Sunday , September 20 2020
The Boss brings it to Boston...

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

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.

Setlist:

  • 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)

About Lisa McKay

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