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Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Giants Stadium
East Rutherford, NJ
July 15, 2003

Photo by:Frank H. Conlon/The Star-Ledger

A Jersey Boy's Dream Come True
by: steven jacobetz

Every rock and roll fan born and raised in New Jersey should have an opportunity to see a Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band concert in Jersey at least once in his or her life. I had my chance recently, and it was everything I ever dreamed of.

The summer concert season officially started in New Jersey July 15 with the first of a record-breaking 10-night run by Springsteen at Giants Stadium. The run includes seven shows the last two weeks of July and three more the last weekend of August. No other artist had ever booked so many shows at one stadium in one season, but this is Bruuuuuce in New Jersey. He could do an infinite number of concerts here and it still wouldn't be enough. Such is the level of Bruce mania here. The tickets were gone for all 10 shows within hours of the time they went on sale. There's nothing like it anywhere in the rock and roll universe.

The weather was perfect on the day the first concert, with clear blue skies and a nice breeze. Summer had arrived, and New Jersey pulled out all the stops for its hero. Not only was a banner hung on one side of the stadium, but there was a replica Asbury Park beach and boardwalk at one of the gates. This display included sand imported from Asbury Park, and had all the characteristics of a day on the Jersey Shore; a stage with local Jersey bands, sand castles, a Ferris wheel, volleyball games, cotton candy, lemonade, Springsteen karaoke for the especially bold--the whole deal. This was the ultimate New Jersey experience.

However, it has to be said that the prices were a bit excessive, especially the $15.00 parking. After all, these are the swamps of Jersey, not the big city. Meadowlands management should show a little more restraint than that.

On to the show. The crowd of 55,000 filed in slowly, and Bruce didn't hit the stage until 8:25. He came out alone and performed the acoustic version of "Born In the USA." This is the way the song was originally conceived, and it is a drastically different arrangement than the well-known full-band electric version. If Ronald Reagan had heard the song done this way, he would have never wanted to use it, but it's still captivating. "I'm 10 years, I'm 20 years, I'm 30 years burnin' down the road," Springsteen sang, acknowledging his tenure of rock stardom and eliciting a big cheer from the home crowd. The party was on.

The rest of the band came onstage, and launched into "The Rising/Lonesome Day doubleshot from last year's 9/11-themed album The Rising. The crowd was in full voice with the "It's alright, It's alright, YEAH" chorus of "Lonesome Day." Still, that response paled in comparison to when Bruce pulled out the harmonica and counted the band into "The Promised Land." That started a string of older songs which included, "My Love Will Not Let You Down," and "Darkness On The Edge of Town," the title track from the classic 1978 album.

Springsteen is a master at controlling the mood, and next he brought everything down with the sobering combo of "Empty Sky"/"You're Missing" from The Rising. It is hauntingly beautiful to hear the harmonies between Bruce, with his gravelly, sandpaper voice, and his wife Patti Scialfa with her lilting, fairy-like tone. The combination gives a distinctive character to "Empty Sky" and other Rising tracks such as "Worlds Apart" and "Into the Fire."

Bruce hung upside down on his mic stand during the optimistic Rising track, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" He had the crowd sing the chorus three times, urging for a louder response each time.

It was clear however that the crowd was not willing to put out full-throttle for the new material. He had to bring the energy back up. Responding, Bruce asked, "Do you want a summer song?," and started into "Sherry Darling" from The River album. "To all the girls out at Sacred Heart/And all you operators back in the park/SAY HEY HEY HEY, WHATD'YA SAY? SHERRY DARLING." It was a great choice, the perfect Jersey summer moment.

From there, the roller coaster ride continued--up and down, up and down. Seeing Clarence Clemons, The Big Man, with tiny finger cymbals during the Indian/Arabic influenced "Worlds Apart" was sort of funny, but they really cut through in the mix. Back up again for the classic crowd favorites "Badlands" and "Out in the Street." "Mary's Place" included Springsteen's patented evangelical preacher-style band member intros. As always, Clarence received the biggest cheer. "You wish you could be like him, but you can't, because there's only one." The Boss spieled. How true.

