When Bruce Springsteen walked on stage Friday night at roughly 8:30 p.m., the crowd changed their extended calls of “Bruuuuuuuuuuce” to raucous cheering. The cheering became even louder with his bellow of “JERSEY!” As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing quite like seeing a Springsteen concert in his home state. This is especially true when he’s playing the stadium in East Rutherford. Looking around, you see people dancing like crazy, singing every word regardless of whether they know them or not, and throwing their arms up in the air for certain lines as if it were choreographed ahead of time.
Opening with “Living on the Edge of the World,” Bruce and the E Street Band played for over three hours without a break. He played a healthy mix from his discography, combining newer tracks from the latest Wrecking Ball with older crowd favorites. In the middle of the show, Bruce was joined by Gary U.S. Bonds, a rock singer whose career began in the early ‘60s. The two of them sang “Jole Blon” and “This Little Girl” together. For “Waiting on a Sunny Day,” Bruce brought up a slightly younger friend—the boy couldn’t have been more than four or five—but he sang an adorable, wide-eyed rendition of the song’s chorus before being returned to his parents on the floor.
Springsteen exhibited more energy for those three hours at the age of almost sixty-three (today is actually his birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRUCE!) than I could for my twenty-three. The encore certainly didn’t suffer for energy. When the lights snapped on for “Born to Run,” the entire audience was visible, singing along and dancing like crazy. During “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” a tribute was played on screen to late E Street Band saxophone player, Clarence Clemons. The tribute was perfect; after Bruce sang “When the change was made uptown/And the Big Man joined the band” he paused the song, spotlighting a slide show of Clarence pictures soon accompanied by audience cheers.
Bruce closed the concert with “American Land,” a fun, upbeat number inspired by traditional folk songs. The song combined with the fireworks set off at the top of the stadium made for a powerful, completely memorable concert closing. If you ever have the opportunity to get the true New Jersey experience of seeing Springsteen, I strongly suggest that you take it. There’s a reason they call him the Boss.