Bruce Springsteen Covers David Bowie, Resurrects ‘The River’ at Tour Opener
Ever since Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band reunited back in 1999, a major component of their live shows has been spontaneity. When they last toured in 2014, it was impossible to know what songs might pop up on any given night, whether it was an unexpected cover like Lorde’s “Royals” or Van Halen’s “Jump,” crazily obscure studio outtakes like “The Iceman” and “Living on the Edge of the World” or even alternate versions of familiar tunes like “Racing in the Street ’78” and “Prove It All Night” with the long piano/guitar intro last heard on the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. Anything felt possible at any moment, causing fans to nearly empty their bank accounts as they traveled the world to see as many shows as possible.
So there was no small amount of consternation in the fan community late last year when Springsteen announced that this year’s tour would feature a complete performance of The River every single night. After all, it’s a two-LP, 20-song collection that would leave precious little time for anything else. At least, that was the way it seemed before opening night at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center on Saturday. By the end of the blazing three-and-a-half-hour show, the ageless 66-year-old frontman not only proved that he could somehow find the energy to play a full set of music on top of The River, but that spontaneity is a wildly overrated aspect of his concerts. What matters far more is passion, energy and great tunes. The show had all that, plus a lot more.
It began at 8 p.m. sharp with a dramatically pared-down E Street Band taking the stage two at a time. The last time they played a concert, a whopping 19 people were on the stage. For this tour, Springsteen chucked four horn players, three backup singers, a percussionist and one member of Rage Against the Machine from the lineup. That still left a nine-person band, and they kicked off the night with “Meet Me in the City,” an outtake from The River released on December’s Ties That Bind box set. After that, the house lights went off and Springsteen addressed the crowd.
“Thank you for coming out and being with us tonight,” he said. “The River was a record where I was trying to fit in. By the time I got to that record, I was taking notice of the things that bond people to their lives: work, commitments, families. I wanted to imagine and I wanted to write about those things and I figured if I could write about them, maybe I’d get one step close to realizing them in my own life. I wanted to make a record that was big enough so it felt like life or like an E Street Band show.”