The show was originally scheduled for April 18, but the passing of 40 year friend and bandmate Danny Federici the day before necessitated a rescheduling. The Band had to lay their buddy to rest, but it was far from "goodbye."
The new date was set for May 2, a mere two weeks later, with a 7:30 showtime posted. 7:30 came and went. So did 8:00, then 8:15 and 8:30. I was starting to get antsy. The anticipation was building in the house and swag (merchandise "sold while at gig") was being consumed until the lines vaporized.
The Man and his Band
Then at 8:40, at The Bank Atlantic Center in suburban Ft. Lauderdale (think hockey/basketball venue) a pre-recorded video celebrating the life, times and career of Danny "The Phantom" Federici was shown, with pre-recorded music underneath. It was a moving and poignant tribute to one of rock-n-roll's most free spirited spirits.
Then The Man and his Band launched into a rollicking rendition of "Promised Land." The typically unusually high E Street energy level was definitely kicked up a few notches. It was immediately apparent tha even by Bruce live gig standards, this was gonna be a very, very, very special night.
By the time they segued into the set's second song, "Wanna Be With You," one thing was abundantly clear: Bruce & Co. were on a mission. They were not to be denied.
The "Magic" was beginning to unfold right before our eyes and ears.
Bruce is one of those all too rare artists who wears it ALL on his sleeve: his life, his convictions, his causes, his politics, his loves, fears and hopes. (He also sings a lot about a recurring character named Mary. She must have been an impact player somewhere along the line.)
Counting Danny's tribute, 25 songs comprised this nearly three hour Rock Manifesto of a concert experience. And, true to form, Bruce wasn't playing coy with his emotions. I mean, really. How many times do the words "Habeas corpus, wire-tapping, food banks, hope for the America I grew up believing in" rear their heads in the PC climate of our times?
How often do you watch a 58 year old man slide almost 20 yards across the stage, ax in hand? How many performers play with such sheer joy?
I consider Bruce to be the standard bearing troubadour of our generation.
Boss and his Lyrics
In the tradition of Samuel Clements, Kurt Vonnegut, James Michener, Gary Trudeau and other literary greats of our times, Bruce's lyrics tell America's story, unadulterated, unfiltered and with the added benefit of one very accomplished, kick-ass rock 'n' roll band complementing the lyrics.
Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons played the sax bigger than ever. Nils Lofgren was a whirling dervish during one incendiary guitar solo. Bassist Garry Tallent, inconspicuous as always, kept time with "Mighty Max" Weinberg on drums. Roy Bittan was tinkling ivories as well as ever. "Miami Steve" Van Zandt was, well, "Miami Steve" (enough said) and Charles Giordano served well as Danny's replacement on organ. Mama (Patti Scialfa) stayed home and Soozie Tyrell added strings, background vocals, acoustic guitar and any percussion that wasn't nailed down.
Early in the set, Bruce paid homage to the recently departed Federici by telling a "Danny story." It was the stuff from which rock lore is borne.
The story was about a bunch of 19 year olds, bandmates and buds sharing a rental home in 1969. Largely due to the CB Radio antics of one highly spirited keyboard player (Danny invited every trucker within CB hailing distance) the house quickly became, in Bruce's words, "The Only House of Freaks in New Jersey."
That gig lasted exactly one month. After 30 days, the landlord called a permanent time out, showing the lads the door in the process. Thankfully, their musical careers have enjoyed more "legs."
From the Bottom Line to the Meadowlands, from Long Island to South Florida, I have followed Bruce and the E Streeters from virtually day one. This night, Ft. Lauderdale was the latest "Lucky Town."
And this reviewer remains lucky to be able to relate the events of another unbelievable night of Brothers and Sisters in Arms, one more night of great fortune to be entertained by the house rockin', pants droppin', earth shockin', hard rockin', booty shakin', love makin', heart breakin', soul cryin' and, yes, death defyin' legendary E Street Band.
Set List:(minus a couple due to a 53 year old bladder and nicotine addiction)
"Promised Land" (the beginning of a four song medley)
"Wanna Be with You"
"Prove It All Night"
"She's The One"
"Living In The Future" (prefaced by some scathing/dead-on political commentary)
"Girls In Their Summer Clothes"
"The Devil's Arcade"
"Long Walk Home" (an anthem–like version of) "Badlands"
"Born To Run"
"10th Avenue Freeze-Out"
"This Land" (with lyrics floated on the screens -- an Irish gig with a rock and roll attiude)
by Jim Smith