Bruce Springsteen Rocks First Night At L.A. Sports Arena
It was only a matter of time before an opportunity would present itself to see Springsteen live. And that was Thursday night at the L.A. Sports Arena on his “Wrecking Ball Tour,” to promote his new album, "Wrecking Ball."
The E Street Band came on stage around 8:20 p.m. to roars of cheers and applause. But the biggest cheering and applauding came when the 62-year-old New Jersey native joined the stage and asked, “Los Angeles, are you ready to be transformed,” and kicked into the first track of his 1978 album -- "Darkness on the Edge of Town" -- “Badlands.” In case it was unknown beforehand, Springsteen proved that he has played his share of shows and has mastered the art of live performance.
When asked who had seen at least one E Street Band show, the cheers were much louder compared to the green attendees. Yet, fans new and old, young and old were able to similarly succumb to Springsteen’s showmanship and energy.
Immediately after, Springsteen launched into “We Take Care of Our Own,” the first single off his new album followed by the album’s title song and a song off 1980’s "The River," “The Ties That Bind.”
The evening’s biggest surprise came on the next song, “Death to My Hometown,” when Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello nonchalantly walked out and starting playing with Springsteen and fellow guitarists Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren.
An emotion-ridden rendition of “My City of Ruins” allowed Springsteen to introduce his band mates and give a brief tribute to recently departed saxophonist Clarence Clemons, one of E Street’s original members and a very good friend of Springsteen. His nephew, Jake Clemons, is the touring saxophonist on the tour and filled in admirably for the Big Man.
“We’re here to tell you a story tonight,” Springsteen informed the crowd (all quotes paraphrased). “And some stories are older than others… we’re gonna take you back to E-Street,” he added before kicking into the high-energy “E Street Shuffle” from his second studio album, "The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle."
The band slowed down as Springsteen broke into “Jack of All Trades,” one of his more politically charged new tracks. “I wrote this song before Occupy and all of that, before people were speaking up [about the financial crisis on Wall Street],” he said before kicking into the acoustic-driven song. Morello made another appearance to play the solo, which he played on the studio version.
After Morello’s second appearance, the band then played two 1970s classics in “Something in the Night” and “Candy’s Room.”
“She’s the One” captivated the whole crowd before playing crowd favorite “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.” The entire crowd sang the easy yet catchy chorus throughout, particularly when Springsteen picked a young girl from the crowd to sing the final one. “It’s good, it’s good,” Springsteen exclaimed to more and more cheers. The man could do no wrong in the eyes’ of the sold-out crowd.
"Darkness'" “The Promised Land” kept the high energy before a pair of soulful covers -- The Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” -- featured The Boss running in the pit and crowd surfing.
That was just a set-up for a rousing version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” with Morello, whose band covered the song for their cover album, Renegades. Springsteen and Morello traded singing verses before sharing choruses and playing dueling guitar solos. Morello took the final solo, wailing in vintage-Rage fashion, with wah-wah and scratching akin to the solo in Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls On Parade."
The set wrapped up with a stirring performance of “The Rising,” “Lonesome Day,” “We Are Alive” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.” The band took center stage before retreating and returning for the encore’s first song, the inspirational “Rocky Ground,” which Springsteen used as a platform to commend L.A.-area food banks and PATH, an organization to help homeless citizens.
The end of the encore was non-stop, upbeat action, as the band reeled off a cover of the 1960s pop hit, “California Sun,” right before “Born to Run” turned the crowd into a state of rocking fervor.
As if the energy could not have been more palpable after Springsteen’s signature song, “Dancing in the Dark” sent fans to new heights. Soozie Tyrell provided the famous synthesizer line on her violin as drummer Max Weinberg kept the song at its original high tempo. Near the song’s end, Springsteen moved to stage right and pulled up a woman on stage. “I brought my sister here tonight,” he said to the crowd’s delight before dancing with her to close the song.
The show wrapped up with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” the up-tempo, feel-good song from Born to Run. As Springsteen roamed the crowd before the final verse, he belted, “Now this is the important part!” He took his spot in the middle of the pit and sang a cappella, “When the change was made uptown and the Big Man joined the band.” He stood there and encouraged cheers in tribute for his lost friend in Clarence Clemons as an in-memoriam slideshow played. The band resumed play and ended the song in a roaring crescendo.
Each one took center with The Boss, and took the gracious applause, filing off stage afterward. Springsteen was the last to leave, soaking in the undivided attention the 16,000-plus showed. Just under three hours later from when he came on stage, he took his final steps off. And he’ll do the same thing Friday night in the same venue.
Forty-plus years later, Springsteen still brought it every night. The only problem with the evening would be “Thunder Road's" snub off the playlist as well as a lack of my personal favorite, “Backstreets.” But the band’s catalogue is so large that relatively smaller songs need to be dusted off. I’m nitpicking.
I had heard that The Boss gives legendary live performances but would not accept that fact until I watched him play in front of my eyes. A part of me thought his rhetorical question of “are you ready to be transformed” was clichéd. My only problem now is that I cannot attend his second show in town on Friday. And that’s an upsetting realization.