Music Review

Tireless Springsteen, E Street Band still keeping the throttle wide open

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hit on all cylinders Tuesday night in a nearly three-hour show at the TD Banknorth Garden. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band hit on all cylinders Tuesday night in a nearly three-hour show at the TD Banknorth Garden. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / April 23, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Single Page|
  • |
Text size +

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band don't have to play for two hours and 40 minutes. Nor, when they play, is it a requirement that Springsteen fall to his knees, shimmy and shake, attack his guitar like he's still discovering new sounds it can make, or take audience requests that he and his band don't know how to play.

Tuesday night at the TD Banknorth Garden, in the first of two sold-out shows, Springsteen and his bandmates did all of that and more, making clear that, nearly 40 years on, they may not have to do these things but they still need to.

Even if there are obviously times that a body wants to wilt, or a newer song, sometimes justifiably, doesn't go over quite as well as an older one, that joyful tirelessness is a marvel.

And it was there in the night's best moments, which were plentiful and disparate in a set that covered a lot of ground. It zipped from the '70s to the present, encompassed an ecstatic "Rosalita" and a prayerful "The Wrestler," and went from dead serious to footloose and fancy free in the time it took Springsteen to change guitars.

Near the top of the list of highs was Springsteen's inspired ax work in general and that of Nils Lofgren in particular. Lofgren was otherworldly on a downright incendiary "Ghost of Tom Joad," building a wall of stinging sustained notes while flailing his legs in a frenzy before finally releasing the tension.

That tune was part of a mini-suite of songs - including "Seeds" and "Johnny 99" - early in the set that addressed hard times and the people trying to bear up under them with ruefulness and rage both lyrically and musically in Springsteen's tangled guitar licks and impassioned growl.

The infusion of new blood - keyboardist Charlie Giordano and singers Curtis King and Cindy Mizelle - seems to have revitalized the entire band, although King and Mizelle might want to ask for a little more amplification. Drummer Max Weinberg's son Jay, who will be filling in for his "Tonight Show"-bound dad in Europe, was a demon behind the kit, immediately ratcheting up the energy level on the first of the handful of songs he played. With his long hair flying and singing along with gusto as he played, he seemed like the happiest fan in the crowd as he pounded out "Born to Run." (Springsteen's wife, Patti Scialfa, was MIA due to a recent fall from a horse.)

Even when the group didn't know where they were going they kept the car on the road. When Springsteen plucked a request sign from the pile he'd collected that read "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" by ZZ Top, he said, "The band doesn't know this song. The band has never played this song" and then he showed them the sign and away they went like the happy gang of musicians they obviously still are.