For my first real entry on a blog about life in New Jersey, what could be a more appropriate subject than Bruce Springsteen?  Especially since I had the privilege of seeing him and the E-Street Band perform at the Meadowlands last night.  Seeing New Jersey’s favorite son (sorry Bon Jovi) in New Jersey?  It doesn’t get better than that.

After the long trek through the Turnpike, we arrived at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.  The concert was at the Izod Center, formerly known as the Meadowlands Arena, Brendon Byrne Arena, and Continental Airlines Arena.  It is also the former home of the NJ Devils and the soon-to-be-former home of the Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn.  Tailgating was fun, sitting around drinking beers surrounded by the Izod, the old Giants Stadium, and the almost-completed new Giants Stadium.  There is also this huge building called “Xanadu,” which, when it opens, will be a mega shopping center complete with its own indoor ski slope.  As if we need another mall in New Jersey.  The building is rather hideous:  the exterior is just a bunch of different colored rectangles and three metal towers sticking out from the top.  I was told the building was made to resemble the turnpike, with the rectangles mimicking the stacks of shipping containers one sees on the side of the highway and the three towers replicating those found at the oil refineries.  Why anyone would want to pay tribute to that miserable road like this is beyond my comprehension.

Anyway, this entry is about Bruce.

So the show started with the  high-energy and crowd favorite, Badlands.  Bruce and the band looked and sounded great, but I soon noticed something was missing.  Patti Scialfa, Bruce’s wife and E-Street guitarist, wasn’t there.  But this odd-looking and untalented woman doesn’t really add much anyway, so no one seemed to care.  If the rumors are true, I’m sure Bruce didn’t mind much either that she wasn’t there.  To compensate for the tragic loss of Patti’s vocals, there were two backup singers, one of whom had an afro that would make Pam Grier jealous.  These singers were very talented and added a lot…maybe Bruce will kick Patti out and keep them?

A few songs in, they played Out in the Street.  Towards the end of the song, the members of the band each sang a line.  Beloved saxophonist Clarence Clemmons obviously got the biggest applause – the aptly nicknamed Big Man could pick his nose on stage and eat it and the crowd would go crazy.  Anyway, they played some more songs, including a fun cover of Good Lovin’.  Then it was time for Bruce’s ritual of taking requests, based on signs people hold up.  After collecting a bunch of signs and sorting them out on stage, he would pick one up, show it to the band, show it to the audience, and rock out.  The three songs were Cover Me, The E-Street Shuffle (which I was really hoping he would play), and the always-welcomed Thunder Road.  Later on, Bruce closed the set on a powerful note with The Rising and Born To Run.

After leaving the stage for 90 seconds at the most, the band came back for the encore.  The encore included American Land, which is a folksy, Irish jig-inspired song about immigrants coming to the US.  Perhaps the Mexican hat dance would be a more appropriate inspiration?  After this song, Bruce joked, “The Turnpike’s closed!  No one’s leaving yet!”  He then proceeded to play Glory Days and ended the show with a nice cover of Mony Mony.

Overall, it was an amazing show.  He played a bunch of his rarer songs but also enough hits to keep the most casual fan happy.  Additionally, he only played a couple songs off his new album, which kept everyone happy.  While I know not everyone likes Bruce, I’m sure even the harshest critic would at least respect that fact that Bruce and the band are all over the age of 50 and can still play the way they do.  Whether you love Bruce’s voice or think he sounds like a hoarse dog, he still has the same energy and passion that he did 30 years ago.  Also, unlike other musicians, they don’t rely on pyrotechnics, special effects, stupid video montages, or any other distractions.  With them, it’s just about the music.

Once again, it really is an amazing experience to see this New Jersey legend on his home turf.  Even more amazing is that it took place right off of the Turnpike, the most disgusting highway in the most disgusting state, and right next to a still-uncompleted mall designed to look like the Turnpike.  Despite all this, or perhaps because of it, the concert really showed what’s best about the Armpit of America.

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