Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., April 10, 2009
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street BandFrank Erwin Center, April 5
"Talk about a dream, try to make it real," rang Bruce Springsteen's mountain baritone to a sold-out Frank Erwin Center on Sunday in opening state of the union "Badlands." For decades now, the Boss has chiseled away at the dream, a distinctly American promise of defiant optimism and communal solidarity. Yet in comparison to last April's Magic stopover in Houston, the working-class hero is performing with a renewed sense of purpose and determination, evidenced by the Working on a Dream couplet of "Outlaw Pete," a rugged, spaghetti Western epic that found Springsteen stepping into character with cowboy hat in hand, and "My Lucky Day," a gunning new rave-up. Springsteen laid out the blueprint for the evening halfway through the album's title track: "We're going to take that despair and build a house of hope, take that fear and build a house of love. ... We got all the tools on this stage, and we've got the band to bring you the music and the spirit." Indeed, the E Street Band steamrolled its way through a greatest-hits collection on par with its 2000 reunion tour ("Because the Night"), including rough but exhilarating handpicked requests "Sherry Darling" and "I'm a Rocker." Springsteen dueled with Steve Van Zandt on "Prove It All Night" and dueted with wife and bandmate Patti Scialfa for the tender "Kingdom of Days," while guitarist Nils Lofgren kicked up serious dust on the electric-folk picket line in "Youngstown." Selections from 2002's The Rising ("Lonesome Day," "Waitin' on a Sunny Day") ran a bit dry but over the course of nearly three hours were washed away by surprises such as the wasteland blues of "Seeds." The band saved its feats of strength for the seven-song encore, one-man sax pack Clarence Clemons and pianist Roy Bittan sharing the spotlight for "Jungleland" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," framed between the retribution gospel choir rendering of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times (Come Again No More)" and romping closer "Glory Days." Now more than ever, dare to dream.