“I’m an old man but I don’t want to go home.”
This line, which Bruce uttered in the first half of the show, can be used to sum up the entire 2012 Wrecking Ball Tour. Having been on tour pretty much non-stop since March, Bruce has visited more than ten countries, made three trips to New Jersey and celebrated his 63rd birthday on tour. Last night’s performance in Louisville was the fourth straight night of performing for the E Street Band following stops in Rochester, Pennsylvania, and the NYC benefit. If nothing else, this seemingly never-ending tour has been a remarkable display of Bruce’s stamina.
While his line of dialogue – stated during the prelude to “Spirit in the Night” – underlines his phenomenal endurance and work ethic, it also acknowledges a hard truth. At 63 years old, Bruce can be considered an old man. I was fortunate enough to get amazing seats to the left of the stage for an up-close parallel view of the stage. Being in such close proximity to Bruce really makes you appreciate the level of showmanship that can’t be fully conveyed by a TV monitor. Being near the stage gives you a sense of the corporeality that can easily be overlooked by his superhuman theatrics. Last night was the first time that I really sensed the physical weight of his dancing on top of the piano, appreciated how close he came to being dropped while crowd surfing and questioned whether the stilted shuffle he does while introducing the band is one of his silly dance moves or a fleeting glimpse into his joint pains.
The effects of Hurricane Sandy weighed heavily (but briefly) on the opening of the show with a line about “a f-ing hurricane” injected into “Wrecking Ball” and Bruce’s poignant recount of the life cycle of the meaning of “My City of Ruins” as it’s gone from Asbury Park to 9/11 to Asbury Park again (for different reasons).
Bruce was in full request mode, grabbing signs and even a custom jacket to pull out a few unexpected tunes including the rarely played “Streets of Philadelphia” and “The River.” A sign request also led into a raucous rendition of “Open All Night” which was the first time I was acutely aware of Bruce using the teleprompter – but how else could he have made it through those rapid fire lyrics? Hearing “The River” was extremely powerful (and not just because OB was able to knock it off his top 5 songs he hasn’t heard live). “The River” flowed beautifully into “The Rising” which gave the perfect joyful release after the pain and precision of “The River”. This unexpected pairing signaled the start of one of the most thrilling conclusions I’ve ever seen – my personal highlight being “Rosalita” in the encore.
The immediacy of an E Street Band concert is a signature trait and their visit to Louisville contained the most audience interaction I’ve ever seen. When Bruce called for his requisite moment of silence to recognize “the ghosts” in the room, the crowd had some difficulty keeping quiet. I was initially concerned that this would sour Bruce’s connection with the audience but that fear was quickly erased. In addition to the expected “Waiting on a Sunny Day” and “Dancing in the Dark” audience interactions, he also invited up an enthusiastic kid celebrating his 20th birthday to sing “Growing Up” and a parade of pink cowboy hat-adorned girls to dance with the band during “Darlington County.” At the end of the show Bruce said to the audience, “Thank you, you’ve been remarkable.” And I really think he meant it.