Springsteen Rocks Baltimore

Friday was a night to remember in Baltimore. In possibly his next to last concert with the entire legendary E-Street Band, Bruce Springsteen played a three and a half hour concert–his first in Baltimore in thirty-six years.

The house was packed when Springsteen came out around 8:20 or so. He opened with “Wrecking Ball,” the song he wrote for his Giants Stadium concerts last month. After playing “Prove it All Night,” the band kicked into a rousing rendition of “Hungry Heart” with Springsteen, as is his custom, allowing the crowd to sing the first few verses and yelling his patented “COME ON” between each verse. When the lights revealed thousands of people screaming “Got a Wife and Kids in Baltimore Jack,” we knew it was going to be an incredible night of music. Springsteen crowd surfed during part of “Hungry Heart” and even took a swig of some guy’s beer. Have I mentioned that Springsteen is 60 years old?

As expected, Springsteen played the entire Born to Run album. He played the title track with the lights on, gave a moving rendition of “Meeting Across the River” (with most fans showing their respect for the song by remaining quiet), and ended with an epic rendition of “Jungleland.” When they finished playing the album the band came to the front of the stage and took a bow. Springsteen announced that this was the last time the entire band would play through the album. (Did he mean the last time on the tour, or the last time FOREVER?).

As he has been doing recently, Springsteen transitioned out of Born to Run with “Waiting on a Sunny Day.” He brought up a young girl to sing some of the lyrics. She was great. Then Springsteen began to collect signs. The requests included “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (someone in the crowd gave him a Santa hat that said “The Boss,” but it didn’t fit his head), the E-Street Shuffle” (the guy next to me called a friend and held his cell phone up during the entire song), “I Came for You” (with Springsteen playing alone on the piano), and “Radio Nowhere” (a young fan’s sign said that she did not want to listen to “Radio Disney” anymore, she wanted to hear “Radio Nowhere.”).

The band did eight (count’em eight!) encores. I was glad to hear both “American Land” AND “Land of Hopes and Dreams.” I plan to use both of these songs in my “Immigrant America” class next spring. “Rosalita,” “Higher and Higher,” “Dancing in the Dark” (in which two ladies danced with Clarence), and “Glory Days” were incredible.

This was definitely a special concert. (See the entire setlist here). The energy was high, the band was awesome (Patti Scialfa was absent tonight), and Springsteen gave the capacity crowd their money’s worth. I sat next to a guy with a “Steel Mill” shirt on (Springsteen’s first band) who had been to thirty shows over the years. The guy in front of me never sat down–dancing wildly and playing air keyboard the entire concert. Next to him was a guy who had to be in his mid-to-late sixties. He was clearly having a great time, pumping his fist in the air and singing all the lyrics while his wife sat in her chair the entire concert. The guy two seats down from me was in tears at the end of “Jungleland.”

I do not pretend to be a music expert, but Springsteen has got to be the greatest rock and roll performer of all time. By the end of the night my wife Joy, who is not a big Springsteen fan, was yelling “Bruuuuuuce.”

I wish I could be in Buffalo tonight for the final show. We would take the kids.

Bruce closed the concert by saying “we will see you down the road.” I hope he meant it.

ADDENDUM: See the review of the show at Backstreets and Sam Sessa’s review at the Baltimore Sun.