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Concert Review:

Bruce Springsteen

And all I could think of was, this'll be the last sellout crowd at this place this year...

This was the first concert I had ever attended at a large outdoor stadium, and this part of Bruce's tour is all giant stadiums. In fact, most of the tour appears to be Giants Stadium in New Jersey, where he has scheduled ten different shows. Much of the rest of the tour is in baseball parks, including Pac Bell in San Francisco and Miller Park in Milwaukee, and the first-ever rock concert at Fenway Park in Boston. I had heard that when Bruce wanted to play Chicago, he inquired about Wrigley Field, but of course that would have been impossible, due to the restrictions on night events there, not to mention the sound level!

So he settled for the Cell. It's very weird to walk into a place like that and realize that your seat is right where the left fielder would stand in an ordinary baseball game. We had really good sightlines, maybe 50 rows from the stage, where you could actually see facial expressions without looking at the large screen. The stage was larger than creation -- OK, maybe not that large, but it was nearly as tall as the CF scoreboard, perhaps as tall as an 8-story building. Other than that, no big bells & whistles on the stage, just a fairly ordinary setup of lights (which failed for a few minutes about an hour into the show, ironically during a rendition of "Sunny Day", forcing them to turn the stadium lights on for about five minutes), and of course the two video screens, one on each side of the stage.

The top corners of the upper deck, the outfield seats behind the stage, and inexplicably, a couple of sections immediately behind home plate, were the only seats not sold, but those were replaced by several thousand field seats, so I'd estimate the crowd at what a White Sox sellout would be -- about 46,000. And our friends who met us there said there were up to 45 minute waits to get in; at the official showtime (7:30) the place was only 1/3 full.

So, the show didn't start till 8:25, but once Bruce came out on stage, he played with high energy for nearly half an hour before he stopped and acknowledged the crowd. He came out with his kids in front of him, on the screens showing backstage, to Sinatra's "My Kind of Town" -- a nice touch.

He did make a couple of political statements -- I guess this is pretty much de rigeur among performers these days -- but I didn't mind, considering one was for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, a very worthy cause, and the other was in support of our troops overseas, yet with almost a plaintive call for accountability from our leaders, a veiled slap at some of the untruths that are now coming out about the administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq in the first place. Both of these got loud cheers from nearly everyone.

Most of the show was newer material, which is fine with me (including a haunting plaintive version of "Into the Fire", the song about the WTC tragedy) -- I just love watching him race across the stage, twirl the guitar over his head, and throw an old song or two in the middle of a set ("Out in the Street" really got everyone going), and no less than three encores, during the second of which the stadium people must have thought he was really finished, since they turned the stadium lights on again , but he wasn't, ending with "Rosalita" and "Dancing in the Dark".

Which is the song that was going through my head nearly 19 years ago, on the day I was flying back from Pittsburgh after the Cubs clinched the NL East title.

Omen? We can only hope.

There have been some criticisms of the setlist on Bruce's discussion boards but as a number of posters said, with the band having as much obvious fun as they were, you can't criticize the setlist.

Bruce Springsteen has more energy than ten people half his age, and he still puts on a great show, 28 years after the first time I saw him, in 1975, just after he really hit it big with "Born to Run" -- before that he was really only known in New Jersey, which of course is where many of the people at Colgate University, where I saw that show, are from, and of course, they knew who he was, but until that breakout album, which put him on the cover of Time and Newsweek the same week, he wasn't much more than a bar-band guy in NJ.

And of course, Clarence Clemons is the best sax player on planet Earth.

AYRating: ****