and awareness for the Boston Food Bank during the show. His showmanship is also without peer. I mean the man is 58 years old and his energy is boundless. Maybe he doesn’t have quite the air time on his leaps anymore, but he can draw in, and work up an audience like no one I’ve ever seen. Even dressed in black he lights up the room with his monumental talent.

The show ended with a jig. Yeah, I said jig. Danny Federici and Roy Bittan strapped on accordions and brought the house down with “American Land” — an old school, big tent, rave up from Bruce’s “Seeger Sessions” CD. It wasn’t the closer that everyone in the house wanted, but I loved it. It capped off a night that touched on almost every aspect of this wonderful musician’s career. No one was left out, including drummer Max Weinberg’s 93 year old mother. I’m sure she was dancing too.

Great night. Great band. Great man.


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