May 4, 2013

Notes from the road: Stockholm, Night #2

The second show at Friends Arena in Stockholm opened with a surprising run of rarities: “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” a doubleshot of Lucky Town songs in “Better Days” and “Leap of Faith,” along with a spontaneous sign request for “I’m a Rocker” from The River. A few songs later, Bruce surprised the audience yet again by making a rare excursion into a stadium crowd. He climbed up to the edge of the first level seating bowl during “Hungry Heart,” where he encouraged fans to share his microphone on the chorus; he reciprocated by grabbing an almost-full beer in return, running back to the stage with it and exclaiming “Swedish beer! I owe you one!” before downing the beverage. (Bruce soon pointed in the direction from whence he came, sending security over to recompense the thirsty fan.)

Even after the first night’s surprise that was the Born to Run album played in its entirety, it was still unexpected to hear from Bruce that tonight, the band would be performing all of Darkness on the Edge of Town. He again spoke of his love for the city, noting that he was always “excited to be back in Stockholm” and that the album would be a “special gift from us to you.”

The Darkness portion of the show was executed with an exceptional strength and exacting performance. Especially notable: Bruce’s overwhelmingly powerful solo in “Adam Raised a Cain”; Roy Bittan’s complex and masterful conclusion to “Racing in the Street”; Nils Lofgren soloing, twirling and playing the guitar with his teeth on “Prove It All Night”; and Max Weinberg’s driving precision behind “Candy’s Room.” The audience responded during “Racing in the Street” by holding up their cellphones all around the darkened arena — a beautiful effect appreciated by all in attendance, including the band, as Bruce saluted the crowd at song’s end. At the conclusion of the album, as the entire band was brought to the front of the stage for a bow, many in the audience began singing the “Badlands” refrain, thinking that the show was over because it had already been quite an evening.

However, Bruce was just getting started. In the continued effort to keep everyone out of their seats, the band launched into an impressive and energetic rendition of the swing-jump blues version of “Open All Night.” Bruce brought all of the E Street Horns to the very front platform, where they all sang, played, and danced around for an extended interlude. “Radio Nowhere” from Magic also kept latter part of the set rocking.

The encore began with Bruce explaining how on night one, he’s just getting going, night two, he’s starting to get warm… moving similarly through night three and onward to night seven, “Because I need Seven Nights To Rock!” Tonight, this was the song that featured a brisk but respectable band introduction (after missing it the previous evening). With all the houselights blazing, the new, shorter “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” was followed by another bonus track, as “American Land” brought another amazing Swedish evening to an end.

— Caryn Rose,