Springsteen Makes Old New, New Old

Hartford Courant, 2007-10-03, by: Eric R. Danton
New songs, new tour: Of course Bruce Springsteen was going to be good when he and the E Street Band opened their fall outing Tuesday night at the Hartford Civic Center.

The Boss went one better, though, and put on a show he'll be hard-pressed to top between now and December, when the tour ends. Sorry, Philly.

Playing for more than two hours, Springsteen struck a near-perfect balance between old songs and new, making the former as fresh and eager as he made the latter sound classic and vital.

"So it begins!" he bellowed after the first number, "Radio Nowhere." It's also the first tune on his new album, "Magic," which was released Tuesday. Springsteen's gritty guitar riff echoed around the arena, Clarence Clemons' saxophone tore through the song like a runaway rocket and the Boss pleaded, "I just want to hear some rhythm" in the refrain.

There was no shortage of that: The band played 23 songs, building momentum as the show went on: "Lonesome Day," the dark new song "Gypsy Biker," "Reason to Believe."

And then it happened, on "Night": The Rock 'n' Roll Moment. It's that spark when an instant frozen in time seems to suddenly unspool, when the whole band locks in, turns a corner together and just takes off.

Little Steven Van Zandt's over sharing the microphone with Springsteen, Clemons plants himself like an anchor and pumps his lungs into that sax, bassist Gary Tallent bops in the back and drummer Max Weinberg holds it all together with no-frills rhythm.

It's glorious and it's rare, yet it happened time after time as Springsteen and his band resurrected the secret hopes and guarded dreams of a generation that found release in his music.

It happened on "She's the One," the crowd roaring at the piano vamp that sends it off and thrills to the massive bomp-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp Bo Diddley beat and Clemons' thunderous solo.

It happened on "The Rising," Springsteen's somber anthem paying tribute to the heroes of 9/11; and on "Badlands" and, of course, "Born to Run," songs about transcending limitations and conquering the world. For a night in Hartford, Springsteen, his band and his fans did exactly that.

It's a different world now from when Springsteen wrote those early songs, and he talked frankly at times about the differences. He decried "illegal wiretapping, rendition, black sites, an attack on the Constitution" before playing "Livin' in the Future," and introduced new song "Magic" as an allegory about an "Orwellian moment when what's true can be made to seem like a lie and what's a lie can be made to seem true, and we've witnessed the consequences over the past six years."

All is not lost, however, and Springsteen ended the show on a hopeful note with "American Land," an Irish reel stacked with fiddle, accordion and penny whistle. Springsteen played the tune frequently last year during a tour for his album of songs popularized by Pete Seeger, and it made for an uncharacteristic, if joyful way to finish his first night on tour.

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2007-10-02 Civic Center, Hartford, CT