And so it ends. Or at least the Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band chapter does. The Boss played his last show at the Spectrum in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, bringing it all back home with a taut, toughened up Born in the U.S.A. and a show that held together from start to finish more cohesively than any other in the run, while also providing the broadest sampling of work from the full range of his career.
Along with B. in the U.S.A., the album that got a welcome shot of attention was The River, the masterful 1980 double LP that sadly got left off the played-in-its-entirety list. Springsteen made amends by opening with the sorrowful "The Price You Pay," and soon followed that with "Out In The Street."
Instead of following the completed B in the U.S.A. with "Waiting On A Sunny Day," Springsteen moved the requests portion of the show till the end, and kept the vibe serious with "Promised Land" and "The River," the latter finished off with a wordless coda sung in the near falsetto voice that he's often employed to eerie effect in his non-E Street shows. And for another sort-of shot of The River, there was "Loose Ends," the yearning outtake that surfaced on Tracks that's way up towards the top of my own personal list of Springsteen songs that fell through the cracks.
Let's see, what else marked this as the best of the four final Spectrum shows? An encore that began - after Springsteen name checked food bank Philabundance - with "Spirit in the Night," with original E Street drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez taking over the throne from Max Weinberg for the tune. There was a "Kitty's Back" that swung as suavely as if it was 1973, with Springsteen, pianist Roy Bittan and most welcome trumpeter Curt Ramm improvising to most satisfying effect.
As always, there was the hectic Irish jig set-staple "American Land," the pro-immigration inclusionary agit-prop frenzy where Springsteen shouted out to "the Blacks, the Irish, Italians, the Germans and the Jews," among others, giving his listeners the history lesson that "the ones that built our country, we're all trying to keep down." And after Clarence Clemons got his now usual intro - "Saxophonist... Libertine... Author.. He's bigger than Shakespeare!," there was an off the cuff, sweetly soulful cover of "Save The Last Dance For Me," appropriately addressed to "Brother Spectrum" that brought the number of different songs played over the course of the four-night stand to 73.
And of course, that wasn't all: After the appropriate finisher "Thunder Road," gave us all a chance pull out of the dirty old building to win, there was a final "Rosalita," who came out after all, even though she wasn't on the set list. Springsten then bid his people adieu: "Thank you Philly! Thank you Spectrum!"
Sorry to get carried away there, but it was a truly great show. How great? As great as the Spectrum 50th birthday show of September 1999, I'm saying, and Springsteenophiles will know what I mean. Nice one, Boss. You did your part in closing the building down in style.
That's all I got, folks. Read more about in the the Wednesday Inquirer, courtesy of my colleagues Miriam Hill and Dan Rubin, whose pellucid prose will run along with my overview of the four Springsteen shows. I'm taking a few days away from the rock and roll. See you at Pearl Jam.
Here’s the full 31 song, 3 hour and 15 minute set list. And check out the excellent audeince video of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" below.
The Price You Pay/Wrecking Ball/Out in the Street/Hungry Heart/Working On A Dream/Born in the U.S.A./Cover Me/Darlington County/Working On A Highway/Downbound Train/I’m On Fire/No Surrender/Bobby Jean/I'm Goin' Down/Glory Days/Dancing In The Dark/My Hometown/Promised Land/The River/Long Walk Home/The Rising/Born To Run/Higher and Higher
Encore: Spirit in the Night (with Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez)/Loose Ends/Kitty's Back/American Land/Save The Last Dance For Me/Waiting On A Sunny Day/Thunder Road/Rosalita
Previously: Springsteen Set List, Night Three