The Boss in Cleveland – 11.10.2009
Last night (11.10.09) at Quicken Loans Arena, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made their way through town on their Working on a Dream tour. I’ll be the first to admit that I had high expectations for this show…which were exceeded tenfold.
Running through a 28 song, nearly three hour set, which included playing 1975’s ‘Born to Run’ (from start to finish), Bruce and company entertained a full capacity crowd and kept everyone on their toes from start to finish; from the floor to the rafters. (I was in the rafters, so yes, I can vouch for that.)
Prior to the show, in anticipation of Springsteen & band hitting the stage, loud choruses of “Bruuuuuuuucccee” cheers were belted from around the arena.
Kicking the show off with a new track, “Wrecking Ball,” written about the demolition of Giants Stadium at The Meadowlands complex in his home state of New Jersey, Bruce and the band followed up with “Prove it All,” featuring the first of many sax solos by the “Big Man,” Clarence Clemons, one of several standout members from the incredibly talented E Street Band. The crowd took the first verse of “Hungry Heart” and Bruce himself ventured into the crowd for some fun, and… get this… crowd surfing!! (No, I’m not kidding.) Not bad for a 60-year-old!
After performing the title track off of his new album, ‘Working on a Dream,’ Bruce told a quick story about his third album being a “make it or break it” in his career, noting he already had two strikes against him in a three record deal. The resulting third album was the timeless ‘Born to Run.’ As the crowd cheered the first piano and harmonica notes to the album’s opening track, “Thunder Road,” it was clear he hit a home run on that third album, about to be played in its entirety.
An early highlight of the night, “Born to Run,” played with the house lights on, put 20,000+ on their feet. As the lights went back down, “She’s the One” brought out a slick harmonica solo by Bruce. To finish off the first real treat of the evening, the epic “Jungleland” began slow, built up, and then slowed down with a lengthy sax solo from the Big Man, accompanied by a disco ball sprinkling lights throughout the crowd.
“Waiting on a Sunny Day” brought a trio of young girls hand plucked from the crowd by the Boss himself. The girls seemed in disbelief to be sharing the stage with the Hall of Fame great, helping sing the chorus in front of the excited crowd.
I can honestly say I’ve never been to a show where a band openly takes requests right from the crowd…at least not a band headlining arenas around the country. But that’s exactly what Bruce did. “Raise Your Hand,” “Red Headed Woman,” and “Pink Cadillac” were all fan requests from posters and signs that Bruce himself read from the crowd. (I wouldn’t have been surprised had Bruce entertained a request for “Freebird.”)
The second highlight of the night came in “Back in Your Arms,” a heartbreaking song done in a soulful way that only the E Street Band can do. The Boss fell to his knees belting out “baby, just give me…one more chance!” After grabbing a quick drink Bruce returned to the mic, “goodnight everybody!” Ha Ha, real funny, Mr. Springsteen.
Kicking things up a few notches, the band ran through “Radio Nowhere,” a personal favorite (even if it seemed a little rusty), “Lonesome Day,” crowd favorite “The Rising,” and closing things out with a rousing version of “Badlands” that had the crowd as energized as the band itself.
It’s remarkable how much energy the band and Bruce brought to the show and how much the crowd feeds off every word, note, movement, and strum. They love this man, and they love this band, for better or worse. Each and every last member worked their instruments like it was the absolute last night they would play.
Roughly two hours after the first notes were played, the band took a “break,” which lasted all of a standing ovation and some pretend leaving the stage…but not so fast. A quick shout out to the Cleveland Food Bank and a “thank you” for all the food donated before the show, and another to the “Cleveland Boys,” who I was also told are a group of guys that were around from the beginning of Bruce’s career here and have become friends over the years. Bruce dedicated “Hard Times” to a fallen member of the “Cleveland Boys.”
Lights go up again. 2.5 hours and still going strong, “Dancing in the Dark” seemed to never end. It just kept going and going like the freaking Energizer bunny. Bruce stood alone on the stage with his guitar, playing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” as the band kicked in to finish strong with “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” Bruce worked the crowd with every ounce of energy he had left in him, literally taking the band and the crowd as high as they could go. The band got louder and louder with every passing second. Bruce joked that “they have another gear,” but I swear, they really do, and they found it!
“Rosalita” closed the show nearly three hours after it began. The Boss jokingly handed Clemons his guitar as if to say “get this thing away from me or I’ll keep playing, I swear, I’ll do it!” A standing ovation followed, although, does it count when the crowd was already standing for most of the night? Sure, there were hiccups along the way. When you’ve got a catalog as big as Bruce Springsteen, the band might forget a note here or a chord there, it’s bound to happen. Did anyone notice? Doubtful. It was an enjoyable experience from start to finish. The band sounded amazing. Bruce sounded no older than he did on the recording of ‘Born to Run.’ The crowd was simply amazing. I don’t know if this is what Bruce is always like, but if so, sign me up for the next tour!