A full-band version of "The River" followed by "Into the Fire" brought the mood down again. At the start of the tour a year ago, "Into the Fire" ended the main set on a somber note, but not anymore. Now it's right back up for jubilant renditions of "No Surrender" and "Thunder Road." "IT'S A TOWN FOR LOSERS/ I'M PULLING OUT OF HERE TO WIN." What a great way to end the set.

After about 30 seconds literally, the band was back onstage, starting into "Bobby Jean" to start the first encore. A very extended version of "Ramrod" featured a boogie woogie piano interlude, and the classic exchange with Bruce asking, "Is it quitting time? What time is it?" It was left to guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt to deliver the reply, "Is this Jersey? This is New Jersey. It must be Boss time." All fans who have heard the live albums and seen the TV specials know all the stage moves and routines. Sometimes you wish for a few more ad libs, but it's time-tested and it works, so it doesn't really matter.

"Born to Run" had the stadium in a state of mayhem of course. People were dancing with complete strangers, bonding over the unofficial state anthem. This used to be the end of the first encore, but Bruce followed it with "Seven Nights To Rock," a 1956 rockabilly single by rock pioneer Moon Mullican. Bruce played it at a benefit in Red Bank, NJ in April, and took it with him on his spring stadium tour of Europe. It's a nice dancing song, and appropriate because he did indeed have seven nights to rock here in July, but can it follow "Born to Run?" Not really.

The uncool people left after "Born to Run," but they missed out on a great final encore. Springsteen came out and made some political comments. He couldn't resist at his first American show since April. He said that the issue of the forthrightness of the government and the playing with the truth is not new and happens in both Republican and Democratic administrations, but it's always wrong. He went on to say that the question is not a Democratic or Republican one, or a liberal/conservative one, but an American one, and that it is crucial to get involved with the democratic process when there are real lives on the line. The crowd cheered the speech.

Bruce put in a plug for Asbury Park and dedicated "My City of Ruins" to it. "Land of Hope and Dreams" spotlights the country's immigrant roots and continued the patriotic theme.

The band bowed at this point, but the show wasn't over yet. The crowd roared, and Bruce made faces and gestures as to ask "Should I or shouldn't I?" He picked up the guitar and put it right back down as if it were too heavy and he was uncertain. The clowning was fun, but then he really delivered the goods. "Is this the one?" Bruce asked, and he gave us THE song-ROSALITA! The place went completely nuts. This is the song all Bruce diehards want, but rarely get. It is one of the greatest rock songs ever written, on the same level with "Born to Run," and even more epic. If this doesn't get you 100 miles high, as a Jersey boy especially, then there is something very wrong. We were "somewhere in the swamps of Jersey," and Bruce came through. He brought Rosie out, and even topped it off with "Dancing in the Dark" before bidding the crowd goodnight.

At 26 songs and over three hours, it was a great opening night. There were some technical kinks. There was a blue patch on the video screen stage left that kept popping up all night, but it will get fixed. After all, there were nine shows left to go here. New Jersey's summer of Bruce 2003 had begun. How could we want anything more?
30-Jul-2003 11:45 AM

Show Details

1. Born in the U.S.A. (acoustic)
2. The Rising
3. Lonesome Day
4. The Promised Land
5. My Love Will Not Let You Down
6. Darkness on the Edge of Town
7. Empty Sky
8. You're Missing
9. Waitin' on a Sunny Day
10. Sherry Darling
11. Worlds Apart
12. Badlands
13. Out in the Street
14. Mary's Place
15. The River (full band)
16. Into the Fire
17. No Surrender
18. Thunder Road
First Encore:
19. Bobby Jean
20. Ramrod
21. Born to Run
22. Seven Nights to Rock
Second Encore:
23. My City of Ruins
24. Land of Hope and Dreams
25. Rosalita
26. Dancing in the Dark