Before Bruce began playing all 20 songs from The River last night, he told the sold-out crowd at The Garden, “I wanted to make a big record that felt like life.”
Part of it is the emotional storytelling he does in every song– with poetic, often haunting lyrics that stick in your mind for decades because they trigger memories and touch your soul.
The River was one of the first albums I owned and I listened to it over and over again, always finding new nuances. Bruce creates characters in a world where work is hard, love is tangled and uncertain, and freedom and dreams are what save us.
Playing my River cassette tape on my Sony boom box, I loved rock classics like “Hungry Heart,” “Sherry Darling,” and “Out on the Street.” (What teenager doesn’t want to belt out “When I’m out on the street. I talk the way I want to talk!”?)
I was thrilled by the 1980’s technological advancement that allowed me to listen to the same song on repeat as many times as I wanted. I went through a “Drive All Night” phase and must have played that song a thousand times, dreaming of whichever boy I liked, wishing anyone would ever love me like that.
I also connected with the ballads. The tragic emptiness of “The River,” the brutal dose of reality and family strife in “Independence Day,” and the desperate longing of “Fade Away,” all came back to me. I was back in my high school bedroom with the blue shag carpet and flowered sheets, earnestly singing every word.
Bruce played every song with energy and heart, like he was rediscovering the lyrics for himself, with more life experience to change his lens.
You would never know the guy is 66 from the spark and endurance onstage. I’m sure he gears up for days for a show now. He clearly takes care of his body and must treat his voice with gingerly care. It’s still strong and gravelly and sexy as shit.
What other sexagenarian jumps into a standing crowd backwards and bodysurfs across a room?
Wilson balked at the hefty ticket price but he loved the show too. We went with old friends, David and Dana, which made the night even sweeter. If you’ve been to a Bruce concert, you know he’s like the bartender at Cheers, bringing together the E Street Band and thousands of screaming fans in one place to have a beer, sing songs and tell old stories.
Never disappointing his devoted fans, he played for more than three hours straight, and after The River, treated us to two of my favs: “She’s the One,” and “Candy’s Room.”
He also pulled out ” The Rising” before going into the classic encores and a fun ending with “Shout.” For a complete set list click here.
So yeah, it was a terrific night with Bruce and the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band!
Who knows how long they’ll be rocking the house? Each show feels like a moment in history to savor.