Bruce Springsteen brings rock and soul salvation to Vancouver
Published Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:02AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 27, 2012 9:34AM PST
There are at least three people in Metro Vancouver this morning who will swear that Bruce Springsteen’s concert at Rogers Arena last night, if not absolute number one, would sit among the top five moments of their entire lives.
One: the young girl with the pitch-perfect pipes plucked from the crowd to sing the chorus of “Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” – so good that Springsteen felt obliged to bless her with the universal sign of ‘We’re not worthy’. Two: the Senior Citizen, “80 years old” according to Bruce, picked to be his partner for the “Dancing in the Dark” shuffle. And three: the dude in the Santa suit dragged on stage for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” who had the foresight to stick a large Canadian flag in his Christmas stocking.
There are probably hundreds more who’d choose last night as one of their lives’ highlights too. It was that kind of show; a three-hour marathon of hits from one of the masters, defying both his age and traditional rock god etiquette.
Six songs in Springsteen asked for a show of hands from everyone who’d never seen him and the E Street Band before.
“I like to have something to prove every night,” he smiled, even though first-timers were clearly in the minority. “I’m an old man but I don’t want to go home.”
Why would he call time on his glorious career when he still has the ability to hold any crowd in the palm of his hand? All it took were the opening chords of “Hungry Heart” and Rogers Arena was singing its lyrics, unprompted, as Springsteen strode through adoring fans to a strategically placed runway, before crowd surfing the entire way back to the stage.
The atmosphere was pure party, but the content packed genuine emotion. “Death To My Hometown,” a lament on the economic crises, saw Springsteen as angry as an artist on stage can be without throwing punches. “My City in Ruins,” stretching nearly 15 minutes, turned Rogers Arena into the Church of rock and soul, Springsteen channelling gospel tradition and repeatedly asking the crowd if they could “feel the spirit?” He also asked what “We Are All Canucks” means, one of many big laughs he was happy to generate.
With no effects, no props, not even a back to the stage, the entire night rode on the shoulders of Springsteen’s inexhaustible charisma. Every song was delivered with absolute commitment. Every interaction with the crowd was generous, kind and sincere.
It didn’t hurt that he was plucking gems from his monumental back catalogue. “Because The Night” finished with a searing solo from pocket rocket guitarist Nils Lofgren. “The Rising” delivered a shot of anthemic adrenaline. “Badlands,” probably the tune of the night, reverberated as one of the most triumphant songs in human history.
By the time “Born To Run” arrived, midway through an extended encore, the house lights were on and the air was taking a pounding from 18,000 clenched fists punching in unison. Its sax solo, delivered by the late, great Clarence Clemons’ nephew, Jake Clemons, still sent shivers down the spine.
After three hours, 26 songs, repeated trips into the crowd and countless choruses of “Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce!” a sweat-drenched Boss called time from the centre of the arena with a tribute to Clemons midway through “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”.
“Can you feel the spirit?” he asked, one last time. The crowd roared its answer.
An evening with Bruce Springsteen remains a near-religious experience. Agnostics were converted. For true believers their faith is stronger than ever.