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August 25, 2003

-- Review --

7 Nights to Rock

Springsteen proves a giant during July stadium shows

By Kyle Pucciarello

Editor's note: Tattoo writer Kyle Pucciarello attended the first seven Springsteen shows at Giants Stadium and wrote reviews of all of them, starting with the first on July 15th and ending with the seventh on July 27th.

July 15th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 1

Four months ago I received my tickets for what was destined to be the greatest two weeks in my entire life. As July 15th drew nearer and nearer, my anticipation grew to a point where nothing else mattered - just Bruce. And he did not disappoint.

Opening the show with a solo Born in the
USA was something that I felt was a very bold move - making a statement while showcasing a brilliant reworking of a tremendous song. In the parking lot prior to the show everyone was wondering just what he would open with - from "Summertime Blues" to "Seven Nights to Rock," but this worked just fine.

"The Rising" and "Lonesome Day" continued to prove powerful and worthy of the opening spots. And the adrenaline continued with "The Promised Land," an inspired "My Love Will Not Let You Down," (with Max's blistering drums) as well as a great "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

As has been customary on the 2002-03 tour, Bruce then brought the show down with "Empty Sky" and "You're Missing." Some felt these songs may not work in a stadium, but they served as a reminder than the World Trade Centers are no longer visible from the Turnpike right outside of Giants Stadium, and functioned brilliant in their own right.

"Waitin' on a Sunny Day" continued to be a fun number, with Bruce knee-sliding across the stage and flipping himself upside-down on his microphone stand - a truly great moment. In keeping with the summer sing-a-long, a great "Sherry Darling" was played, followed by the powerhouse trio of "World's Apart," "Badlands," and "Out in the Street," one of Bruce's truly great stadium songs.

After the band intros and fun of "Mary's Place," one of the first surprises surfaced, a full-band version of "The River," fit with a beautiful falsetto and violin solo at the song's end.

"Into the Fire" was great as always, and the band going into "No Surrender" worked tremendously well. "
Thunder Road " closed off the main set with Bruce doing a knee slide to Clarence, giving the audience a slight nostalgic feeling.

The first encore picked up with crowd-pleasing "Bobby Jean," and continued with the stunning "Ramrod." The on-stage antics between Springsteen and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt were entertaining, as was Bruce and the entire band exiting the stage, leaving piano playing Roy Bittan all alone. Bittan's piano solo was another true highlight of the night, and the band came back on stage to finish out the rocker.

Then came everyone's concert favorite "Born to Run," the anthem of
New Jersey . But the encore would not be complete without a song that summed up the seven night run. Well, what better than "Seven Nights to Rock." Although not everyone in the crowd was familiar with the words, the song proved to be an all out rocker and was another true highlight of the night.

The second encore began with "My City of Ruins," which was dedicated to the local food bank as well as
Asbury Park . " Land of Hope and Dreams," the only low point of the show, followed with a brief public service announcement about the United States ' involvement in the war with Iraq .

After the LOHAD, Bruce pulled the entire band to the front of the stage. Feigning not being able to lift his famous Telecaster, Bruce did a dead-on Robert DeNiro impression of not being able to play anymore. But the night was not over yet.

Bruce yelled out "This is the one," but not all of the crowd got it. Could this be a joke? Nope, "Rosalita" came out and was the highlight of the night, proving that thirty years after it was first penned it was still was one of the Boss' best concert rockers.

And then came a newer rocker, the reworked "Dancing in the Dark." The powerhouse duo of Rosie and Dancing brought the energy level up to heights seemingly impossible, and for a moment it was like the crowd was transported back 18 years to the days of "Born in the
USA ," when Bruce was the biggest thing out there.

And for this one night (and probably the next six as well), he really was. 

  July 17th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 2

When Bruce and the band took the stage to the sounds of Frank Sinatra's "Summer Wind," and the cameras following their trek to the stage, we knew Bruce was going to be very loose and that we were in for a great show.

