Springsteen concert review — Verizon Center, Monday night

May 19, 2009 | Drew Forrester

I didn’t really think about posting a review of last night’s Bruce Springsteen show at the Verizon Center until I received seven (7) “how was it last night?” e-mails today.  Oddly enough, I didn’t receive ONE e-mail from anyone asking me, “what do you think about tonight’s O’s/Yankees game in New York?”

With that, I guess I’ll proceed with an account of what transpired last night in front of a sold-out crowd in DC.

There was a lot of good and a little bit of bad associated with the show.  

The “overall experience” – as it always is whenever you’re privileged to see “The Boss” perform live — was an “A”, by just about anyone’s standards. 

Bruce was in great spirits, looked fit, and gave his almost-nightly 110% effort through the 3-hour set.  

Unfortunately, the band, in general, is starting to grow long in the tooth and it showed, with the notable exception of guitarist Nils Lofgren, who bee-bopped around quite a bit throughout.  Clarence Clemons – God Bless Him – is virtually immobile at this point in his life. He shuffles along when called upon, but for the most part, “The Big Man” stays put and belts out a sax piece or two when needed.  He was terrific on “The Promised Land” and “Rosalita”.  The crowd reacts to him more than any other band member (except Bruce, naturally) and there’s no doubt Springsteen enjoys seeing the audience react to his great friend in such a warm manner.  

Anyway, on to the show itself.

As has become customary on this leg of the North American tour, they opened with “Badlands”.   There are plenty of Bruce songs worthy of being the opener, but this was a good fit, I thought, and it got the crowd going right away.  

I’m not going to bore you with a song-by-song blow of the setlist.  If you want to check it out, visit www.backstreets.com and you’ll get a rundown of every setlist from the whole tour, including last night’s DC show.

I’m just here to give you the highlights!  And, a few lowlights.

Badlands was a highlight for sure.  So was “Out in the Street”, which featured Bruce bringing a 9-year old girl up with him and SHE KNEW THE WORDS!  That song comes from “The River” album which was probably part of the collection belonging to that young girl’s parents…lol – I thought “Out in the Street” was the second best song of the night.  

The show slowed to a halt several times.  Bruce insists on playing “Outlaw Pete” even though it’s a fairly-horrible tune (recorded) and even worse, I think, when done live.  He also threw in “The Wrestler” later on and people actually took a seat for the first time in 90 minutes.  Bruce’s new CD “Working on a Dream” is very good, in my opinion, but those are probably the two worst songs on the CD — why play them?  Weird…

At this stage in his life and career, maybe Springsteen thinks like this:  “I’m an icon, I’m getting 85% of the gate tonight (20,000 x $80 average price…you do the math) no matter what I sing…and dammit, I’ve earned the right to play whatever I want.”  

A couple of down songs couldn’t – and didn’t – diminish the night as a whole.

The final three songs (pre-encore) were the usual suspects, but still great to hear: Lonesome Day, The Rising and Born To Run.

I’ve been to 40 concerts in my life and I can honestly say I’ve never seen EVERY single person (within my eyesight) sing the lyrics to a song like everyone did for Born To Run.

I’ve seen The Dave Matthews Band a few times and while the folks gathered there are pretty much diehard DMB fans, I don’t think every person in the house knows the words to “Ants Marching” for example.

If you go to an Aerosmith concert, everyone knows the lyrics to “Dream On”.  If Zeppelin were still around, everyone would be rocking back and forth and singing every word to “Stairway to Heaven”.

Everyone in the place last night sang every word of Born To Run.  It was amazing.

The best song of the night came during the encore, when Bruce and the E Street Band surprised everyone with “Kitty’s Back”, a song from their 1973 release, “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle”.  36 years later, this song was played to perfection.  

I thought the setlist, as a whole, was disappointing, but not totally unexpected.  They didn’t play ANYTHING from Tunnel of Love, which is quite strange considering a lot of Springsteen “experts” still feel to this day that was his best work.  Only two songs from Born To Run — the title song and “She’s The One” — and no trace of “Thunder Road” which was a personal bummer since I’ve always tabbed that one of my favorites.

Only ONE song from Born in The USA — “No Surrender” — and none of the hits from that Grammy winning album.  I thought that was a bit odd, as well.

My all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen song – “Bobby Jean” – wasn’t played either, but I wasn’t expecting it after I saw it was part of the the Hershey setlist from last Friday night.

I thought throughout the show that this could be the last time I see Bruce live.  It was my 4th show…but I’ve been a fan since forever and it was a little bothersome to know both Bruce and I are “getting up there”.  

Just as I was contemplating that, though, he broke into a great rendition of “Rosalita” to close out the encore and I felt like I was 24 and at the Cap Centre again.

He’s still the best “live performer” ever.  I don’t know what his personal take is on a nightly basis, but unlike a majority of the O’s current starting rotation, he earns it every night.

In fact, you could *ahem*, say that Bruce set out to “Prove it all night” on Monday evening and that’s exactly what he did.

NOTE:  Shamless plug for my friend Mark Chapman of Chapman Limousines, who took six of us to the show in his gorgeous white stretch limo on Monday night.  That limo – of course – is available to you should you wish to go somewhere in style. You can reach Mark at 443.610.3430.  He’s especially friendly to WNST listners, so be sure you mention “Drew sent me” and you’ll get a great deal, a great ride and outstanding service.  Guaranteed.