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Bruce Springsteen Closes Out Tour With Hometown Marathon

May 26, 2009 11:21 AM ET

After a rousing version of "American Land," Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's Saturday night show at the Izod Center truly seemed over. By this point the band had played for three consecutive hours, with a mind-blowing set loaded with rarely played fan favorites from his 1970s catalog. It seemed like the end, but as the band returned to their stations for two more songs Springsteen roared: "The turnpike is closed. Nobody goes home!"

You won't see many concerts with an "Attorney General Will Call Line," but a ticketing snafu led to thousands of consumer complaints that eventually lead to many aggrieved fans getting tickets through a special lottery. The incident was even the talk of Congress. People really wanted into this show, and Springsteen did everything he could to make it special. He began deviating from the handwritten set list early on, calling for the Darkness On The Edge of Town gem "Something In The Night," which was an early emotional highlight.

During the fan request portion of the evening, he played the Born In The USA track "Cover Me," a powerful version of "Thunder Road" and the rarely performed "E Street Shuffle." The latter was one of three songs from his 1973 disc The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle — the others being "Kitty's Back" and "Incident On 57th Street," which was a last second switch for the set listed "I'm On Fire." "This is for Jersey," Springsteen said before playing what might be a definitive version of the street opera with a beautiful coda by pianist Roy Bittan.

The tour is ostensibly in support of Springsteen's new album Working On A Dream, but only three of the 26 songs were from the disc were played. It's a shame because the two back-up singers he brought in to recreate the album's rich harmonies are now left with a reduced role. One can assume Springsteen made this call because his catalog addresses the economic meltdown much better than an album about relationships. The hard times are addressed directly with a block of songs mid-show that includes "Johnny 99" (about a man reduced to crime after losing his job), "Seeds" (about family forced to live in their car) and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" (about the last depression). In the encore they covered the 1854 Stephen Foster tune "Hard Times Come Again No More," which finally allowed backing singers Curtis King and Cindy Mizelle to cut loose.

Springsteen tours don't usually hit highs like this until the end, but the band has essentially been on the road since September of 2007. By this point they are capable of playing anything Springsteen throws at them from obscure albums tracks to a cover of "Mony Mony," which closed the show out. The countless fans shut out of these Jersey shows will have another chance in the fall, since Springsteen is doing three nights at Giants Stadium shortly before they implode the place. Said Springteen: "Before they bring the wrecking ball we'll bring the wrecking crew."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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