Going straight into "The Rising" and "Lonesome Day" without any prior opener, the show was off to a good start.  But with the triple-shot of an incredible "Night," a scorching "Candy's Room," and an inspired "Prove it All Night," the show was brought to a whole new level.

After the typical yet beautiful duo of "Empty Sky" and "You're Missing," the acoustic guitars were all brought up front for an always fun "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," topped off with that signature knee slide and, yes, hanging upside-down on the microphone stand again.

"Growin' Up" was great to hear and done incredible well, including Bruce ending the song the same as is heard on the Live 1975-85 box set, "It was bye-bye New Jersey, we were airborne..."

The show progressed the same as Tuesday night, until Soozie Tyrell's violin opened an outstanding version of "Jungleland."  Clarence Clemons did a fantastic job on his saxophone solo for the song - truly one of the highlights of the first two nights.

The main set ended the same as the show prior, but the encores changed very slightly.

"Hungry Heart," Bruce's original sing-a-long song, opened up the first encore, followed by the jaw dropping "Ramrod" and "Born to Run."

The second encore began the same way as well, but then the crowd was on edge - would he play Rosalita again?  He did, and again it was a complete show-stopper.  And followed by the rocking "Dancing in the Dark," Bruce capped yet another great night in New Jersey .

But could he top it on Friday?

July 18th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 3

Sitting in the parking lot prior to the show was not exactly one of the most comfortable experiences ever, but the die-hards knew that it would be worth it for one thing - the song Bruce would open the show with.

And after strolling out to Old Blue Eyes again, the band ripped into Creedence Clearwater's "Who'll Stop the Rain," well worth getting soaked.

After the standard "Rising" "Lonesome Day" combo, the band kicked into an incredible version of "The Ties that Bind," followed by "My Love Will Not Let You Down."  Bruce was certainly in top form tonight!

But the biggest surprise thus far had to be the incredible "Something in the Night," a true rarity from the Boss.

"You're Missing" was dropped after "Empty Sky," and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" moved right in - this actually worked a little better for the rainy, stadium atmosphere.

The next four songs back to back had to be one of the best rock moments of the stand to that point, with an incredible quadruple shot of "You Can Look," "World's Apart," "Badlands," and the show stopping "She's the One."  Although "Out in the Street" works incredible well as a stadium sing-a-long, there may not be a song Bruce does live that tops the hard-pounding rendition of "She's the One."

"Mary's Place" was followed by yet another highlight, the rare yet beautiful "Racing in the Street."  The song's three minute closing instrumental is one of the more touching moments in rock 'n' roll, as the whole band unites for an incredible sound and effect.

The main set ending similarly to the first two shows, but did not include " Thunder Road ."

And then, it got even better!  In what was possibly the greatest encore of the stand, Bruce whipped out "Cadillac Ranch" to start, followed by the ? and the Mysterians hit "96 Tears" with special guest Garland Jeffreys.

"Bobby Jean" followed, and then "Glory Days" made its first appearance of the stand to audience satisfaction.  "Born to Run" time?  Not yet.  Bruce and the band cut into a short but great "Detroit Medley," followed by the rock anthem.

The second encore proved to be the same as the first two nights, but was not a let down.  "Rosie" and "Dancing" still brought the house down, and "My City of Ruins" continued to be a tear jerker. 

The one real problem has to " Land of Hope and Dreams," a song that Bruce has played every night since the Reunion Tour.  Although some may real like the song, it tends to drag quite a bit and just isn't the type of song that can be played night after night.  If Bruce wants to make his public service announcement, that's perfectly fine, but follow it up with a rocking "Born in the USA" or something to that fashion.  That would certainly add an extra jolt to the final encore.

Otherwise, Friday night's show was undoubtedly the best of the opening trio.  What would Monday bring?

July 21st, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 4

Getting to Giants Stadium at 2:15 , I was in for one surprise already - parking was free because I got there before the lot actually opened.  This was going to be a great night!

