This past Saturday night, I was able to fulfill a long-standing desire and saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. It was an amazing concert--29 songs, almost three hours and fifteen minutes. I've clipped in what my favorite Springsteen website, Backstreets, wrote about it.
A real humdinger, and I like it like that. As the last notes of "Twist and Shout" died away, the buzz and general consensus was "best night of the tour." Of course, comparing these final Magic nights to performances from 2007 is like apples and socket wrenches. But no question, St. Louis was a peak performance, with a mind-blowing setlist and the energy to match. As the show stretched to three hours and 15 minutes, with two false endings to "Badlands," Mighty Max simply tearing up the drums, and three songs after "American Land"... Bruce didn't want to get off the stage, and the energized crowd didn't want to let him go.
It all started with "Then She Kissed Me," Bruce's spin on the Crystals classic that he last broke out in 1975. A delirious opener, a song I thought I'd never hear, but hey, we've come to expect such things this month. What I didn't expect was that it would be just the first of five classic covers in the set -- six, if you count the resurrected "Not Fade Away" intro to "She's the One." After granted requests for "Rendezvous" and a full-band "For You," Bruce returned to the signs and said, "As soon as we started doing these requests, people started getting very sassy. Very sassy. Trying to stump us with stuff we played 23 or 30 years ago. Tonight we'll challenge the band... and probably most of the audience, too!" Harold Dorman's "Mountain of Love" followed, a wall-of-sound cover that put me firmly on the path to Springsteen fanaticism when I first heard it on the Main Point '75 recording so many years ago. And in the nine-song encore, three more rock 'n' roll rave-ups -- "Detroit Medley," "Little Queenie," and "Twist and Shout" -- took it over the top.
But the oldies were only part of what shot this one into the stratosphere. Sizzling guitar on the return of a revitalized "Gypsy Biker," "Adam Raised a Cain," and the tour premiere of a muscular "Cover Me," Bruce taking two leads. And then there were the epics: "Backstreets," "Jungleland," and "Drive All Night." Traditional sing-alongs like "Hungry Heart" and "Sunny Day" went out the window to make room for this trio, and judging by the reaction, they were just as crowd-pleasing, if not more. "Backstreets" was played for a sign after "Mountain of Love" -- Bruce laughed, "We know this one!" After "Mary's Place," Steve could be seen miming a steering wheel to get the word around the stage. Bruce showed the "Drive All Night" sign to the crowd, and after an initial cheer there was an extraordinary hush, the whole place seeming to sit back to let it wash over. With the stage bathed in purple and blue light, it was a magical performance -- soulful, understated playing from the band led to tremedous crescendos, and then, if anyone had forgotten, Clarence reminded us of his power on that horn. "Better than Giants Stadium," a friend said to me halfway through the song... and it only got better from there.
For the first "extended play" song after "American Land," Springsteen decided to set a wrong right. "We got the hometown of Bob Costas here, am I right?" In case you haven't followed the corrections coming out of NBC, both Costas and Brian Williams have offered mea culpas for reporting that Springsteen dedicated a song to Olympic wunderkind Michael Phelps -- "news" that thrilled Phelps himself -- when no such thing ever happened. Well, it hadn't happened until St. Louis. Costas had conculded his correction by writing: "Now if The Boss could just cover our butts by giving Mr. Phelps a shout-out on Thursday night in Nashville, or Saturday night in my hometown of St. Louis -- a show I’d definitely be at were I not in Beijing -- I think I'd feel a lot better." Though he didn't have a sign, Bruce decided to grant that request. He made good retroactively on the news reports, continuing with a knowing smile, "We're gonna send this one out to Michael Phelps. Eight golds -- whew!" And again, very deliberately, "To Michael Phelps," before launching into "Thunder Road." Not "Born in the U.S.A." as reported, but Bob, Brian... butts are covered, you're in the clear. (And Brian, thanks for the shout-out.)
From there, the whole place was fist-pumping go! go! go! for "Little Queenie" -- hey, this is Chuck Berry's hometown, too. And no one actually expected the band to stick around for yet another one, but a prominent sign reading "Sophie loves Bruce" was just the excuse Springsteen needed to keep things going. "We gotta do one for Sophie!" he shouted, kicking off "Twist and Shout" to wring the last drops of energy out of the Scottrade Center. Bless you, Sophie, wherever you are, and hail, hail rock 'n' roll.
Setlist: Then She Kissed Me/Radio Nowhere/Out in the Street/Adam Raised a Cain/Spirit in the Night/Rendezvous/For You/Mountain of Love/Backstreets/Gypsy Biker/Because the Night/Not Fade Away/She's the One/Livin' in the Future/Cover Me/Mary's Place/Drive All Night/The Rising/Last to Die/Long Walk Home/Badlands* * *Encore: Girls in Their Summer Clothes/Jungleland/Detroit Medley/Born to Run/Dancing in the Dark/American Land/Thunder Road/Little Queenie/Twist and Shout