"It's good to be back in the City of Brotherly Love," Bruce Springsteen said early on during his 2 hour 50 minute rock 'n' roll revival show at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday. "Brotherly love, it's hard to come by these days."
It was the first of back-to-back nights in South Philly for Springsteen and the E Street Band - which, with the addition of two gospel singers, a percussionist and a 5 man horn section, including Clarence Clemons' nephew Jake Clemons on saxophone - has now swelled to 17 members strong. (And that's not including singer-rapper Michelle Moore, who came on to drop 16 bars into the middle of the spiritual lament ""Rocky Ground" from Springsteen's new album about the Great Recession, Wrecking Ball.
Wrecking Ball, which, Springsteen joked in a humorously grandiloquent introduction of himself "stood at the top of the Billboard chart for ONE consecutive week," got plenty attention. But the Boss pulled from his catalog from all phases of his career. The two especially-for-Philly songs from back in the day were the jaunty "Seaside Bar Song," which he said "I played at the Main Point ... I think" and "Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?" from his first album, 1973's Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
Even that Dylanesque ramble fit into the theme of stubborn faith when the chips are down that defined the evening, thanks to its key line: "The Daily News asks him for the dope / Man the dope's that there's still hope." Thoughout this gospel-drenched, expertly paced, ultimately uplifting marathon, that hope was found in a soul music interlude that paid tribute to Smokey Robinson and Wilson Pickett, in benchmark Darkness on the Edge of Town fist-pumpers like "Badlands" and "Promised Land," and a whole bunch of songs of ecstatic rock and soul release towards the end, including a cover of Eddie Floyd's "Raise Your Hand" during which he took to the crowd, and I took the photo you see below in which, people, Bruce Springsteen was all but sitting in my lap.