I had General Admission for the show and wound up about three rows back in the sea of people.  When the band took the stage, sheer amazement ran through my body - there I was 15 feet away from my idols.  It was going to be a night to remember.

"The Rising" and "Lonesome Day" opened up the show, not "Who'll Stop the Rain," which many thought would.  In fact, the CCR classic stayed tucked away all night.  But the surprise of "Jackson Cage" surely made up for it.

After great versions of "Night" and "Prove it all Night," one of the songs I've always wanted to hear was finally played, "Trapped."  The vocals on the song were incredible, as the band harmonized extremely well, sending those words through my body like nothing else.

Again "You're Missing" was nowhere to be found, but was once again made up for with the surprise "For You" making its first appearance in some time.  "The Promised Land" followed, with the typical trio of "World's Apart," " Badlands ," and "Out in the Street" following the action. 

"Mary's Place" was next, with Bruce accentuating the "Let in rain" chorus.  At this point it was really coming down out there, and Bruce gave us a song to "keep us moving."

"Cadillac Ranch" rocked as usual, followed by the always great and inspired "Into the Fire."  Bruce's vocals on the final verse of the song bring it full circle and exude the emotion that the speaker of the song is trying to convey.

After "No Surrender" closed the main set, the band came back out for the encores.  However, it seemed that Max had changed a little during the break.  Well, there was a reason for that, it wasn't Max at all!  It was Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez, of the original E Street Band, coming out to lend his hand on the classic "Spirit in the Night."  During one part where Bruce let the crowd start the next verse, Vini's face lit up like it was the most amazing thing he had ever seen.  Imagine a song you helped out on thirty years ago now being sung by 55,000 faithful.  It was truly a moment that would give goose bumps to anyone.

But it was also around this point that it became obvious to me how difficult GA was.  After standing for nearly six hours at this point, the body was beginning to seriously fatigue.  Not only this but also the down pouring of rain didn't help either.  However, it loosened up Bruce, and able-bodied or not, it was destined to continue to be a great night.

The incredibly-rare "Where the Bands Are" popped up next, followed by a solid "Bobby Jean." 

The great duo of "Ramrod" and "Born to Run" followed.  During "Ramrod" I threw dice on stage, but before any band member could get to them, a cameraman took them away to the sound of some boos from the crowd (a small victory).  But these songs were even more fun from this close.  Watching the entire stadium's hands raised during the middle of "Born to Run" was something I'll never forget.

The second encore was finally shook up a little, with "Hungry Heart" played after yet another great performance of "Rosalita."  "Dancing in the Dark" once again closed the show, but it was enough. 

Twenty-seven songs and an incredibly energetic performance, not to mention being 15 feet from my idol, well, it was one of the greatest nights I can recall.  But believe me, the two day break until the next show was going to be very necessary.

July 24th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 5

Reuniting with Tom Cantillon (of Greasy Lake review fame) for our third show of the run together was something I was very much looking forward to.  Unfortunately I was not feeling too well with a bad stomach bug.  However, I took my Pepto Bismol and I stuck it out, ready to take whatever Bruce had to offer (as long as it didn't rain again).

And finally we had a dry night!  "The Promised Land" kicked open the festivities, with the usual "Rising" and "Lonesome Day" following it up. 

But then possibly the biggest surprise of the run was played - "Streets of Fire!"  For only the second time since the Darkness tour this gem was played with incredible intensity, just the way I had hoped when both Tom and I requested it in a letter to Bruce.

"My Love" was next with Max's incredible drum work at the forefront.  "Prove it all Night" was next, with a new guitar solo at the end where Bruce, Little Steven and Nils Lofgren all jam together until the song's end.

After the predictable but still enjoyable "Empty Sky" + "Waitin'" combo, the crowd was treated to another surprise - "Working on the Highway."  But this was a little different, with Clarence appearing in washboard as well as an incredible violin solo from Soozie at song's end. 

