May 2, 2014

Notes from the road: Tampa

Have you ever found yourself “looking for a moment when the world seems right?” Those in attendance at Thursday night’s concert in Tampa, FL rang in May the right way, granted almost three hours worth of those moments as Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band rocked the amphitheater.

The show opener was in honor of International Workers’ Day. Keeping in the latest trend of opening with a cover song, Bruce picked “Joe Hill,” made famous by Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, to pay tribute to the union workers of the world. This gorgeous rendition had Bruce front-and-center with the band lined up behind him, setting the stage for what was surely going to be an emotionally powerful night.

Then suddenly, the party kicked up with The Clash’s “Clampdown,” and the night was officially in full swing. After “Badlands,” “The Ties That Bind,” and “Out in the Street,” we were sure that we were “gonna have a good time.” A tour premiere of “Jesse James” took us back to Pete Seeger’s repertoire and showcased the E Street horns and keys, in addition to some beautiful banjo work by Nils Lofgren.

The next three songs were just filled with pure passion. Tom Morello’s opening notes to “High Hopes” seared through the darkness, and his solo with his teeth was an incredible thing to witness. “Candy’s Room” followed, and then we were empowered and drawn in by “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Bruce introduced the first sign request: “This is a song that I don’t think the E Street Band has ever played.” What came next was the hauntingly beautiful song off of Tracks, “Brothers Under the Bridge,” a story of Vietnam War soldiers coming home. With the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed, there was no way to not enjoy the magic of the storytelling, in addition to a piercing solo by Morello and a trumpet solo that truly brought it all home. After this moment, there was no telling what could possibly come next. The second request of the night ensured that both the crowd and the band knew that we were in Tampa, where the protagonist of the rarely played “From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come” arrives in an El Dorado Grande.

Following a quick guitar switch, the show switched gears once again, and it was time for the anthemic “Wrecking Ball.” Giving a shout out to his home state, Bruce “figured out everyone from Tampa’s from Jersey!” With everyone on their feet and in the spirit of the show, it was time to get more sign requests from the pit. An electric “Night” led to “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” where Max Weinberg’s drumming was undeniably at its finest. The amazing cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria,” with a classic E Street twist, showed Bruce to be the ultimate rock ’n’ roll front man.

A few classics off of Born in the U.S.A., and then we were once again back in Seeger territory. “Pay Me My Money Down” really let Charlie Giordano shine on the accordion, and there was nothing better than getting to witness the E Street horns do what they do best, which includes a charming choreographed dance amongst them. Once Curtis King, Cindy Mizelle, and Michelle Moore brought out large colorful umbrellas, it looked to be a prelude to this weekend’s Jazz Fest; with that, the whole band formed a line, creating a Mardi Gras parade as they danced into the crowd. Someone even bought Bruce a drink at the bar in the middle of the song.

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” was impressive as always, with Bruce and Tom dueling on the guitar. After “Lonesome Day,” a blues/rock riff led into “Light of Day” where Max and Nils brought the house down.

The encore opened with “a ghost story for May first”: a rare High Hopes tour airing of “We Are Alive” for all of the folks who had sacrificed. Yet another Seeger Sessions classic, “O Mary Don’t You Weep,” made us all feel like we were in the Church of Bruce, and with that, our leader lead us into the promised land with the songs that we will never tire of hearing: “Born to Run,” “Dancing in the Dark,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.” An energetic “Shout” had everyone dancing like the college kids of Animal House, and we never wanted it to end. Once the band was off the stage, Bruce treated us to one final moment, and an acoustic “Thunder Road” made the world seem more than right. Tampa had been treated to the almighty, ass-kicking power of rock ’n’ roll. So, “Tell me friend, can you ask for anything more?”

– Erica Schwartz,