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Who's the Boss? It's still Springsteen.

Posted by James Reed  August 23, 2009 10:03 AM

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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND
At: Comcast Center, last night (repeats tonight)

By James Reed
Globe Staff

MANSFIELD -- Just as it appeared he was taking his final bow, a little shy of three unrelenting hours onstage, Bruce Springsteen changed his mind. “One more to send you home!,” he announced, as if parting were such sweet sorrow.

Springsteen talks like he entertains -- in exclamation points -- and if you can’t match his gusto and enthusiasm, he and the E Street Band can easily steamroll you in the long run. That’s a testament, of course, to the ensemble’s thrilling and harmonious performance at last night's sold-out show at the Comcast Center, the first of a two-night stand. (Tickets are still available for tonight's show.)

In concert, the Boss has something that’s increasingly rare but still potent: animal magnetism, coupled with an innate desire to engage with his audience. He gets close enough for them to paw at the strings of his guitar and wrap their hands around his ankles. Only a fan’s neon poster reminded you that Springsteen is indeed an aging rocker: “60 NEVAH LOOKED BETTAH,” it read, looking ahead to Springsteen's birthday next month.

You really can’t discount the importance of Springsteen’s audience. These are the folks who keep coming back to see him -- he just played two nights in April at the TD Garden on a second victory lap for this year’s lackluster “Working on a Dream” -- and they help keep the show fresh with their energy and song requests written on homemade signs. (Springsteen obliged them last night with “For You” and a pair of covers, “Burning Love” and “Trapped.”)

A preteen fan got her shining moment when Springsteen held out the microphone for her to chime in on the chorus of “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” except -- bless her heart -- she thought the lyric was “waitin’ on a summer’s day.” (Later, during “Dancing in the Dark,” Springsteen invited her up to dance beside him.)

And bonus points to whoever brought the blow-up doll in a red wig and blue dress that eventually ended up onstage. That was the band’s cue to play “Devil With a Blue Dress On,” a moment that will no doubt live on through YouTube clips of Springsteen performing in said red wig. Another fan request yielded a tender and deeply felt rendition of “If I Should Fall Behind.”

The E Street Band was as airtight as ever, anchored by Clarence Clemons on saxophone, Max Weinberg’s precise drumming (his 18-year-old son, Jay, took over the kit for the last few songs), and the one-two punch and crunch of guitarists Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt. By the time Springsteen and the band got to “Born to Run,” they were cranking out nimble grooves on “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” and “Born in the USA.”

After throwing the crowd a curveball for the final encore, “Twist and Shout,” Springsteen was finally ready to exit stage right. But first an impassioned promise that you knew he meant: “We’ll be back tomorrow night to do it again!”

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.

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10 comments so far...
  1. Suprised they didn't do more tracks from "Magic" or "Working On A Dream"...would have loved to hear Kingdom of Days and/or This LIfe....hearing Backstreets was a great surprise last night!!

    Posted by Matt August 23, 09 12:24 PM
  1. The boss bites.

    Posted by Jane X Jones August 23, 09 04:08 PM
  1. Great recap of the night! So glad to share it with you.

    Bitzy

    Posted by Bitzy August 23, 09 04:48 PM
  1. Gotta LOVE him !!!!!

    Posted by Stephen Miller August 23, 09 05:13 PM
  1. Gotta LOVE him !!!!!

    Posted by Janine O'Hazzo August 23, 09 05:14 PM
  1. I love this man. His music, his style, his energy....he may claim to be born to run, but we know he was born to ROCK. And in a day when just nobody is on the horizon to take up the reins...we are glad there is BRUCE.

    Posted by Judy August 23, 09 05:32 PM
  1. Fantastic show. 9th time I've seen him in concert and he hasn't lost a thing. It's nice to follow an artist that doesn't have much baggage. No booze or drugs or violence issues with Bruce and he writes touching songs that cover all types of human emotion. Great stuff.

    Posted by Han August 23, 09 09:27 PM
  1. OMG, Trapped AND Rosalita??? How did I miss this performance???

    Posted by John A Keith August 23, 09 11:38 PM
  1. lackluster? Did you even listen to the album or are you just another pompous Globe critic who likes crap like Cat Power, which is absolutely unlistenable live?

    Posted by ed August 24, 09 12:42 AM
  1. I hope you all know the reason the show ended at 11 was Bruce is told he can't go past that witching hour. How pathetic of Mansfield!!! Oh yeah Mansfield, thanks for the one way in and one way out parking lot. What genius thought up that one.
    Bruce, thanks again for an unforgettable show. Loved hearing Trapped, and going from BTR right into Rosie was magical. How you didn't drop I'll never know.

    See ya down the road....... Great job on BTR Jay!!!

    Posted by Frankie C August 24, 09 09:00 PM
 

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The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.

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Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

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