November 15, 2012

Notes from the road: St. Paul, MN #2

The second night in St. Paul started off with a deep cut off The River, “I’m a Rocker” — not only a big surprise, not only the signal of a set that would be vastly different from the night before, but a self-defining moment for a show that rocked. Another River favorite was next, the Top Ten hit “Hungry Heart,” complete with a crowd surf that stalled Springsteen midway through the pit, shouting encouragement to the fans to get him back to the stage. A few songs later, yet another track from his 1980 double album came out for the first time on this tour: a very compelling “Stolen Car,” with the E Street Singers and Horns bringing texture and depth to this live rarity.

But St. Paul 2 wasn’t a total River-fest — in fact, one of the most remarkable things about this show was just how many of Springsteen’s albums he called on throughout the set. “No Surrender” in slot three represented the Born in the U.S.A. album before they reached back to Born to Run for the classic “Night.” Then a quick shout to the band and a broad smile from Steven as the album sampling continued with the Tracks rocker “Loose Ends” and an intense “Something in the Night” from Darkness on the Edge of Town.

We were eight songs in before the set tapped new material, the stretch of “We Take Care of Our Own,”  “Wrecking Ball,” and “Death to My Hometown” all from Wrecking Ball. And then it was back to a thrilling career review: “My City of Ruins” (modernized with band introductions and ghosts) represented The Rising, “The E Street Shuffle” was a dip way back into Bruce’s second album from 1973, and a fun “Pay Me My Money Down” from We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions brought the mighty E Street Horns front and center along with strong contributions from Charlie on the accordion and Soozie’s fiddle.

The big surprise for Veteran’s Day was the first-ever full-band concert performance of “Devils & Dust” — a fantastic treatment, with a Lucky Town-style guitar sound — also the first song from Bruce’s 2005 album of the same name to get play on this tour. The history lesson continued with a strong two-pack of “Youngstown” and “Murder Incorporated” representing The Ghost of Tom Joad and Greatest Hits albums, respectively, as well as the Reunion tour’s Live in New York City. Wrecking Ball’s “Shackled and Drawn” took us up back to the present before a series of time-tested classics wrapped up the set, culminating with the rousing “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

The epic “Jungleland” and Jake Clemons’s emotive solo opened the encores, a special moment whenever it happens, and then the big hits brought down the house: “Born to Run,” and a “Dancing in The Dark” on which two lucky fans pulled up from the crowd (one for Steven) gave St. Paul their own version of Dancing With the Stars. The final tribute of Born to Run’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” and then an bonus “American Land” (from the Seeger Sessions reissue) gave the Twin Cities a night to be talked about for a long time, with more than half of the set different from Night One.

All in all, St. Paul was witness to Springsteen drawing on a wide selection of songs representing nearly 40 years of his album catalog. Omaha, are you ready for the next lesson?

— Bob Mason,