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Concert Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Gillette Stadium, August 2, 2008

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Familiar faces around me
Laughter fills the air…

The thousands of people who crowded Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Saturday night had good reason to keep eyeing the skies. In direct defiance of the crowd's high spirits and high expectations, reports of bad weather on its way had been filtering in all afternoon and the dark clouds overhead didn't look as if they were about to clear anytime soon. Intermittent proclamations of thunder were punctuated by exclamation points of lightning while the skies grew ever darker.

Finally, as befits a summer storm in New England, the skies opened up and released torrents of rain, more rain than I can remember seeing – or feeling – in a long time. For the first time on that hot, muggy day I felt a shiver of cold run through me as my clothing soaked through almost instantaneously. The thunder and lightning continued doing their call and response for a while longer, and while people were struggling with an assortment of plastic ponchos and makeshift trash bag wear, or just resigning themselves to the soaking, some of the crew assembled onstage and took pictures of it all.

And yet nobody left. As the rain began to subside a little, the applause and chants from the sopping wet crowd swept over the stadium like a wave: "Bruuuuuuce…"

The powers that be spent some time considering the prospects. Whoever controls the weather decided that our mettle had been tested and not found wanting, the band and the stadium management concurred, and at approximately 9:20, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took the stage to a roar of approval.

Plunging instantly into "Summertime Blues", Springsteen and the band got the evening off to a powerful start, and they proceeded to jump headfirst into a nearly three-hour long show that included some classics, one tour premiere, and one song (by request) that they hadn't performed since 1977. Springsteen's recent habit of collecting request placards from the audience and springing the surprises on the band lent an air of unpredictability and fun to an evening that leaned heavily on the more stadium-friendly material from Springsteen's arsenal.

The Boss appeared to be in high spirits all evening, and the political gravitas that accompanied some of the earlier arena shows on this tour was notably absent. This show exemplified the E Street Band in full-on party mode, and the setlist offered up an interesting mix of the old, the new, and the unexpected. The old and new were bookended by Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ's "Spirit in the Night" and four songs from the band's most recent album, Magic. The unexpected occurred in the form of the first request the band played, "Little Latin Lupe Lu", which the band hadn't played since 1977. Other requests honored during the main set included "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" and concert staple "Hungry Heart". The tour premiere was, appropriately, John Fogerty's "Who'll Stop the Rain".

Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
Meet me at Mary's place, we're gonna have a party…

The E Street Band is in great shape these days, the kind of shape that allows them to be loose and have fun without sacrificing their spot-on musicianship. Particularly notable on this night was Nils Lofgren's blistering guitar work which elevated several songs into the stratosphere. This show had a celebratory feel to it from beginning to end, and Springsteen played to the audience for all he's worth. The audience, of course, paid it back with interest, particularly on "Mary's Place" which Springsteen has turned into the kind of concert centerpiece that pulls out all the stops.

The level of up close and personal interaction with the audience was enhanced by several mini-stages in front of the main ramp that allowed Springsteen to be surrounded by fans on three sides, and he didn't stop moving for an instant. Given that he's turning 59 next month, it's hard to know how many more of these shows are left in our collective future, but at present the man shows no signs of slowing down and kept up a pace for the duration of the concert that would have exhausted most people half his age.

Band's countin' out midnight
Floor's rumblin' loud
Singer's callin' up daylight
And waitin' for that shout from the crowd
Waitin' for that shout from the crowd…

If the main set left us all exhausted and jubilant, it was hard to see how Bruce and the band could possibly ramp it up even more for an encore, but on magical nights, magical things can and do happen. Wrapping up the show with an encore that included "Jungleland" and "Born to Run" and sent us home to the strains of "Rosalita", Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band proved yet again that music has the power to transcend just about anything — including a summer storm. If three hours of jubilant singing along, dancing, crying, fist-pumping, and smiling yourself into exhaustion doesn't move you right down to the very marrow of your soul — if Clarence's sax solos don't send shivers down your spine — if being transported right out of your skin by something this passionate and this immediate doesn't change your life — you should probably check for a pulse.


