The Boss makes arena intimate

The Republican, 2005-10-10, by: Ray Kelly
Bruce Springsteen has made a career out of creating magical moments, but transforming a hockey arena into an intimate theater is quite a feat.

Performing solo at the Hartford Civic Center Friday, Springsteen used subdued lighting, chandeliers above the stage and drapes blocking out the upper sections to convince the crowd that they were not in a cavernous arena, but rather one of the small halls where he launched this tour six months ago.

Despite the inherent acoustical drawbacks, The Boss pulled off an illusion worthy of David Copperfield.

Breaking from long-standing tradition, Springsteen did not threaten the crowd with bodily harm at the start of the show if they called out requests or failed to turn off their cell phones. Still, leaflets on acceptable behavior and etiquette were handed out to Hartford concertgoers as they entered the arena.

As advertised, the 27-song concert was built around Springsteen's lesser-known works. He proved to be a man of his word.

Springsteen opened with three numbers that left casual fans baffled - "Back In Your Arms," a mid 1990s outtake; the seldom-performed "Wreck on the Highway" from "The River" album; and "Idiot's Delight," a tune he co-wrote seven years ago for Pittsburgh rocker Joe Grushecky and performed here through a purposely-distorted microphone.

When Springsteen launched into the title track from his recent album, "Devils & Dust," the audience roared with approval - partly because it was the first song of the night that many of them recognized.

The concert found Springsteen relaxed, reflective and in fine voice as he switched from falsetto to gravely growl. The solo outing showcased his musical skills as he moved effortlessly from grand piano to acoustic guitar to pump organ throughout the night.

He took a step back 25 years and delivered a spirited reworking of "The Ties That Bind" before offering a pair of recent recordings, "Long Time Coming" and "Silver Palomino."

Making reference to the Boston Red Sox division loss an hour before the start of the show, Springsteen told baseball fans he would "try to assuage your pain." "Hey little heroes, summer's long but I guess it ain't very sweet around here anymore" he sang out during "Incident on 57th Street."

Throughout the night Springsteen mixed old chestnuts like "Lost in the Flood" with more recent recordings such as "The Rising."

His songs have often dealt with the friction between fathers and sons, but two newer songs, "Jesus Was An Only Son" and "The Hitter," beautifully captured the bond between mothers and sons. Both were well-received.

Springsteen weighed in on the creationism-evolution debate with the playful "Part Man, Part Monkey" and on a more serious note called for a "more humane immigration policy" before closing his set with "Matamoros Banks," which chronicled the drowning of a Mexican immigrant.

Springsteen returned to the stage for a five-song encore beginning with the charming "I Wanna Marry You" on ukulele. He captured the energy of Jerry Lee Lewis on piano with the rockabilly-tinged "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)."

Strapping on an acoustic guitar, he reinterpreted two E Street Band concert staples, "Bobby Jean" and "The Promised Land."

As he has at almost every stop on the tour, Springsteen ended the night on pump organ performing a cover of Suicide's moody, but repetitive, "Dream Baby Dream."

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2005-10-07 Civic Center, Hartford, CT