At the Pepsi, it's positively E Street

Albany Times Union, 2002-12-14, by: Greg Haymes
Response to 9/11 dominates show before full house at the Pepsi Arena
Bruce Springsteen built his early career as the spokesman of the blue-collar working man. But with his latest album, "The Rising," he's become the voice of all of America.

And "The Rising," Springsteen's response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, was the heart and soul of Springsteen's show of more than two-and-a-half hours at the Pepsi Arena on Friday night. Songs from that album comprised nearly half the concert.

Needless to say, it was a considerably more somber event than the E Street Band reunion that blasted into the Pepsi Arena three years ago, but Friday night's show was far from a downer.

Opening with the title track, "The Rising," Springsteen and his fabulous nine-piece rock army ran the emotional gamut from dreams to disillusionment, from resurrection to redemption.

Classic Springsteen rave-ups -- especially "No Surrender" and the first encore of "Dancing in the Dark" -- took on radically different meanings in the context of newer songs like the fragile, aching "Empty Sky" and the haunting, minimalist "You're Missing," which proved to be one of the most heartfelt moments of the night.

The band was in fine form throughout the evening, churning through rockers like "Badlands," the staccato attack of "She's the One" and the encore of "Born in the U.S.A." Newcomer Soozie Tyrell delivered a soaring solo during "Worlds Apart," while guitarist Nils Lofgren nailed his most memorable moment with an unaccompanied slide-guitar intro to "Counting On a Miracle." Guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt stepped up to the microphone to take over a verse on "Waitin' On a Sunny Day," and the Big Man Clarence Clemons blew his hottest sax solos of the night during "She's the One" and "Born to Run."

The 53-year-old Springsteen isn't possessed by the same demons that owned his soul in the '70s, but he was still a bona-fide rock 'n' roll animal when he cut loose with knee-slides across the stage during the rousing "Mary's Place," the best fusion of the old and new Springsteen sounds of the night.

The encore of "My City of Ruins" was another of the show's many highlights, with Sringsteen at the grand piano urging the fans to "rise up, come on, rise up."

He's been the voice of a generation. He's the only artist to survive the dreaded "new Dylan" tag and reach the same level of success as Dylan. And while the electricity of earlier years has simmered where it once boiled over, Springsteen still rocks the house more convincingly than 88.9 percent of the current chart-toppers.

And as always, he's got something to say that we all should be listening to.

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2002-12-13 Pepsi Arena, Albany, NY