  • Summertime Blues
  • Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  • Radio Nowhere
  • Lonesome Day
  • The Promised Land
  • Spirit In The Night
  • Tunnel Of Love
  • Little Latin Lupe Lu (first time with E Street Band since 1977!)
  • Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
  • Hungry Heart
  • Who'll Stop The Rain (tour premiere)
  • Youngstown
  • Murder Incorporated
  • She's The One
  • Livin' In The Future
  • Mary's Place
  • The Rising
  • Last To Die
  • Long Walk Home
  • Badlands
  • I'm Going Down
  • Jungleland
  • Born To Run
  • Glory Days
  • Dancing In The Dark
  • American Land
  • Rosalita

Lyrics to "Mary's Place", © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

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About Lisa McKay

  • great review lisa. nice to see that you’ve recovered.

    dang, i got chills while riding the setlist…when “Little Latin Lupe Lu” came up. dang.

  • Nice job Lisa. Springsteen is quickly moving up on my list of artists I’ve got to see live.

  • Charlie

    I was at this show as well (floor seats, section B2) and luckily arrived at Gillette with two others sometime between 8-8:30pm, after the thunder and lightning had subsided. I stuffed an unopened poncho in my baggy front-leg pocket, but thank goodness, never had to use it for the rest of the night. And you’re absolutely right, Lisa: a Springsteen show does indeed transcend everything, even mother nature.

    As far as the show went, I have to say that having seen Bruce, with and without his E Street band, about 7 times – twice at Gillette Stadium now – over the last 16 years (and I’m only 28 years of age), it’s in my top 3 of all-time, as great as the others (including Danny’s farewell show in Boston last November) have been. But if he played “Racing In The Street” between “Mary’s Place” and “The Rising” – it was crossed off the setlist, according to Backstreets.com – that would’ve made this show #1 without question.

    Everyone that’s a longtime/true fan of Bruce knows that his relationship with an audience is unmatched anywhere else in pop music. But on this night, Bruce had this interaction with his audience that was even more sustained than usual – his near-constant trips to audience up front; several requests via the signs, especially “I’m Going Down” and the “Lupe Lu” sign with the lyrics on the back and even the song’s key!

    And when he does go into those front row, does anybody trust a crowd (to NOT grab or pull anything or any body part) more than Bruce? He even let a few fans strum the guitar (hitting the strings like crazy!) in the encore during “Born To Run”.

    The other highlights of the show for me were Clarence’s unforgettable, soulful solos on classics like “Jungleland” and watching my 2nd fav E-Streeter do his thing all night, the finger-pickin’ shredder known as Nils Lofgren. He absolutely tore up tunes like “Tunnel of Love” and “Youngstown.” Bruce and Steve’s dueling guitar solos on “Murder Incorporated” kicked butt as well. At nearly 3 hours and 27 songs in all, what a show indeed.

  • Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Charlie, we were down in the pit right by that little stage thingy in the center, and the amount of hands-on contact was pretty amazing. At one point he was playing guitar on his knees leaning over backwards, with the only thing keeping him from tumbling off being fans’ hands on his back. The staff made a quick pass by the front of the pit well before the show reminding people to use open hands and not grab, but trusting people to remember that in the heat of the moment takes quite a leap of faith. Pun intended, kinda.

  • Sounds like a good time. Your article put me there.

  • Charlie

    That’s pretty cool, Lisa (being in the pit up front). I was in the 3rd row, dead center for my first ever Bruce concert in Worcester when I was 12 years old in 1992, and got to touch Bruce’s shoulder as he went into the crowd at one point. Haven’t gotten up THAT close to Bruce since then, but no complaints about any of my seats since then either.

