Springsteen, E Street Band rock with 11,500 at Blue Cross

Rochester Democrat and Chrnicle, 2008-03-07, by: Jeff Spevak
Remember when Mick and Keith and the rest of the Stones were creeping up on 60, and everyone was grousing about how they were too old to rock? Why is it no one ever says that about Bruce Springsteen?

Because they can't.

Thursday's sold-out show at the Blue Cross Arena was only the fourth stop on Springsteen and the E Street Band's 28-city tour, but already these guys are playing like they've been together for 35 years. And most of them have been.

The 58-year-old Springsteen is aging well, and by that I don't mean he's acting like Donovan, a flowered relic from a gone, daddy, gone age. As he's matured, Springsteen has carried his audience ? 11,500 on this night ? with him.

Yet he still inspires rock euphoria. Who was it that decided that last year's album, Magic, should produce a euphoric, arena-blaster like "Radio Nowhere?" Certainly not radio. Yet two songs into the show, after the opening "Night," the crowd was roaring to lines like "I want a thousand guitars, I want pounding drums."

But the best of Magic is "Girls in Their Summer Clothes," a sublime '60s-style harmony-and-guitar pop song like a forgotten gem from the Left Banke. If this spring we're not hearing that one on the radio. ... Well, nevermind.

Keyboardist Danny Federici, being treated for melanoma, is missing this tour, with Charles Giordano from Springsteen's Seeger Sessions recording and filling in on tour. And Mrs. Springsteen, back-up singer Patti Sciafla, is at home with the three kids. But everything else was in place with the E Street Band: Springsteen, Little Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren on the triple-guitar attack, drummer Max Weinberg, bassist Garry Tallent, pianist Roy Bittan and saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

Springsteen paid tribute to those old days when he reached a few rows deep into the crowd to retrieve a sign that a woman had been waving all night: ROSALITA PLEASE. And play "Rosalita" he did, with the sign propped against his microphone stand before segueing into "Born to Run."

Springsteen could have loaded the set list with such knockout nostalgia. But he didn't. His biggest album, Born in the USA, wasn't even represented. Instead, only nine of the 28 songs during the two-hour, 15-minute set were pre-USA, if you count "Because the Night," which Springsteen wrote but Patti Smith first released. This evening was about what the musician has been up to for the last decade or so, work far more vibrant than the old fans might realize.

There were some cynical songs, like the anti-Iraq war "Last to Die" and "Magic," which Springsteen dedicated to an end to seven years of illusion by the Bush administration. But a shining, upbeat quality prevailed with "The Promised Land," "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and Springsteen introducing "Livin' in the Future" with a nod to Barack Obama: "I feel a new wind out there."

Indeed, by closing the show with the Irish celebration "American Land," it seems the rocker is now feeling, to borrow from Obama, the audacity of hope.

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2008-03-06 Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY