METLIFE 2: Morello Magic in This Night

Click here to read my thoughts on MetLife night 1.

This. This was a fucking concert.

Pardon my French, but this was one of those rare spectaculars that only some blue language can sufficiently convey how hyped I felt from beginning to end.  Though Bruce began his second of three nights at MetLife Stadium by excitedly exclaiming, “Let’s do it again!” this introduction did not accurately portend the type of momentous evening that we were about to witness, for this greeting made it sound like the E Street Band would give us a mere repeat of the historically-long yet perhaps not historically-memorable night 1. Instead, Bruce and Co. improved on almost every element of Tuesday’s concert, from its near-flawless pace to its shockingly lengthened duration – four hours! Four! The second longest of Bruce’s career and the longest ever in America[1] – down to even the radically clearer sound.

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The official poster – pretty ambivalent about this one.

Oh, and before I go any further, I owe almost every fan from the great state of New Jersey an apology due to another improvement. In my report of night 1, I claimed that the Garden State was the most overrated, and thus one of the worst places to see Bruce in the world. You’ll need to read it to understand why I felt that way – which was based on more than just Tuesday’s dismal crowd – but if I’m going to dole out such ardent criticism, I also need to be the first to admit when I have to eat crow regarding such criticisms. And everyone who SHOWED UP – both literally and figuratively – to Thursday’s concert[2] basically forced me to stuff my fat face full of that blackest of birds. Beginning with their European-esque pre-show “Badlands” chants, this crowd proved all of my assertions wrong regarding their customary lack of spirited participation.[3]

Yet perhaps they do not deserve lone credit for their unexpected greatness, in the same way that the night’s wild success cannot be chalked up – as it usually is – solely to the contributions of the Boss and his Band. On Thursday, they had a special yet familiar partner-in-crime that turned everyone into true prisoners of rock and roll: Tom Morello, who not only made his triumphant after his nightly presence on the High Hopes Tour but also forcefully influenced the entirety of the concert.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why setlists on this tour have not contained the variety of those on the High Hopes Tour, and now I have a theory: perhaps what’s been lacking this year is something to inspire Bruce like Tom Morello seemed to in 2014. Given that tour’s wildly diverse setlists, Bruce being around a fellow rock and roll star who’s still so committed to the important vitality and potentially powerful impact of his music – Morello was in town this week with his current Prophets of Rage: Make America Rage Again Tour, which is a new band assembled this year to respond to the current political climate – may have gotten Bruce’s creative juices flowing much more than The River boxset.[4] There’s ample proof to back up this theory, from Bruce’s admission that Morello was a major factor that compelled him to record the High Hopes album to the fact that it was Morello’s idea to play “Highway to Hell” in Australia to honor one of the country’s greatest rock and roll bands. Many have bemoaned that level of thought not being put into the setlists of this tour.

Though Tuesday night’s concert at Metlife already exhibited some of that thoughtfulness in regards to acknowledging the Jersey setting – which I explained in detail in my write-up of night 1 and continued here – Morello’s presence seemed to energize the rest of the Band, the crowd,[5] and most especially Bruce. His passionately erratic singing and guitar-playing style makes it look like the songs are literally pulsating through him, no doubt rooted in his fervent belief in the power of music.[6] His total absorption in the music is nothing less than intensely infectious, and appeared to inspire Bruce all night long – even when Morello wasn’t on stage – to give as much, if not more than what Tom was giving, which is to say: everything that he could…and then some.

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The official t-shirt – this color is the epitome of ‘meh’ for me.

Night 2 began in the same way as night 1 – with “New York City Serenade” accompanied by a string section who walked on stage a few minutes before the Band shortly after 8pm – but the increased intensity was felt from the get go, thanks in part to the crisper sound quality picking up more of the performance nuances that this opus requires, particularly in regards to Bruce’s voice. Yet instead of slowly ramping up the pace as he did on Tuesday by following with “Wrecking Ball,” Bruce immediately turned the opener’s emotional and musical intensity into sheer rock and roll intensity with the consistently up-tempo stretch of “Prove It All Night” – with Stevie taking the guitar solo[7] – into “Night” into “No Surrender.”

Bruce next went with “Wrecking Ball” again, but its differentiated placement here showcased how much more expertly Bruce established the night’s pace on Thursday than Tuesday. The latter also began with the downtempo “New York City Serenade,” somewhat picked up for “Wrecking Ball,” ramped aaaaaall the way up for “Badlands,” but then slowed down again with “Something in the Night.” This tonal rollercoaster over the first four songs prevented Bruce from instituting the sort of fast-paced foundation that most of his best concerts are built upon, which allow people to get so lost in the proceedings. Whereas I was never fully absorbed in the concert on Tuesday, Thursday’s rip-roaring opening stretch quickly engrossed my entire being.

Plus, this dynamic start proved a better lead-in to “Wrecking Ball,” making the inevitable – and often obnoxious – ovations that the song receives much more palatable since they seemed to be a result of the immense euphoria created by the opening stretch. Heck, Bruce even explicitly called for these crowd interruptions by delivering – and somewhat changing – lines such as, “So raise up your glasses / and let me hear your voices call…JERSEY!” in a rabble-rousing manner. The immense response such goading elicited was a clear indicator of just how successfully Bruce and the crowd had established a party atmosphere.

And yet, since I knew Morello was in the building from the soundcheck, the presence of such a politically-minded musician inspired me to pick up on subtle ways that a lot of Bruce’s songs – and how they’re performed live – communicate a socially-conscious message amidst the aforementioned party vibe. “Wrecking Ball” may be the best example; I noticed for the first time that Jake holds up both fists – the classic black power salute – while Bruce sings, “So hold tight to your anger / Hold tight to your anger / Hold tight to your anger / And don’t fall to your fears.” Through this simple gesture – similar to his “hands up, don’t shoot” tribute during “American Skin” – “Wrecking Ball” becomes relatable to the current plight of people of color in this country, specifically that all those suffering now should feel comforted by the song’s message that both high times and low times are equally transient. Instead of lessening my jovial enjoyment of the song, this reminder of the dark underbelly of life enhanced the triumphant portions, which is a major focus of the track: “Hard times come and hard times go…”

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An advertisement for Bruce’s book at the merchandise stand.

Throughout the night, the Morello-tinged explorations of many of America’s social problems made the celebratory party songs that much more fulfilling, for positivity feels more legitimate and hard-earned when matched with realistic negativity. This has become one of the most profound themes of the tour because The River almost epitomizes this idea; in crafting an album that tried to capture the full range of life, Bruce knew that he had to balance its exuberant tracks with more somber fare, which increases how well both work. Though he’s not playing a majority of the album anymore – only five of its songs appeared on Thursday, two less than Tuesday and I believe the least at any non-festival show of the tour – he’s still crafting setlists that conform to the album’s themes.

Fittingly, the more serious “Wrecking Ball” was followed by a ‘party noises filled’ “Sherry Darling” and “Spirit in the Night,”[8] and the latter’s performance really demonstrated the difference between the crowds on Tuesday and Thursday. Whereas Bruce basically didn’t veer from the lyrics and barely interacted with the audience during the former, here he repeated the line, “We closed our eyes and said…goodbye” over and over again until everyone sung the last word loud enough, ending with Bruce literally giving his microphone to someone in the front row to put their own vocal stylings on the line, which Bruce evaluated as “very good.” These exchanges highlighted the stronger connection that Bruce seemed to feel to the crowd on Thursday thanks to their increased participation, and the reciprocal energy flowing between them elevated the whole night.

Once we all returned from Greasy Lake, Bruce allowed the crowd to dictate a portion of the setlist by picking a few quality signs.[9] But before playing any of them, he cited a sign “from one of our great friends from Italy” before playing “My City of Ruins” in honor of that country’s recent devastating earthquake. Much like Tuesday’s concert, Bruce was once again catering the setlist to comment on current events, which always adds extra emotional resonance. Yet in addition to the obvious connection to Italy’s current plight, Bruce inserted into this rendition midway through the song a speech that explicated how it’s relevant not only to Italians right now but also to anyone who has ever experienced an immense loss of any kind – be it physical or emotional – once again demonstrating the universal timelessness of a composition that was originally written about a very specific subject:[10]

“I originally wrote this song for my adopted town of Asbury Park. It has suffered for so long, but it’s finally having a nice little renaissance. [loud ovation] It’s good! People on the beach! People on the boardwalk! People in the streeet! [incrementally louder ovations] That’s right. So if you’ve ever been knocked down and had to build yourself back up again, this song is for you. Have you ever been knocked down? Have you ever been knocked down?! Have you ever been knocked down?!?! HAVE YOU EVER BEEN KNOCKED DOWN?!?! Can you build yourself back up again? WILL you build yourself back up again? WILL YOU BUILD YOURSELF BACK UP AGAIN?! WILL…YOU…BUILD…YOURSELF…BACK…UP…AGAIN?!?!”

The deafening cheers in response led right into the final verse of the song, which most directly describes the emotional effects of a personal loss. Since everyone has persevered through such losses in their own lives – a communal point driven home by Bruce allowing almost every member of the Band to add their own musical stories to the performance in the form of solos –   Bruce’s lyrics and speech seemed to touch the entire crowd, all of whom ‘raised up’ their ‘hands’ and voices for the final portion of the song, which was accompanied by the return of the cell phone fireflies.

Though few sounded excited about the first real sign request,[11] “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” – much like the fireflies – quickly ‘lightened’ the mood while simultaneously staying true to the thematic focus of “My City of Ruins.” How many Italians – and all those struggling through hard times – are currently waiting for a sunny day? If Bruce did indeed intend for this connection, it was by no means the main reason that he chose the sign; that ‘distinction’ belonged to the unbearably adorable toddler who Bruce had sung to during “Sherry Darling” and here asked to sing with him. He of course obliged, and her performance was as darling as expected from her looks.[12] He summed it succinctly: “She’s got guts – and only three years old!”

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How can you say no to that face?
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Because her adorableness simply could not be captured in merely one photo.

But now that the little boys and girls had been appeased, it was time to bring the big boys and girls back into the fold. First up, a sign request for “Darkness on the Edge of Town” in its American premiere on this tour. Though Bruce and the Band failed to totally leave behind the pervasive joy of “Sunny Day” to deliver the type of intense performance that makes “Darkness” truly soar, they ultimately sufficiently plumbed those dark depths with “Lost in the Flood,” another sign request for an American tour premiere.[13] Bruce of course delivered another blistering guitar solo, but I was also taken by Roy’s contributions throughout the performance, which Bruce also clearly appreciated since he gave the Professor a shout-out at the end. “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street” ended this tonal rollercoaster of a stretch that began with “Sunny Day,” yet another instance of the setlist conforming to the aforementioned equal parts light-and-dark nature of The River.[14]

And right on cue, things got dark again when Morello finally took the stage. Though the Band has looked a little lackadaisical during recent performances of “Death to My Hometown,” Morello’s contributions – including his expectedly searing guitar solo – imbued new life into the song. The way he looks so consumed by the music – as if his performance was a life or death matter – vibrantly emphasized the vitally important message that the song delivers regarding the immoral practices that the current American economy somewhat condones.

Though he left the stage afterwards – but not before Bruce promised, “He’ll be back later!” – the Boss seemed inspired by the urgency of Morello’s stage presence when he introduced the next song in this socially-conscious stretch by finally addressing the current Presidential election:

“We’re hearing a lot of talk about this election cycle, but no one can disguise the fact that so many people since the 1980s have been hurt by such harmful trends as globalized industrialization. Those voices can get lost…this is ‘Youngstown.’”[15]

Unlike all of the slower songs comprising this stretch on Tuesday that felt ill-suited for a stadium setting, “Youngstown” continued Bruce’s commitment to making social statements during this portion of the setlist while simultaneously rocking the entirety of this massive stadium. Plus, all of the song’s references to insufferable heat perfectly fit the excruciating temperature of the night. The weather and the song’s relevance to today no doubt added extra fire to the performance, encapsulated both in Bruce stretching out “Youngstoooooooooooown” at the end of the last verse longer than I’ve ever heard before and of course in Nils’ solo. Though I think Bruce could’ve easily unleashed Morello here as well, two Nils solos are always better than one.

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It’d be hard to find another photo that featured three such amazing guitarists.

Another transcendent performance of “Jack of All Trades” further developed Bruce’s exploration of the darkest corners of everyday American life, introducing the performance like so:

“I wrote this song back in 2008 or 2009 when I saw so many people losing their life savings, losing their houses, because of the actions of a few greedy people. This is called ‘Jack of All Trades.’”

Though he ended up skipping “The River” during this stretch for the first time all tour, “Jack of All Trades” expresses a lot of the aforementioned interconnectedness between hope and despair that runs through the entire album. In addition to superficially referencing similar water imagery, lines like, “Now sometimes tomorrow comes SOAKED in treasure and blood / We stood the drought, now we’ll stand the FLOOD” connects to the transience of joy and sorrow that the album’s tonally-diverse tracklist implies.[16]

The sorrow continued with another passionate rendition of “America Skin,” for which Bruce once again called up Morello to reprise his scorching guitar solo from the High Hopes Tour. Though Bruce does more than a fine job with this solo, the unique sound of Morello’s guitar really evokes the song’s righteous yet empathetic fury. And I’d be remiss not to mention how refreshing and even cathartic it was to see another African American on stage with the Band for this masterpiece that so perceptively depicts the type of violence currently ripping apart black communities all across America. Perhaps inspired by this fact, Bruce tried to get the entirety of the audience to raise their arms in solidarity with Jake’s “hands up, don’t shoot” tribute instead of just allowing it to organically happen again.

After “The Promised Land” once more ended this somber stretch on a hopeful note, Bruce replaced the usual crowd-pleasing duo of “Working on the Highway” and “Darlington County” with “Cadillac Ranch” and “I’m a Rocker,” with Bruce granting almost everyone in the Band a solo during the former. This extra attention paid to the song makes sense – “Cadillac Ranch” epitomizes The River’s balance between the serious and the playful, with its endearing rockabilly music somewhat obscuring the lyrics’ very clear focus on the inevitability of death.[17]

Even though I personally vastly prefer this River two-pack to the usual Born in the U.S.A. ­two-pack, the energy of the crowd seemed to wane a bit here. Either my theory is correct that a majority of the audience got their fill of The River after the full album shows of the spring leg,[18] OR the exhausting heat finally started affecting the crowd. But you know whose energy didn’t wane one iota? The inhuman, nearly 67-year-old Boss God of rock and roll who seemed to catch a new wind every time he exhibited even a trace of slowing down.

While the crowd noticeably caught their breath during “I’m a Rocker,” Bruce was doing anything but, from bending down to sing to a young woman in the front row to literally dropping to his knees at his center mic, something that he used to do much more often than he has on this tour. The emphasis Bruce placed on repeatedly SCREAMING, “Every day! Every day! Every day!” at the end of the performance while staring and pointing at one of the onstage cameras further conveyed the validity of the song’s title. He even called out the crowd’s diminishing participation in his “I Wanna Marry You”-esque introduction to “Tougher Than the Rest:”

“Do we have any lovers out there? [tepid, tired response] That’s all? In the middle of the summer?! Do we have any lovers out there?!?! [louder] Alright, me and Patti send this one out to all the lovers.”

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The lucky girl during “I’m a Rocker”

Though “Because the Night” and “The Rising” shot a little more electricity through the crowd, Tom Morello returning to the stage one last time for the first full band performance of the tour of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was the exact kick-ass kick in the ass[19] that everyone needed. Whereas the acoustic version played in Rome makes the song sound like a somber, temporally-distant ghost story told around a “campfire light,” renditions featuring Morello transform it into a pressing anthem of defiance through self-declaration. The first, all-encompassing notes come across like an apocalyptic bugle call, signaling to everyone that they need to listen as the entire world sounds like its coming to a destructive end.

Speaking of ‘destructive,’ no word better describes Morello’s indescribably effective contributions here. From fervently sharing Bruce’s mic center stage as they sung alternating parts[20] to them going back and forth with killer guitar licks after the second verse, Morello came across like a man possessed by the power of music that ran like a current through the entire night.

Speaking of ‘current,’[21] his performance style perfectly matches the aforementioned tonal balancing act of The River – his guitar sounds full of rage[22] while his being can’t help but convey the joy that music brings him, two emotions that should be expressed in a song that contains equal parts hope and despair.

And I haven’t even touched upon his extended, ferocious guitar solo, which basically ignited a rock and roll fire that consumed the entirety of the stadium. Have I made it clear yet how much I – and many others – lost our damn minds during this performance? I honestly couldn’t control myself, and though Morello deserves a lot of the credit, Bruce also brilliantly knew exactly when to use him.

I initially felt like Bruce should’ve inserted “The Ghost of Tom Joad” into the socially-conscious mid-set stretch to emphasize the song’s relevance to contemporary American society. Yet much like “Streets of Fire” at Milan 2,[23] this fiery, guitar heavy performance effortlessly invigorated the often predictable home stretch of the main set. Bruce, in his seemingly endless wisdom as a consummate bandleader, knew that interspersing Morello throughout the night would allow him to truly leave his mark on the entire concert. The Boss basically picked his spots for him, understanding exactly where his talents would best flourish.

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“Now Tom said…”

And flourish they did. No one besides Bruce put a bigger stamp on the evening, but Bruce agreeing to share so much of the spotlight with Morello – which many megalomaniac artists wouldn’t be willing to do – ultimately benefitted the entire concert, even the portions that didn’t prominently feature Tom.[24] Though he remained on stage for “Badlands,” he took a backseat and allowed the song to be performed as usual. Even so, the blazing inferno that was “The Ghost of Tom Joad” couldn’t help but fuel “Badlands” as well, resulting in yours truly jumping to the chorus more than I ever have.[25] Bruce was feeling it too, ending the performance by gutturally hollering at Max/the rear stage camera – which he’s been doing far less on this tour – as if he was asking us, “Do you want some more?!”

Boy did we ever. Even though Morello finally left the stage at the end of the main set, the Band remained fired up from his ceaseless zeal for the remainder of the night, beginning with a particularly impassioned “Backstreets” that culminated in the entire crowd raising their arms in unison with Bruce as he repeated parts of the line, “We swore forever friends on the backstreets until the end.” Thanks to a main set that was nothing less than epic, Bruce, the Band, and all of their friends in the audience were totally in sync, leading to a pitch-perfect though predictable encores that even had the people in the stands wildly dancing.[26]

By the time we reached “Shout,” Bruce looked legitimately exhausted, having stripped down to his sweat-soaked t-shirt.[27] He in fact gave himself a bit longer of a breather during his normal introduction by adding, “Is it too hot for you now?! IS IT TOO HOT?!?!” Yet as he had done all night, Bruce somehow caught another wind, blasting through the song and even having the gall to deviate from his usual performance script a bit. He kept remarking, “Oh god have mercy!” to describe his continued commitment to rocking in the face of conventional sanity, and even referred to his mother when introducing the Band, saying, “My mother’s here tonight, without whom we would not be here. Take a bow, mom!”[28] When he arrived at the “Jerseeeeeeeey” – “Bruuuuuuuce” – “Jerseeeeeeey” – “Bruuuuuce” call-and-response portion, Bruuuuuuce changed “Jerseeeeeey” to “My peeeeeeoplllllllllllle,” a shout-out to how engaged they had been all night long.

And yet as the song came to a close, I was convinced the concert was about to end. Despite only being the 31st song, “Shout” had brought us to around the 3:45 mark, and Bruce really did look like he had nothing left in the tank; he spouted out his litany of descriptors for the E Street Band[29] slower than ever before on this tour, and skipped over his and Little Steven’s feigned fatigue, cape-ode to James Brown.

But apparently he had simply decided that this was a night less about shtick and more about the unbridled power of rock and roll, for after the song ended he suddenly hit another gear in his seemingly unlimited arsenal and bellowed at the crowd:

“You just don’t sound satisfied. I need to hear your satisfaction. I want to hear that ‘I sweat through my clothes and I won’t get up for work in the morning’ sound. If I hear it, we’ll keep going. [He heard it] You got it!”

Though I expected him to keep up the pace, he instead opted for “Thunder Road,” saying, “This one got away from us last time,” a reference to the fact that they hadn’t played it on Tuesday. Instead of everyone dancing together, this most beloved of masterpieces allowed the crowd to emotionally, and loudly, singalong together to celebrate the journey that we had all just taken in each other’s company, many of whose lifelong journeys with Bruce began with this Born to Run-opening song, one of Bruce’s earliest stories about the start of a journey.

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The boring Pit wristband and the boring official ticket.

Yet the journey of this concert somehow wasn’t over yet. With a, “This is for all of the Jeeeeeeeeeeeerseeeeeey giiiiiiiirls” screech, Bruce and the Band launched into “Jersey Girl.” Yet after nearly four hours and 33 songs, Bruce still somehow had the presence of mind to notice some commotion in the first few rows IN THE MIDDLE OF SINGING THE FINAL VERSE. Instead of ignoring the distraction like a normal artist in the midst of entertaining tens of thousands of people, he simply stopped singing and asked, “What are you doing down there?” When the woman flashed her seconds-old engagement ring, Bruce responded, “Come up here and do that! Love is in the air tonight.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Though there have been a few proposals on this tour, this one was by far the most special because – like the concert itself – it felt completely organic and genuine, without a sign request in sight asking Bruce to let them on stage. After he got down on one knee – again – they clearly didn’t know what to do with themselves, awkwardly standing around until Bruce handed him the microphone.

And because there was palpable – to steal a line from the previous song – magic in the night, the new fiancé of course delivered a bafflingly coherent and touching proposal:

“This is my girlfriend, Jill. We’ve been to many shows together, but this is the highlight of them all. You’re my best friend. I love you more than anyone in the world. More than music itself. More than Bruce! I’m so happy you said yes, and I couldn’t be more excited to spend the rest of my life with you.” 

After a hearty round of applause, the newly engaged couple slowly danced together on stage as Bruce went right back into the final verse, once again having the presence of mind to subtly change, “Now baby won’t you come with me” to “Now baby won’t you marry me.”

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Notice the ring in the upper right corner…

As the performance ended past the 4-hour mark[30] and fireworks illuminated the sky, I realized just how well the final verse of “Jersey Girl”[31] commented on nights like these, and Bruce concerts in general:

I see you on the street and you look so tired

I know that job you got leaves you so uninspired

When I come by to take you out to eat

You’re lyin’ all dressed up on the bed baby fast asleep

 Go in the bathroom and put your makeup on

We’re gonna take that little brat of yours and drop her off at your mom’s

I know a place where the dancing’s free

Now baby won’t you come with me

`Cause down the shore everything’s all right

You and your baby on a Saturday night

Nothing matters in this whole wide world

When you’re in love with a Jersey girl boy

The escape the singer offers to his love here is very similar to the outlet that Bruce provides to such a large number of his fans, many of whose lives leave them equally ‘tired’ and ‘uninspired.’ His concerts lead them not so much to believe that ‘nothing else matters in this whole wide world’ other than their time in his presence, but rather they afford his fans the strength – in true River spirit – to cope with and thus jubilantly triumph over the everyday problems of life. By giving them – like Tom Morello does – everything that he possibly has inside of him for four freaking hours, Bruce becomes a sort of idol for how to “get to that place / Where we really want to go” by simply pushin’ and pushin’ and pushin’ and “pushin’ till it’s understood / And these badlands start treating us good.”

Simply put – and pardon my French one last time – nights like these are just so fucking inspiring.[32] Bruce ended the show by congratulating the two lovebirds, but really he may as well have congratulated himself for putting on one of, if not THE best concert of the whole tour, even more impressive considering the fact that it didn’t include a single tour premiere.

His “Congratulations!” could have extended to the phenomenal crowd as well, who had stuck with him throughout the boiling, seemingly never-ending night.

By the time it ended, my feet ached, my legs were sore, my arms were weak, my voice was shot, my shirt was drenched, my mouth was parched, and basically my entire body was shot.

And yet, I had never felt better.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] I always hesitate to report the OFFICIAL times for Bruce’s concerts because they so depend on when the clock should start. When the string section walks on? When the E Street Band appears?! When Bruce utters his first words into the mic?!?! Regardless, is there really much of a difference between 3:59 and 4:02?!?!?!?!?!?! I just rounded to a clean 4 hours because what really matters is that A 67 YEAR OLD MAN LEADING A 40 YEAR OLD BAND JUST PUT ON A FREAKING 4 HOUR CONCERT!!!! The defense rests.

[2] Perhaps Thursday really IS the new Friday…

[3] Though they still yapped through the slower songs far too much.

[4] Further evidence of his commitment to his craft: it sounded like Morello showed up early on Thursday to warm up his guitar muscles hours before the real soundcheck, which included “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” “Jack of All Trades” – with strings – and “No Surrender,” all played during the actual concert.

[5] Morello has long likened himself a symbol of and speaker for the people, especially the working class types who populate much of New Jersey (he often wields a guitar with “Arm the Homeless” etched onto the front). As such, it’s quite fitting that this crowd was so enthralled in a concert that featured him.

[6] The description of his current tour includes this sentiment: “Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.”

[7] I almost always prefer for Bruce or Nils to take this one because…well…quite frankly they’re just better guitar players. Happily, my initial disappointment was ultimately alleviated by Bruce giving himself, Nils, AND Tom so many other opportunities to flex their guitar muscles later in the set. Which reminds me: my only complaint with the sound on Thursday had to do with the levels of each instrument in the mixing, most especially the guitars. On a night that prominently featured so many solos, all of them were waaaaaaaay too low in the mix. Bruce seemed to concur, often signaling to his side stage sound team to turn UP the guitars.

[8] Bruce skipped “The Ties That Bind,” which I took as tacit agreement with both my observation that it had not been well received on night 1 and my assumption that a majority of these crowds will have seen a full-album show on the spring leg and thus had their fill of The River.

[9] Patti had previously brought on stage an inflatable flamingo at the end of “Sherry Darling,” an obvious “Pretty Flamingo” request that Bruce merely smiled at before totally ignoring.

[10] I really believe this is a top 5 Bruce song of the Reunion era, along with “American Skin,” “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “The Rising,” and “Long Walk Home,” which I desperately hope will make another appearance before this tour is through. Though I must say: after hearing “Jack of All Trades” with the string section two times in a row now, it’s slowly starting to creep closer to this list as well…

[11] When Bruce flashed the sign to the camera, almost no one cheered. Either most of the crowd didn’t understand the sign – a drawing of a sun next to the question, “Can I sing with you?” – or they were just THAT unenthused by the choice. Though it was probably the former, I still heartily chuckled at the idea of the latter, which would’ve made the song totally worth it.

[12] Though truthfully, my personal highlights of the performance were two other moments: Max adding in a new drumbeat bridge – which Stevie approved of with a beaming smile – and Bruce taking a moment to sing to superfan Obie. The latter really got me because it served as a bridge between one of Bruce’s oldest fans and perhaps his newest fan who sung with him later in the performance.

[13] True story: I was actually standing next to the little girl who requested the song. Yes, little girl. Though I at first thought it was a deft move on her father’s part to get his sign noticed, she squashed that assumption by totally rocking out – and actually singing along – throughout. Combined with another kid who was caught on camera responding to Bruce giving him a guitar pick like he was marveling at just receiving the Holy Grail, these were further instances of this Jersey crowd impressing yours truly.

[14] This is going to be a long footnote, but bear with me because I actually think it’s a good idea: Max has perfected how to handle signs, which made me ponder how Bruce can improve this often cumbersome but ultimately rewarding phenomenon. As soon as Max sees someone asking for his sticks – almost a nightly occurrence at this point because he basically always grants these requests – he subtly acknowledges that he’s seen the sign and will give them the sticks at the end of the night, allowing the person to immediately put down their sign and thus stop blocking the view of those behind them. All of us have probably at one point been stuck seeing nothing but the back of seemingly the biggest sign in the world. Though I by no means want signs to go away entirely because they’ve become the best way for Bruce to bust out some rarities, I do think he could remove them from making appearances during concerts. What if he imposed a new policy where anyone attending one of his concerts could submit their signs to be reviewed by him when they walk in the venue before, say, 6pm? It wouldn’t be hard – collection boxes for the signs could be set up right next to every entrance, and then they could all be taken backstage and given to Bruce to review before the concert. This system would allow anyone sitting anywhere in a venue to have their song request played, and forcing every sign to be submitted before 6pm to have a chance of being played would increase food/beverage/merchandise sales since so many more people would be compelled to arrive early. And most importantly, the physical signs would stop being so obnoxious during the actual concerts. Bruce Inc. – you’re welcome for this idea; all I ask in return is a lifetime supply of Pit wristbands.

[15] This is a ROUGH approximation of what he actually said because I unfortunately was distracted during his speech by the excessive number of the aforementioned yappers around me.

[16] Which “Wrecking Ball” also conveyed. Oh, and note that Bruce also played “Lost in the FLOOD,” which contains similar water imagery in its title. Is that too far of a reach?

[17] My justification for this assessment of the song: Cadillac ranches are basically graveyards for cars of all makes and models, from the luxurious to the down and dirty. Bruce understands they perfectly symbolize that death is the great equalizer of life; EVERYONE – from celebrities to people no one has heard of before – all end up in the same place, regardless of their former status in life. This verse explains it succinctly: “James Dean in that Mercury ’49 / Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline / Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans-Am / All gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch.”

[18] Also supported by my observation that “Hungry Heart” and “Out in the Street” once again didn’t receive the type of overwhelming reception that they usually do. Or maybe I’m totally off base here and just trying to convince myself that Bruce won’t play the entirety of The River for night 3. I’m so torn as to whether or not he’s going to do it (again, I’m well aware that I only don’t want to experience it again because I’ve already done so an alarming number of times on this tour). After he “treated” those in attendance at Gothenburg 3 and Oslo 2 to the final album, I began to wonder if he was going to give a similar ‘treat’ to fans at the last concerts of his two multi-show runs here and in Philadelphia. But maybe he only did that in Europe because he knew how few Europeans had the opportunity to see the album performed live, whereas he knows a majority of the crowds at these stateside concerts must have come to see them during the spring leg? Is that why Bruce is playing so few songs from The River on this leg…or is he just saving them for night 3?! And what does it mean that Alison Krauss’ “Down to THE RIVER to Pray” wasn’t played at the end of night 1 but reappeared here?!?! IS BRUCE TRYING TO TELL US SOMETHING?!?!? Or am I just looking way too far into this?!?!?!? …Yeah, you’re probably right – I’m going to stop now.

[19] Sorry again for the blue language – Tom’s relentless passion makes me do it!

[20] Bruce’s teleprompter actually specifies who’s supposed to sing when…which I shouldn’t know because the camera team really needs to make more of a concerted effort to keep the teleprompter off the screens.

[21] This is apparently my new favorite way to transition from one paragraph to the next.

[22] Get it? Like Rage Against the Machine?! I’m impressed with myself for holding off on making this joke for so long…

[23] This show actually reminded me quite a bit of Milan for a lot of other reasons as well: intolerable heat, “Prove It All Night” in the second slot, great crowds, etc.

[24] In case I haven’t made it clear just how much he floored me, discarded titles for this piece included “Now Tom Said…” (shout-out to Rene Groenewoud for that idea) and “I Want More(ello).” Speaking of which (there I go again!), this concert made me want any future iteration of the E Street Band to include Tom. There’s really no such thing as the ‘original’ E Street Band anymore, so why not bring him aboard since he quite clearly elevates everyone’s game?! One final note about him: if – Boss forbid – anything ever happens to Nils or Little Steven, he HAS to be the replacement, no?

