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Monday, May 25, 2009

"Is there anyone alive in New Jersey?" - Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, Live at the Izod Center, 05/23/09

Posted by Ezra Ace Caraeff on Mon, May 25, 2009 at 6:54 AM

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Photo courtesy of The New York Times

I assume I know why Muslims make their Hajj pilgrimage (something to do with God)—or maybe even why Phish fans head to Vermont (relaxed possession laws, and that Ben & Jerry's factory tour is quite nice)—but as a tried and true fan of the Boss, I needed to see Bruce Springsteen in his very own Mecca: the fine state of New Jersey.

The final night of the "Working on a Dream Tour" found the Boss in his swampy backyard, the sprawling mass of endless pavement and stadiums that is the Meadowlands. Saturday's Izod Center performance—an arena that was sadly lacking this adorable logo—marked the band's final Jersey show of the year, that is before their run of Fall dates at Giants Stadium. Those shows will be the last events at the football stadium before it's demolished once and for all. (Sorry, Jimmy Hoffa, they'll never find you now.)

Clearly in the homestretch of his live band career, Springsteen leans heavily on the mythology and energy of the 11-member E Street Band. Suspiciously muscular (seriously, the flex-happy Boss had two tickets to the "gun show" he was eager to share with the sold out crowd), the modern Springsteen is an ageless wonder that feels more Vegas than Jersey, a dedicated showman that occasionally drops cringe-worthy lines (choo-choo train noises in "Johnny 99," his generic faux-preacher rant about "building hope"), yet feels immune to both mortality and criticism. I suppose you'd feel the same if your band just played sold out show number 56 (!) in this arena.

Saturday's setlist featured a surprising amount of covers, plenty of material from The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (three songs), 1978's "Something In The Night," an underappreciated number in "The Ghost Of Tom Joad," plus all the hits you expected ("Born to Run," "Badlands"), and even some you didn't ("Cover Me"). The cover songs were a treat, as the E Street Band suddenly became the world's most talented—and expensive—wedding cover band (I wonder if they'll play my nephew's bar mitzvah?), blazing through spirited takes on "Good Lovin'" and "Mony Mony," complete with plenty of crowd interaction. Speaking of both crowd interaction and Vegas, someone even tossed a pair of panties onstage. Watch out Tom Jones, he's coming for you.

While my dreams of filming Bruce Springsteen Parking Lot, a lazy sequel to this film, were squashed by the inept service of NJ Transit, not a single second of this nearly three hour performance was missed. It was enough to hold me over until he plays Luxor in 2013.

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