By Brian Ossip, D.C. Music Live
For an artist that has been around as long as Bruce Springsteen there may be a natural tendency to start mailing shows in, to give the same generic performance night after night. But even at age 62, the one thing that a Bruce Springsteen audience can expect is an incredible performance, unique to any other Bruce Springsteen show.
The Boss took the stage at the Verizon Center Sunday night as part of his current Wrecking Ball tour around 8:30pm, immediately issuing his bands’ guarantee to leave you “…with your hands hurting, your feet hurting, your voices gone, and your sexual organs stimulated,” and then proceeded to fill the next three hours with hits, a few older cuts, and even a few covers thrown in for good measure, aiming to make good on that promise.
The show started off similar to the way the previous stops had gone, with an opening selection of “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Night,” and “Death To My Hometown.” The fan-favorite Jimmy Cliff cover of “Trapped” was a huge hit, as well as the older tune “Seaside Bar Song,” which had Springsteen reminiscing about his younger days of playing Northern Virginia venues and drinking tequila.
The middle of the set, however, provide some of the older fans an unexpected treat, as The Boss broke out “Adam Raised A Cain,” his blistering track off of the 1978 classic Darkness on the Edge of Town, the first time that song had been played on this tour.
Not too long after came the real highlight for all of the diehards in attendance: for only the third time ever, a full-band performance of “The Promise,” a song from the 1977 Darkness sessions that was not released until the 2010 double CD compilation also titled The Promise.
Over the years Springsteen has played the song solo a few times, with the only two other full E-Street Band productions coming in 1978 in Buffalo, and in 2010 for a filmed performance for a Darkness CD/DVD re-mastered re-release.
The band also snuck in an exciting medley, dubbed the “Apollo Medley,” that featured the old Temptations hit “The Way You Do The Thing You Do,” and Wilson Pickett’s “634-5789” which included Springsteen venturing out in to the crowd, standing on a platform in the middle of the floor area, and crowd-surfing his way back to the stage.
The encore kicked off with “Rocky Ground” off of his newest release, and featured guest vocals and a rap from Michelle Moore, who also appears on the record.
After finishing “Rocky Ground,” Bruce noticed a sign in the crowd requesting “Out In The Street” off of his 1980 album The River. “Do you guys have your sign? Bring it up here,” he said to the fans in the crowd. The Boss showed the band the sign before setting it up in front of his microphone, telling the crowd, “We haven’t practiced this one. But we’ve played it a thousand times. Ahh, hopefully the E-Street Band knows their [stuff]!”
Turns out the band did, and so did the fans, as they began to sing along to every word of the song, obviously happy with Bruce’s decision to play the it.
The show ended with an amazing four-song run of “Born To Run,” “Dancing In The Dark” (which included a second foray in to the crowd for Springsteen), “Land of Hope and Dreams,” and finally “10th Avenue Freeze-Out.”
Since last summer, fans of Bruce and the E-Street Band have wondered how he would fill the void left by the passing of Clarence “Big Man” Clemons, the bands wonderful saxophone player who passed away last June due to complications from a stroke.
As arguably the most important, and most loved member of the band outside of Springsteen, fans even questioned if they would ever tour again. And if they did, how would they replace such an iconic person? Would they change the Big Man’s famous solos? Would they not play those songs at all?
Well, Springsteen handled it with an amazing amount of dignity, class, and respect for Clemons’ memory, as only he could. Helping replace Clarence on tour is his nephew Jake Clemons, in his own right an accomplished saxophone player, as well as four other members of a brass ensemble.
Clemons was featured throughout the show, and the crowd lovingly showed their support and approval for him. He walked forward from his ensemble numerous times throughout the show to take the spotlight, and even had a little dance breakdown on the front of the stage. By the end of the night, it was safe to say that Jake Clemons was one of the bright spots of the show.
“10th Avenue Freeze-Out” even included a four-minute pause to celebrate Clarence, right after the lyrics, “When the change was made uptown, And the big man joined the band” to let the crowd roar in appreciation and remembrance for the late sax man. Springsteen prefaced the pause by announcing; “This is the important part now. Let’s let him hear ya.”
Springsteen on a few occasions also took the time to stop and speak about Clemons’ passing, but managed to turn the moments in to a celebration, rather than mourning. The crowd acted their part, cheering wildly in honor of the Big Man.
Those in attendance at the Sunday night show did not leave disappointed. As the band walked off the stage at 11:30pm, a full three hours after starting, they had more than fulfilled their guarantee stated at the beginning of the night, a night that many of the fans will never forget.
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And check out more pictures from the show here.