[25] Though I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a few Europeans, I must say that it’s far lonelier basically jumping up and down alone. BUT, I will admit that the greater personal space in America does allow me to dance completely unencumbered. I wouldn’t trade the heightened sense of community that comes with tight crowds for that space, buuuuuut it doesn’t hurt to try to look on the bright side of American Bruce life here…

[26] It was a good idea on the camera crew’s part to show these people on the big screen. Three other performance note asides from this stretch: 1) A rant about Bruce’s “Dancing in the Dark” partners: I loved that the aforementioned little kid to whom Bruce gave his guitar pick earlier in the show danced with Patti, but why did Bruce invite the same woman on stage who was up there on Tuesday?! His constant reliance on his teleprompters definitely reveals his less-than-stellar memory, but could he have possibly simply forgotten? I’m totally fine with these nightly dancers unavoidably disrupting the pace of the encores because that’s a fair trade in exchange for Bruce giving a few people every night a memory of a lifetime, but these disruptions are harder to justify when Bruce invites up the same people. 2) Pretty interesting that “Born in the U.S.A.” is an encore staple in Europe but “Rosy” is an encore staple in America. Perhaps Bruce feels Europeans – many of whom became fans during the Born in the U.S.A Tour – aren’t as familiar with the latter as their New Jersey counterparts, whereas many Americans still don’t understand the real message of the former. 3) I love how many “say”s Bruce has to sing in such large stadiums to allow himself enough time to return to the stage from the mid-crowd platform to finish “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”

[27] Calm down, ladies and some gents.

[28] Bruce had previously stopped underneath her side stage, front row seat to say hello earlier in the night as he made his way around the Pit.

[29] As always, Patti shook her head to “Viagra-taking,” but I couldn’t tell if she was questioning the verity of the confession or its ridiculousness. Interpret that as you will, aforementioned ladies and some gents…

[30] As I wrote earlier, the exact time depends on when you start/stop the clock. Regardless, I do find it interesting that Bruce Inc. is reporting 3:59, which makes me think that his plan is to finally break the 4-hour mark – and perhaps his own world record – for night 3. Fingers crossed…

[31] A song Bruce didn’t even write – he’s always been jealous of Tom Waits about that.

[32] Never forget his work ethic inspired the name of this website, and really its entire existence.

 

 

SETLIST

  1. New York City Serenade
  2. Prove It All Night
  3. Night
  4. No Surrender
  5. Wrecking Ball
  6. Sherry Darling
  7. Spirit in the Night
  8. My City of Ruins
  9. Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
  10. Darkness on the Edge of Town
  11. Lost in the Flood
  12. Hungry Heart
  13. Out in the Street
  14. Death to My Hometown
  15. Youngstown
  16. Jack of All Trades
  17. American Skin (41 Shots)
  18. The Promised Land
  19. Cadillac Ranch
  20. I’m a Rocker
  21. Tougher Than the Rest
  22. Because the Night
  23. The Rising
  24. The Ghost of Tom Joad
  25. Badlands
  26. Backstreets
  27. Born to Run
  28. Dancing in the Dark
  29. Rosalita
  30. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  31. Shout
  32. Thunder Road
  33. Jersey Girl
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3 thoughts on “METLIFE 2: Morello Magic in This Night

  1. Patrick Sexton

    Thanks a LOT for excellent reviews.I have seen and loved 4 shows on this tour-Chicago 1,Dublin 1 and 2, and the awesome Milan2.Seems like MetLife 2 was a show for the ages.I have never seen Morello with the band,but love the energy and enthusiasm he brings to every performance .If this is the last E Street Band Tour,he sure as hell is going out on a high!

    Regards,Pat.

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  2. marge201

    I’ll write more tomorrow when I have time to read your fabulous missives but I always wonder about the viagra thing. Never knew Patti’s reaction. “[29] As always, Patti shook her head to ‘Viagra-taking,’ but I couldn’t tell if she was questioning the verity of the confession or its ridiculousness.”

    I shake my head each time thinking WHY are you always saying this? If it’s true, so the F what? Why announce it? To be funny? Self-deprecating? I don’t get it!!!

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  3. Anonymous

    Just got around to reading your reviews and as usual I always enjoy them. I really am happy that I took the footnote tutorial a while back. I wasn’t at night one so I can only comment on night two….INSANE!!!! It was probably one of the best shows I have ever been to. I too thought the sound was great,really crisp. Lost in the Flood,American Skin and Ghost of Tom Joad were ridiculous(in a good way).As with all of the shows so much of your enjoyment is tied to the people around you. I truly don’t get the incessant talking during slow and not so slow songs. I was surrounded by great fans and my experience that night was awesome!

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