At the Izod Center
in East Rutherford on April 3, the Boss was in
By John B. Moore / Photo by Jo Lopez (via Springsteen’s
There was something poetic about Bruce Springsteen taking to
the stage Tuesday night for his first hometown show since the dust settled from
the deep economic freefall the country was dropped into years ago, as states
away conservative voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and D.C. decided which GOP
candidate would save them from the regulation-dependant, Socialist takeover
they are convinced is occurring right now.
While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had capped their week
trying to top each other with vitriol aimed at the working class, with promises
to burn society’s safety net and stopping just shy of leading their supporters
in chants of “eat the poor,” the Garden State’s favorite son thundered through just
about every track off of his confrontational new album Wrecking Ball, inspired almost solely by corporate greed, with
tales of folks losing their jobs, their homes and nearly all hope.
The new songs, like the somber “Jack of All Trades,” offered
in the circle of a lone spotlight on Springsteen delivering lines like “the
banker man grows fatter, the working man grows thin, it’s all happened before,
it will happen again,” come off particularly strong in a live setting. The
album, his most consistently solid and focused since 2002’s The Rising, is track after track of
standing up for those who are clearly losing the fight and trying to find a
reason to hold on.
After welcoming his neighbors to the Meadowlands’ show he
dubbed “the Romp in the Swamp” and commenting on the fact that he and the E
Street Band christened the Izod
Center in 1981(“Back when
buildings were named after human beings”), Springsteen launched into “We Take
Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball,” with the crowd enthusiastically reacting
to both. For the first half of the concert, he simply let the songs channel his
anger at the way the working stiffs have been treated these past few years,
with plenty of classics thrown in the mix as well. But Springsteen, known for
his almost evangelical sermons to rock and roll given in live settings, finally
opened up a bit in the intro to “Jack of All Trades”, mentioning that he wrote
the song in 2009, before there was an Occupy Wall Street movement, as a
reaction to what he saw as the “Un-American” way people were preyed on by banks
and big businesses.
To better accommodate the expansive sound from Wrecking Ball, the E Street Band
included a five-person horn section, with 16 musicians filling the stage
throughout most of the night.
Politics aside, last night’s show was also one that many
thought might never happen after the sudden death last summer of Clarence Clemons,
his longtime sax player, friend, foil and one of the most defining members of
any Springsteen show for the past four decades. Any Bruce fan will admit that
their second reaction to hearing the news of the Clemons’ death was how the E Street
band, which had lost longtime organ and accordion player Danny Federici just three
years before, could continue.
Clemons’ nephew Jake,
picked to play the tour and clearly under a lot of pressure to live up to his
uncle’s iconic reputation, handled the role flawlessly, helped in some measure
by the 20,000 fans crammed into the arena enthusiastically rooting for him the
moment he took his first solo. Springsteen finally acknowledged the deaths of
his two close friends during the now-expected show ritual of name checking the
band members. Asking if he forgot anyone when he gets to the part in his script where he throws the spotlight to the Big Man, after
roars from those in attendance, he said “if you’re here, and we’re here then
they’re here.” Though Springsteen has used this line at shows in the weeks leading
up to last night, before a hometown crowd, the sentiment took on new meaning.
With the first of two Jersey
shows under his belt, in what is expected to be a yearlong trek around the
globe, Springsteen – a man not shy of his political opinions of late – is
clearly back at the pulpit preaching his rock and roll gospel to the 99%.