After "Worlds" and " Badlands ," we once again got the blistering "She's the One," which is always a concert favorite of mine.  The harmonica solo at the end of the song is an incredible addition to the song, making it an absolute gem to hear.

"Mary's Place" was fun as usual, but would be no match for what would come after.  Garry W. Tallent brought out the standup bass for the rare "Meeting Across the River," which of course signals for "Jungleland" directly after - absolutely stunning.

The main set then closed as it had been with "Into the Fire" leading into a great "No Surrender."  The end of song is electrifying with Bruce and Nils squaring off for a guitar solo, and then Max's great drum work and the guitars breaking the song down to a close.

" Sandy " opened up the first encore as a real treat, followed by the incredible "Ramrod" and "Born to Run."

The second encore was the same as it has been, and was the only disappointment (if you could even call it that).  Changing the final encore up a little bit each night would not be a bad idea.  Of course he is playing to the fans who have tickets to only the one show, and not just the die-hards who have tickets to each show, but switching them up would not be a bad idea.  It amazes me how he never gets tired of the same four songs, especially the dragging and lacking " Land of Hope and Dreams."  But, on a high note, the closing duo of "Rosie" and "Dancing" continue to be impressive and energetic.

Show number five shows that Bruce just gets better and better.  And now comes the first real weekend shows...

July 26th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 6

Finally a weekend show had arrived.  Initially this was the only show that I didn't have, but I picked up two good tickets for half-off and decided that I really wanted to make it a perfect 10 for the Giants Stadium run.

I brought with me on this night a friend who had never seen Bruce before but who had always wanted to.  He wouldn't be disappointed.

Opening with "Adam Raised a Cain" had to be the most energetic opening of the tour - absolutely incredible.  The usual two-pack of "Rising" and "Lonesome Day" were followed with a wonderful "Ties that Bind" and the second surprise of the night, " Atlantic City ."  The way this song has transformed from an acoustic ballad on Springsteen's 1980 album " Nebraska " to the rocker it is now is one of Springsteen's great accomplishments in terms of reworking a song.

"Empty Sky" and "Waitin'" were nice as always, and a great rendition of " Darlington County " kept the crowd going, the little crowd that was actually into the show.

Although the show was sold out, the one problem with the Saturday show was that many seemed to be either too drunk to actually enjoy the show or were just casual fans there to talk and see just what the Boss had to offer live.  This of course did not bode well for the hardcore fans, and it seemed to affect how Bruce finished out the rest of show.

After the expected but always welcome "World's Apart" + " Badlands " duo, a surprise "Two Hearts" was played in the spot usually taken over by "Out in the Street" or "She's the One."  Another surprise came in the fact that "No Surrender" was played next, and not saved for the final song of the main set.

"Mary's Place" was followed with a very nice "My Hometown," which although may have brought the energy down after a rocking "MP," was still done wonderfully.

The always great "Into the Fire" was followed by "The Promised Land," which ended the main set.  So far so good on Saturday night.

The first encore opened with "10th Avenue Freeze Out," a song that I had been waiting to hear for the entire stand and was very pleased to finally do so.  The song was great, and a real pleasure over the elongated version from the Reunion Tour.

"Glory Days" followed with "Born to Run" not far behind, and the first encore was complete.

The second encore remained the same, with "Rosalita" again being the standout and still remaining one of the most enjoyable points of the show.  But again, the lack of spontaneity in this second encore is something that continues to confuse me.

Although the show was a little short, it was overshadowed with the fact that my friend had never experienced anything better than this, his first, Bruce concert.  Seeing the smile on his face and listening to him sing the songs on the way home was enough to make this yet another special night.

July 27th, 2003 Giants Stadium Show # 7

The final night of seven night run arrived.  Unfortunately, this meant that Bruce was leaving New Jersey , and I don't think anyone was ready for that.  And after tonight, that notion was certainly solidified.

"Downbound Train," although a slow opener, was incredible and was a real treat to hear.  Bruce's voice was at its peak, and this was surely going to be a show to remember.

