Greasy Lake
The Boss and company triumph in Miami

Palm Beach Post , 2002-11-24
By Charles Passy

When Bruce Springsteen teamed up again with the E Street Band a few years ago, he made it perfectly clear: This was no mere reunion of the group that got its start three decades ago on the Jersey shore. This was a rebirth. Saturday night, he made good on that promise.

Bringing the band to the American Airlines Arena in support of his new album, The Rising, Springsteen served up a couple of hours' worth of the thunderous, thought-provoking rock that has been his trademark. If anything, this was a tighter, more powerfully conceived show than the reunion tour, which was largely a nostalgic walk through the band's glory days, to borrow a Springsteen song title.

Now, Springsteen has a dozen or so new songs in his arsenal from The Rising, a post-Sept. 11 meditation that's equal parts barroom celebration and poetic reflection. And he was eager -- no, make that determined -- to put them on full display with the bandmates who have long understood the many layers to his music and lyrics.

Indeed, he arrived on a darkened stage, dressed in no-nonsense black, and started with The Rising, the album's jangly title song of hope and redemption. It works wonderfully on record, but Springsteen's strongest suit has always been as a live act. As he pushed hard on the chorus, singing each "La, la, la" like it was a prayer-turned-party anthem, he had the near-capacity crowd on an ecstatic course.

More new material followed. Lonesome Day gave him ample opportunity to show how much he's settled into his rough but soulful voice -- in this case, by putting his smartly controlled falsetto to good use. Later, Springsteen displayed his penchant for rethinking a song. Empty Sky, a ballad of mourning, may be all of a few months old, but Springsteen was already stripping its sound to a thing of sparse acoustic beauty, emphasizing its eerie harmonies in a delicate vocal interplay with his longtime backup singer Patti Scialfa (otherwise known as Mrs. Bruce Springsteen). In a word: brilliant.

At one point he invited celebrity musical guests on stage, including classic rocker Dion, who lives in Boca Raton.

And Empty Sky was just one of many examples where band members' talents came into marvelous play. Take drummer Max Weinberg's time-bomb-about-to-go-off approach to Candy's Room, an older song that Springsteen unearthed on this occasion. Take saxophonist (and Singer Island resident) Clarence Clemons' gritty, punctuation mark of a solo on Waitin' on a Sunny Day, another strong new song. And take just about anything guitarist Steve Van Zandt (of Sopranos fame) did on stage -- he's as delightfully sinister a presence as ever. The point, of course, is that Springsteen and company are back, perhaps in their strongest form ever. Now that's a true rising.
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