Next came an energetic version of "No Surrender", again somewhat of a surprise. Definitely one of the better songs from Born in the USA, and immortalized for the line "We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school", the band absolutely nailed it. It became obvious that Jake Clemons has definitely become more relaxed and confident and the entire band was clearly into it. I realized that on this night anything might be played.
As if to prove my point, next up were two back-to-back River songs, "I'm a Rocker" and "Hungry Heart." Really? I don't think I've heard "Hungry Heart" in the main set since The River tour, it's always been one of the encores, if played at all. And "I'm a Rocker?" I know I haven't heard that since The River tour. Once again, they were both absolutely nailed by the band.
Then came the '78 version of "Prove it all Night," which I guess Bruce has been playing regularly lately. It was great hearing the piano intro from The Professor, and the only word to describe Bruce's playing of the solo is "blistering." I can't remember hearing Bruce play a solo like that before, it's almost like Tom Morello has rubbed off on him. It was incredible. At that point, I was simply in awe, dumbstruck at the setlist so far (this was a show on the Wrecking Ball tour, right? Where the hell were those songs?), and giddy with aniticipation of what might come next.
Next came "Trapped," which I always love to hear in a show. I was lucky to get that on one of the "Magic" shows I saw in Anaheim and it was a major highlight that night. It still amazes that Bruce can nail this difficult vocal, he is 63 years old, after all. When the song ended to the roar of the amazed crowd, I thought now we have to get some Wrecking Ball tunes. Right? I mean, we're six songs in now.
I expected to hear the percussion beginning of "We Take Care of our Own," but instead heard another piano intro from The Professor that seemed vaguely familiar. And then it hit me, and I turned to my brother with a look of shocked wonder, which was mirrored on his face, as I said "Are you fucking kidding me? Lost in the Flood?". Well, I haven't heard that one live since 1975 at my very first Bruce show. What I got in Glendale was a powerful, passionate, explosive and absolutely mind-blowing version of one of Bruce's best and hardly-ever played songs. Once again, the band was nails, they were perfect. And when the song ended, I was completely fried. Blown away. I couldn't believe what I had seen and heard. I started to wonder: could this be the night? More on that later.
The next four songs were standards for the tour: "We Take Care of our Own," "Wrecking Ball," "Death to my Hometown," and "My City of Ruins." All of them great, all of them played with passion and emotion. Bruce then took requests and surprised us once again with "Be True" (did someone really request that?) and "Light of Day." I seem to be on the "Light of Day" track because I get that a lot at the shows I attend. "Darliington County" would have been a good bathroom song, if I had needed to go. It was well done, but I've never cared for it all that much. "Shackled and Drawn" came next with all its power and emotion. Bruce lightened the mood after that with "Waiting on a Sunny Day" and the Apollo medley. Sam Moore of Sam and Dave fame was at the show, and he joined Bruce briefly during "634-5789."
Next came "The Rising," which I have never gotten tired of, and then "Badlands." I've heard "Badlands" so many times that I should be sick ot it, but clearly, I'm not. When Bruce sings that "it ain't no sin to be glad I'm alive", he does so with such passion and joy in his voice that it is contagious. I was singing my guts out, as was most of the crowd. I knew we were getting close to the end of the main set and I wondered what song he would finish with. I know what I wanted. And as Bruce played the harmonica intro, I knew my wish was fulfilled. Many people have written on this site and others that "Thunder Road" has become tired and plodding live. I have no clue what they are talking about. On Thursday night in Glendale, it was joyous and triumphant. As I stood there, singing and dancing along with the band, I looked around and saw almost the entire crowd on their feet. I will never get tired of "Thunder Road" live.
As the main set ended, I was clearly exhausted and enthralled. The setlist had been diverse and exquisite. This was my 14th concert of a journey which began 37 years ago when I was a freshmand in college. The one song which I had never gotten from Bruce just happens to be my favorite, "Incident on 57th Street." I've heard many different versions on many different boots, but it had never been performed at any show I had been at. I had resigned myself to the belief that I would never get it. But this concert seemed different. After "Lost in the Flood," it seemed anything was possible.
And so, the encores began with Bruce going over to the piano, giving Roy a break. Everyone around me was breathless, what was he going to surprise us with now. And then came the piano intro, and I suddenly knew my moment had finally come. Bruce began singing the words I knew so well, and I swear, I had tears in my eyes. It was just Bruce alone on the piano. He sang with emotion and power. He sang with longing and tenderness. The crowd was swept up in this amazing ballad writen almost 40 years ago and you could hear a pin drop in the arena, it was so quiet. And when it was over, I was simply overcome with joy. I was drained with emotion and felt a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction that mere words can't describe. And I can never again say I've never had "Incident" played at a concert I attended.
The rest was anticlimactic for me. Oh sure, "Born to Run" was great as always, "Santa Claus is coming to Town" was fun, and "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" was joyous and tender with its tribute to the Big Man. And then it was over. I don't think I could have taken much more.
There's not much else for me to say. The first time I saw Bruce in 1975 at my college in Oswego, New York, was probably the best concert I ever saw, and a life-changing event for me. Other shows I've seen have been almost as great, some may even have been better. But I don't think any of them since that very first time have been as special for me as Thursday night in Glendale was. I didn't know I could still feel that way at the ripe old age of 54. But I was wrong. Thank you, Bruce.
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