"The Rising" and "Lonesome Day" were great as always, but somehow especially so on this night.  The atmosphere was right, the fans were all very much into the show, and it was just one of those nights where everything was right.  And I don't think I have gotten into a show as much as this one - I needed something to savor for the next month after all.

"Candy's Room" was again a treat to hear, as was the rocking "Prove it all Night," with that guitar solo at the end sounding more inspired every night.

Then of course came the beautiful "Empty Sky" followed by the incredible fun "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," that microphone bit just never got old - lots of fun.

"It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" was next, and was another one of the songs I just couldn't go the run without hearing.  Besides being an absolutely phenomenal song, Roy's piano solo at the end gets my vote for one of the most incredible live moments of the tour (in Atlantic City it was also amazing).

Roy and Max are undoubtedly the backbone of the E Street Band musically, but somehow always get overlooked.  Spending seven nights in a row with these guys it was obvious that, while all are incredible musicians in their own right, it's these two guys who hold it together night after night.

"World's Apart" was next with that guitar solo that shows the band's versatility, with Van Zandt, Lofgren and Springsteen all trading riffs.  " Badlands " followed as usual, and as always, was just fun to be a part of.  The energy exchange between Bruce and the crowd during this song is something that really cannot be duplicated.

"Out in the Street" followed and was fun to hear once again.  The crowd participation and energy really makes the song what it is in a stadium atmosphere.  "Mary's Place" followed and the same follows for it - the crowd makes it one of the most pleasing songs in concert.

But then came the real treats.  Garry's bass came out again for "Meeting Across the River," once again great to hear.  Now when one hears the song, they immediately link it to "Jungleland," the song that usually follows it in concert.  However, tonight would not be one of those nights, and "Backstreets" came as a complete surprise to everyone in the house - but quite possibly one of the most welcome. 

"No Surrender" closed the main set, but without the song it is usually linked to, "Into the Fire."  This marked the first time the song was dropped during this tour, but it was missed a little.  "Into the Fire" really exemplifies what "The Rising" is all about, and if these concerts are still supposed to be showcasing the album, then dropping the song was not the smartest idea.

After a main set that was unlike any other, what more could the crowd expect?  Well whatever they were expecting, they got more.

"Kitty's Back" opened the first encore to thunderous reception and absolutely brought the house down.  This has to be one of Springsteen's greatest accomplishments, and it was written when he was just 23 years old.

The classic rocker was followed by a fun "Bobby Jean."  But the encore was completed with the rocking "Born to Run," seemingly more inspired tonight and done exceptionally well as always.

"My City of Ruins " started the encores as usual, and was once again dedicated to the community food band and Asbury Park .  The song is one of the most beautiful Springsteen has penned, and continues to please at concerts.  When he gets to the second "C'mon rise up..." verse, the crowd all rises - it really is something to be a part of.

" Land of Hope and Dreams" once again took the next spot in the second encore, and again brought things down (at least for me) a little.  But, fear not, "Rosalita" was here to save the day, and again was absolutely phenomenal.  How great was it to hear that song seven shows in a row?

"Dancing in the Dark" followed to a thunderous reception, but would this be all?  Were the seven nights finished already?  Not just yet!

Springsteen thanked the crowd for coming to the shows and for their continued support, and rewarded them with the great "Seven Nights to Rock," a very fitting way to end the legendary run.

After all of the anticipation for the seven night run, and the shows that followed, it was already over.  It's amazing how quickly this run was over, but it will be replayed again and again in my head (and maybe through the help of some bootlegs). 

This was truly one of the most memorable experiences I've had, and it was great to share them with some great people.  All we can say as fans is - thank you Bruce!

For more on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, see these links to other Tattoo pieces:

Springsteen rocks Atlantic City

Rising to the challenge

A calming voice for hard times

The Big Man comes home

The Phantom goes to high school

 

 

 

 

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