Springsteen proves it all night in Milwaukee

The Capital Times, 2008-03-18, by: Michael Muckian
To borrow a title from the artist's own songbook, Bruce Springsteen once again proved it all night as he and a reunited E Street Band rocked the Bradley Center here before a near capacity crowd Monday.

There were a few empty patches of seats, mostly behind the sports arena's stage, but they were hard to see amid the joyous audience's dancing and singing during an aggressive two-and-one-half-hour set.

Springsteen, 58, and his eight-member black-clad band have slowed a little since their earlier days. Some have put on weight, others have lost their hair and saxman Clarence Clemons seems to have trouble with his legs, walking stiffly and often sitting between solos on a large wooden chair.

But the E Streeters are still inhabited by the edgy energy that characterized early performances, along with an only slightly subdued joie de vivre The Boss brings to his work.

Stage patter was minimal as one song flowed into another, creating a lengthy list of career-spanning hits. Selections included "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City," drawn from "Greetings from Asbury Park," Springsteen's first album released in 1973, to "Radio Nowhere" and "Livin' in the Future" from "Magic," recorded last year.

During the last few decades, Springsteen's career has evolved to include folkish numbers, solo acoustic tours, an Academy Award for "Streets of Philadelphia," and the Seeger Sessions Band, honoring the influence of folk artist Pete Seeger. But the E Street Band sound has remained Springsteen's core musical value, and that's where the bulk of Monday's concert focused.

With an 8:30 p.m. start time, Springsteen kicked the show off with "No Surrender," an anthem of sorts for the aging rockers. Original drummer Max Weinberg kept a loud, aggressive beat with the help of bassist Garry Tallent. Pianist Roy Bittan and keyboard player Charles Giordano, substituting for an ill Danny Federici, completed the back line. In addition to Springsteen and Clemons, the front line included guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren and multi-instrumentalist Soozie Tyrell. Singer and Springsteen spouse Patti Scialfa was home with the couple's three teenagers, The Boss said.

"Streets of Fire," an extended "She's the One" and "Promised Land" segued into the more soulful "My Home Town," "Devil's Arcade" and "The Rising," A hard-rocking "Badlands" closed the initial set. In a rare moment of group-wide consciousness, the audience en masse kept repeating the song's unarticulated chorus until the band took the stage once again.

During the encore, fans were surprised at the performance by a guitar-less Springsteen, Bittan on the grand piano and UW School of Music professor Richard Davis on bass. (Davis had recorded with Springsteen early in the rocker's career.) The trio performed a version of "Meeting Across the River" that was striking in its contrasting musical accomplishment.

The band returned for the seminal "Born to Run," one of the show's closers, sliding immediately into another number, seemingly content to keep proving it for an even longer night.



2008-03-17 Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI