Bruce: A little 'Magic,' a few messages, and a whole lot of fun

Detroit Free Press, 2007-11-06, by: Jim Schaefer
The Boss roared into the Palace of Auburn Hills on Monday night, pounding a thunderous guitar and waving the American flag ? a theoretical, tattered Stars and Stripes ? and the well-dressed, mostly older crowd responded with shouts of their own.

?Bruuuuuuce!? was the refrain before and after many songs, and even after the man?s political statements.

Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band grabbed the audience?s attention first with the hard-driving new single, ?Radio Nowhere,? and by the fifth song, Springsteen was pontificating lightly from the stage.

Before settling into that tune ? the haunting, acoustic title track of his new album, ?Magic? ? Springsteen opined that over the last six years he?s seen ?the truth get spun into lies, and the lies get spun into the truth.?

Is it magic? he asked. Then he began to play.

Springsteen has made no secret of his displeasure with the Bush Administration since the terror attacks of 2001, the war in Iraq, the handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the ?erosion of civil liberties,? as he put it Monday night from the stage. His new record is laced with editorials.

But his speeches inside the Palace weren?t overbearing. This gig was mostly about singing, dancing and clapping. Performing from a basic stage with no real technical effects other than two big video screens, the focus was on the music and the band delivered.

Springsteen, who at 58 can still leap down to a lower stage platform with the best of them, kept most people in the audience standing through the show, even through the one-third of the performance that featured new numbers. The crowd slowed down only when the Boss wanted to slow down.

And when Springsteen launched into older favorites ? ?She?s the One? and ?Reason to Believe? were early highlights ? people kicked their dancing into overdrive.

The energy surged through other hits like ?The Promised Land,? a moving version of ?The Rising? and the thump-whumping ?Badlands.?

Perhaps the most excited and genuine moment, though, came during the encore, which changed on the fly because of a kid in the front row. When Springsteen?s set list indicated it was time for ?Kitty?s Back,? he instead reached down and took a sign from the youngster that read, ?Ramrod please.?

The rocker noted that the kid, who looked to be about 11, had been dancing like crazy throughout the show. ?Unplayed in five years,? Springsteen said about ?Ramrod.? Then he laughed and launched into a rousing rendition of the song, first released on ?The River? in 1980. Sidekick guitarist Steven Van Zandt scooted over to the main microphone and they belted out the lyrics together, tossing smiles around like the whole thing was a hoot.

Aside from some minor feedback problems in the initial number and a sometimes uninspired ?Born to Run,? the Boss? sound was clean and loud, and his message clear.

Even Steve Tepel, 42, a self-described Republican (in a Hawaiian shirt) from Sterling Heights, said he didn?t mind.

?I?m here to see an icon,? Tepel said. ?If he?s got his message, I?m OK with that.?

Donna Garofano, who traveled from Salem, N.H., to see the concert with her friends, said she found the last song most poignant.

?American Land,? performed with two accordions with most of the band at the front of the stage, wasn?t so much a political mule-kick as it was a gently waving flag -- another Springsteen message about the America he wants everyone to know.

?The McNicholas, the Posalski's, the Smiths, Zerillis, too/ The Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews/ They died building the railroads worked to bones and skin/ They died in the fields and factories names scattered in the wind/ They died to get here a hundred years ago; they're still dyin? now/ The hands that built the country we?re always trying to keep down."

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2007-11-04 Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH