Springsteen conducts energy in a Garden party
Bruce Springsteen always seems to arrive just when you need him.
Bad day? Terrible news? Feeling rundown? Looking to put a name to that restless feeling you have been having?
Monday night, Springsteen and his stalwart contracting and expanding E Street Band brought their restorative powers to a sellout crowd of 18,210 at the TD Garden and did the most elemental thing you could hope for: Banish distractions and aggravations in favor of some fun.
That’s exactly what Springsteen promised during his cheeky street-corner-preacher testimonials, at one point assuring the crowd that they would go home with hands, feet, and voices hurting.
That he and the band managed to deliver the fun while still digging deep emotionally into many of the painful and pointed songs about the divided times in which we live from his latest album “Wrecking Ball,’’ as well as pay tribute to those they have personally lost, was a tribute to their commitment.
The indefatigable showman and his cohorts played for 2 hours and 50 minutes with an energy that bordered on superhuman, with Springsteen himself seemingly serving as the power source as he ran, knee-slid, and crowd-surfed his way around the arena. The group moved as a unit with grace and spirit through a sometimes puzzling set list that ignored a wide, popular, and quality swath of Springsteen’s considerable catalog but still brought the fire. (With the exception of an encore of “Dancing in the Dark,’’ the set consisted almost completely of songs from 1980 and earlier, or 2001 and later, overlooking almost everything that came between “The Rising’’ and “Wrecking Ball.’’)
The band - swollen to 16 with the addition of a 5-piece horn section and a trio of singers and singer-percussionist - slid from sound to sound with dexterity working itself into a righteous lather on a medley of the soul classics “The Way You Do the Things You Do’’ and “634-5789,’’ which Springsteen prefaced with a comically souped-up rap about his recent show at the Apollo Theater. The band ratcheted up the tension, building the crescendos of anthems like “The Rising’’ and “Badlands’’ to an ecstatic crest. It moved poignantly through the sobering “American Skin (41 Shots),’’ bringing to mind images of Trayvon Martin. Then the band eased nicely into folkier and Celtic flavored tracks, including “Death to My Hometown.’’
Without naming names, Springsteen paid touching tribute to dearly departed members of the E Street family, keyboardist Danny Federici and sax player Clarence Clemons. During a breakdown of the soulful “My City of Ruins,’’ he took a roll call of the band and then said some people were missing.
But, Springsteen said to the audience “as long as you’re here, and as long as we’re here, they’re here.’’
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.