By Karsten S. Andersen
Carter Bernhard probably didn’t care too much about setlist or band lineup when he attended last night’s show at the TD Center in Boston. Prior to the show he had spent an hour backstage with Bruce as a result of the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s life-affirming efforts. Not that Bruce probably needed much convincing. Carter is, by all evidence, a very lovable 5-year-old kid who happens to suffer from Spina Bifida, a birth defect that can - and in Carter’s case did - lead to disability. Carter also loves Bruce Springsteen and, like all fans, dreamed of hanging out with him. The dream came true, and not only that. Bruce even played two songs - “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” and “Tougher Than the Rest” - just for him before the real show started.
The show in Boston was the 6th show on the Wrecking Ball Tour. By now we have a pretty good idea what Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band stands for, post-Big Man and with the numerous extensions of the lineup. Like Carter Bernhard lived out a dream by meeting his idol, it seems as if Bruce is now living out a dream of just putting everything on that stage he can think of. Add a monopoly player and we’re back to the good, old days of Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, which was the first time Bruce attempted this concept.
This may sound slightly sarcastic, but it’s not meant that way at all. The shows by most accounts don’t suffer by the presence of a horn section, singers, a rapper, and a bongo drummer. On the contrary, they are all utilized in a way that blends in well with the music, new and old, and doesn’t distract too much from the power of the core E Street Band. The only quibble has been that Steve Van Zandt seems to have trouble finding his place in this lineup and has appeared distant compared to other tours. Hopefully this will change over time.
Other than that, concerns about static setlists, shorter shows, or signs of Bruce aging have proved groundless. The last two shows have seen a total of ten tour premieres, the length of the show has already increased by 15-20 minutes, and Bruce... well, he continues to defy the year on his birth certificate and appears in better physical shape than at any point post-E Street Band reunion. Knee slides, back-bends, and crowd surfing are all part of his palette of shticks, and by the end of the night, he still looks like he could go a few more rounds.
Clarence Clemons, of course, is not forgotten, nor is Danny Federici. The touching commemorations first seen at the Apollo show have been repeated at every show and are an important part of the night, for Bruce and fans alike. May they continue as the tour progresses.
In the next couple of weeks Bruce and the band hit their home turf of Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York. Not that the previous shows have just been a warm-up, but expect the following run of shows to reach new heights of emotional and powerful impact. For those of you with tickets, it’s time to dig deep into your souls and find the Carter Bernhard in yourselves, forget about what’s not being played, and embrace the present. The big wheels are rolling.