    One more thing, though: I just noticed that your setlist and Backstreets’ setlist looked a bit different and now I know why: you have one more song listed than they do, “Light Of Day.” I don’t remember hearing that one Saturday night, so unless someone else can confirm that, I would take it off the setlist for now. Just my advice.

  • Great job, Lisa. I’m so glad you got there for another show.

    18 days! 18 days! 18 days!

  • Linked up at COAF. Again, great job!

  • I believe you’re right, Charlie. Truth be told, I swiped my setlist from brucespringsteen.net and didn’t double check it very carefully, so I’ll amend it accordingly. Thanks for the check, I stand corrected!

  • Thanks for the link love, Josh!

  • Thank you Lisa for this great review!

    My friends and I drove down Saturday to watch this wonderful rock Icon and have been reeling with delight since then! Wow. What a night.

    Here’s my post I did about our experience.

    We sat in the torrential downpour with zero protection. For us, it was part of the experience being with Bruce Springsteen for a night and I have to say….the whole night was electrifying!

    Again, thank you for your fantastic review. I’ve read a few comments online by some who thought it sucked. WTF? Are they serious? These are the kinds of people who don’t get excited about their own birthday, let alone, someone else’s. 😉

  • Nothing compares to the pit, thats for sure. When I saw Bruce in Portland last March from the pit, and then read the reviews on Backstreets saying it was a lukewarm show, I couldn’t beleive the writer was even in the same building.

    The crowd blew the roof off that place…and when they kept doing the “whoa, ohhh, ohhh”s” of “Badlands” before he came back for the encore (“Jungleland”)…fricking goosebumps, man. Being in the building is nice, but theres nothing like the pit. Great review Lisa.


  • Cindy

    I asked my husband for pit seats for my 50th birthday. Can you give me a tip on how to get some? Or is spending thousands of dollars the only way??? Thanks!
    And the concert was awesome, as always! 🙂

  • Cindy, you should never have to spend thousands of dollars on a concert ticket (unless it’s something legit like a charity)…There are no pit tickets for Springsteen, only general admission. You line up before the concert and a random drawing determines if you get into the pit or not.

    And as far as scoring GA tickets, just be online and ready whenever they go on sale. If those don’t come up immediately (or at all while you’re trying to buy them), keep trying at different times, different days, right up to the show if necessary. New tickets are always popping up. Hope this helps.

  • Donald, that’s actually not the case for the stadium shows. For the arena shows, the lottery was to see if GA ticket holders got into the pit. For the stadium shows, GA tickets are the pit, which was the same way it worked on the Rising Tour. In that case, the lottery determines the order of entry into the pit. The rest of the stadium floor is seating.

    Cindy, I’ve never spent extra money to buy tickets from a scalper (couldn’t afford it if I wanted to). I’ve gotten all my pit tickets (and I’ve been in the pit for every E Street band show I’ve been to) via Ticketmaster, usually on a ticket drop (which is when they release more tickets after the initial sale, often good ones) and only after I’ve already bought seats somewhere in the house 🙂

  • Ahtist

    This was my 5th Bruce concert, and I thought it was amazing! I thought the lightning added to the party atmosphere. The fans were cheering at the top of their lungs with every bolt that almost hit us! When we finally retreated to the covered area, soaked fans were dancing and singing “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” I brought my 17 year old son to his first concert ever. I’m sure he will never forget it. I am usually pretty reserved, but I think I was singing and screaming so loud I was actually bothering the guy in front of me, ooops! I think being on the floor makes all the difference, there is so much energy. I can’t wait till he’s back again! The only bummer was getting out of the parking lot. I got home after 4am!!

  • I “felt” you there. What a descriptive review. Bruce is probably one of the few artists left that I have to see in concert live. I’ve pretty much seen my “grail” artists live (The Stones, Aerosmith, Van Halen and others a bit embarassing to mention) and I guess all that is left are Bruce and a couple of others (Mellencamp, Heart and Stevie Nicks). Here’s hoping I reach that place before they kick the bucket ( really ).