Bruce Digs Deep for NJ Closer - Concertgoers Hear Rartities

Asbury Park Press, 2003-09-01, by: Kelly-Jane Cotter
Think back to when summer was a pleasure yet to come and you were battling busy signals to get through to Ticketmaster for some Bruce Springsteen tickets. When you finally got through, and you had to decide which of 10 Giants Stadium shows to attend, you were rolling the dice, weren't you?

As it turned out, on many nights, you would've seen a decent show. On a few nights, a tepid show. But if you got tickets to last night -- the final night -- you know now that you lucked out. To hear "Spirit In The Night" followed by "Because The Night" makes for a fine night. To see Springsteen abandon the set list after an hour is to realize that the entertainer is also being entertained. After more than a year of tour dates, Springsteen can dig deep and dig it.

"Welcome to the last New Jersey house party of the summer," he told his audience early in the set. "I think I'm gonna cry. Well, we're going to try to ring it out in style for you." Guitarist/vocalist Springsteen and his E Street Band -- guitarists Steven Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren and Patti Scialfa, drummer Max Weinberg, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, bassist Garry Tallent, keyboardists Roy Bittan and Danny Federici and violinist Soozie Tyrell -- waltzed on stage at 8:35 p.m. to the strains of Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind."

They opened with "Cynthia," from "Tracks," a collection of B-sides and rarities. This boded well for a more spontaneous show and an adventurous set list. Often Springsteen will stick to a tried-and-true formula for opening and closing nights, perhaps because reviewers are usually at those shows. And, for the fans and critics who are repeat customers on every tour, that can get kind of -- dare we say it -- deadly dull. But last night was not like that at all. Springsteen was relaxed and in good humor. ("You've got to have half a million crazy New Jerseyans ready to do whatever's necessary," he said at one point, explaining what makes a party.) The band was in fine form, and the set list was all over the place.

Springsteen even tampered with material from his current album, "The Rising," infusing the songs with more light than on earlier shows. Van Zandt tackled lead vocals on the first verse of "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," which may well survive this tour to become a staple in future set lists. The musicians left the stage after "Promised Land" at 10:15 p.m., but nobody was going anywhere, of course. Two hefty encores followed, beginning, incredibly, with the seldom-performed jazzy-jam "Kitty's Back." Bittan shined throughout the show, but especially on "Kitty's Back" and "Glory Days." Tyrell added verve to material new and old. Scialfa's voice sounded ethereal on "Empty Sky." Weinberg drummed like there was no tomorrow, which, in a way, was true. Springsteen's 10-show run at Giants Stadium broke his own record, set in 1985 when he played six shows on the "Born In The U.S.A." tour. While last night marked the final show in New Jersey, "The Rising" tour itself soldiers forth. Springsteen and the E Street Band next head to Fenway Park in Boston on Sept. 6, for the first-ever concert at the historic ballpark.

At Giants Stadium, Springsteen performed for about 50,000 people each night. Jay Iannotti of New York City, a souvenir vendor for the tour, said quite a few of those fans plunked down $5 each for a Springsteen poster. He said the '70s era poster, depicting the Springsteen-Clemons photo on the cover of "Born To Run" outsold the more current "Rising" posters by a wide margin. "Yes, just like with Elvis, the old, wrinkly Bruce is less popular than the young Bruce," Iannotti said. "But I think it's more that the image is a classic -- everyone knows that photo, and a lot of people here probably had that poster on the wall of their dorm room in college."

Springsteen's core fan base remains the 40-somethings, who remember the rock star when he was a young troubadour, and they are pleased to see him still around. Springsteen turns 54 next month. But last night's audience also included Springsteen's peers, in their 50s, and a healthy dose of Gen X'ers in their 30s and late 20s.
Despite hours of heavy tailgating on a warm summer day, lots of fans in this multigenerational crowd still lined up at the concession stands inside the stadium.

Jeremy Carpenter of Jersey City, a full-time concession worker at the Meadowlands, said the Springsteen engagement has been a busy time for the vendors.
Before Springsteen's first show on July 15, predictions from Aramark, the company in charge of concessions, were that 9,000 hot dogs would be sold by the end of the last show. While it was too early last night for the final hot dog tally, Carpenter offered insight into other snacks.
"Popcorn's been the best seller, from what I've seen," Carpenter said. "Pretzels are big, too. And beer -- (fans) drink a lot."

Another concession vendor, Marilyn Smack of Ridgefield, agreed but said that the Springsteen crowd proved more docile than the Giants and Jets fans she deals with in the fall. "Football's a much rougher crowd," Smack said. "And I can tell you, there's a difference between a concert crowd for a stadium and an arena. Arena people are more polite."
Steve and Marie Matthews of Springfield beat the lines at the concession stands to grab a pretzel and soda before the show began.

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2003-08-31 Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