BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
At: Comcast Center, last night (repeats tonight)
By James Reed
MANSFIELD -- Just as it appeared he was taking his final bow, a little shy of three unrelenting hours onstage, Bruce Springsteen changed his mind. “One more to send you home!,” he announced, as if parting were such sweet sorrow.
Springsteen talks like he entertains -- in exclamation points -- and if you can’t match his gusto and enthusiasm, he and the E Street Band can easily steamroll you in the long run. That’s a testament, of course, to the ensemble’s thrilling and harmonious performance at last night's sold-out show at the Comcast Center, the first of a two-night stand. (Tickets are still available for tonight's show.)
In concert, the Boss has something that’s increasingly rare but still potent: animal magnetism, coupled with an innate desire to engage with his audience. He gets close enough for them to paw at the strings of his guitar and wrap their hands around his ankles. Only a fan’s neon poster reminded you that Springsteen is indeed an aging rocker: “60 NEVAH LOOKED BETTAH,” it read, looking ahead to Springsteen's birthday next month.
You really can’t discount the importance of Springsteen’s audience. These are the folks who keep coming back to see him -- he just played two nights in April at the TD Garden on a second victory lap for this year’s lackluster “Working on a Dream” -- and they help keep the show fresh with their energy and song requests written on homemade signs. (Springsteen obliged them last night with “For You” and a pair of covers, “Burning Love” and “Trapped.”)
A preteen fan got her shining moment when Springsteen held out the microphone for her to chime in on the chorus of “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” except -- bless her heart -- she thought the lyric was “waitin’ on a summer’s day.” (Later, during “Dancing in the Dark,” Springsteen invited her up to dance beside him.)
And bonus points to whoever brought the blow-up doll in a red wig and blue dress that eventually ended up onstage. That was the band’s cue to play “Devil With a Blue Dress On,” a moment that will no doubt live on through YouTube clips of Springsteen performing in said red wig. Another fan request yielded a tender and deeply felt rendition of “If I Should Fall Behind.”
The E Street Band was as airtight as ever, anchored by Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Max Weinberg’s precise drumming (his 18-year-old son, Jay, took over the kit for the last few songs), and the one-two punch and crunch of guitarists Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt. By the time Springsteen and the band got to “Born to Run,” they were cranking out nimble grooves on “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and “Born in the USA.”
After throwing the crowd a curveball for the final encore, “Twist and Shout,” Springsteen was finally ready to exit stage right. But first an impassioned promise that you knew he meant: “We’ll be back tomorrow night to do it again!”
James Reed can be reached at email@example.com.