From dark moment, a fitting celebration

Charlotte Observer, 2008-04-29, by: Mark Kemp
Grieving Boss gives Charlotte ride that explains staying power
In their fourth performance since the April 17 cancer death of longtime keyboardist Danny Federici, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band turned their mourning of a lost musical brother into a celebration of a familial bond that's lasted more than a quarter of a century.

Springsteen and company began their Charlotte show Sunday night in darkness as a photo montage of Federici through the years appeared on video screens across Time Warner Cable Arena. In the background, Springsteen's gruff voice sang the words to his 1995 song "Blood Brothers" -- "I'll keep moving through the dark with you in my heart, my blood brother" -- as the packed arena stood in silence.

It was an emotional tribute that colored the entire evening.

But this was no maudlin occasion. Springsteen and the band played as passionately and as triumphantly as ever, roaring through classic deep cuts such as "Thunder Road" and "She's the One," big hits like "Dancing in the Dark," workingman's anthems like "The Promised Land" and lots of songs about soldiers, from the Vietnam War vet of 1973's "Lost in the Flood" to the Iraq War vet of 2007's "Devil's Arcade."

Interestingly, much of the material came from two of Springsteen's 15 studio albums -- his third album, 1975's "Born to Run," and his most recent, "Magic."

The crowd -- mostly people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, some with kids in tow -- ate it all up, dancing and singing along to the words of nearly every song, even the more obscure ones. Springsteen and the E Streeters played intensely for two hours and then returned for a five-song encore that lasted another half-hour or so.

The highlights of the show, though, came in the interactions, both subtle and showy, among Springsteen, his bandmates and their fans. When Springsteen showed the audience a scrawled sign he'd plucked from the hands of a kid that said "I like U Better than Hanna Montana," his gratitude was written across his face.

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2008-04-27 Charlotte Bobcat Arena, Charlotte, NC