For the Boss, business as usual

Cincinnati Enquirer, 2002-11-13, by: Chris Varias
By the end of the first song, the hype leading up to the show was a memory.

Pre-concert talk of the Who tragedy and of, to a lesser extent, the downtown boycott gave way to music Tuesday night, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a 2-hour-and-40-minute, incident-free show at U.S. Bank Arena.

The biggest concern, general-admission floor seating, didn't seem to pose a problem. In fact, the only surprise of the night was the show didn't sell out. Other than that, it was business as usual for the Boss, who dipped deep into his latest album The Rising for material and leaned on old favorites to rev up the back end of the set, as well as the encores.

As for the boycott, Mr. Springsteen addressed that at the outset, before the first chord was strummed. He dedicated the first song, "American Skin (41 Shots)," to "the people and organizations in the city that are working for a just Cincinnati and a just America."

Adding to the plot lines was Clarence Clemons' eye. The saxophone player underwent surgery for a detached retina last week, and Mr. Springsteen was forced to cancel three tour stops. Before Tuesday, band hadn't played a show since Nov. 4.

It didn't seem to matter. Mr. Springsteen and his nine-piece ensemble used songs from The Rising like the title track and "Lonesome Day" to work into the groove that propelled such show-stoppers as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run," and "Born in the U.S.A."

Perhaps the night's greatest one-two punch was "Badlands" - the 13th song, when the crowd and band both started to truly rock - and "She's the One," with drummer Max Weinberg's Bo Diddley rhythm thumping behind the rest of the band's Phil Spector wall of sound.

Equally powerful were the quiet back-to-back performances of The Rising's "Empty Sky" and "You're Missing," two songs inspired by September 11. With pithy lines like "I want a kiss from your lips, I want an eye for an eye, I woke up this morning to an empty sky," the songs captured the pure horror and misery of that day while avoiding sentimentality.

Another understated highlight was "My Hometown," a solo performance for which Mr. Springsteen borrowed Roy Bittan's piano. Later, he returned to the piano to kick off the second of three encores with the plaintive "My City of Ruins," which he dedicated to the FreeStore FoodBank.

The rest of the encore was a rocking affair. "I'm a Rocker" was requested via a neon-green poster board in the front row and performed with the assistance of a teleprompter set into the stage at Mr. Springsteen's feet. "Land of Hopes and Dreams" included a teaser of the Impressions' "People Get Ready" tagged to the end. And "Ramrod," the night's final song, was so long it seemed to double the length of the show.

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2002-11-12 US Bank Arena, Cincinnati, OH