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Concert Reviews:
Wrong Place, Right Time For Bruce Springsteen Show

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, November 14, 2009

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A little Friday the 13th bad luck caught up to Bruce Springsteen on Friday night at the Palace.

"Good evening Ohio!" he bellowed at the start of the nearly three-hour concert, quickly amending it to Detroit and then Auburn Hills. But the damage had been done, and the New Jersey rocker knew it.

"I've been waiting 40 years to (mess) that one up," he told the crowd five songs later. "Finally, no more nightmares anymore!" Springsteen spent the rest of the night mea-culpaing, too, addressing "Dee-troit" and "Michigan" as often as he could and turning "Where am I?" into a running joke.

Best of all, he paid tribute to the metro area's musical heritage during the audience request portion of the show after pulling signs asking for Bob Seger's "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man" -- which Springsteen and his E Street Band, whose membership has swelled to 12 (tough his wife, Patti Scialfa, was not part of Friday's show) delivered in ragged but energetic fashion -- and spot-on treatments of the "Detroit Medley" of Mitch Ryder-popularized songs and "Because the Night," which Springsteen co-wrote with onetime St. Clair Shores resident Patti Smith.

Those were, of course, the moments Bruceheads will be talking about nationwide. After all, No other rock 'n' roll performer is held to the standard of previous shows, decades or days ago, more than Springsteen. The faithful dissect and study his set lists like religious texts, and the debates on fan sites are as furious as they are futile.

The bottom-line is even on their most pedestrian nights, Springsteen and company reliably deliver a roof-raising rock 'n' roll experience, part of what he referred to at the Palace as "a solemn vow to rock the (expletive) house...in the pursuit of truth, justice and good times." The E Street Band is a precision unit with a bar band's heart, and if The Boss' instincts as a frontman seldom slip, even if his geographic orientation sometimes does.

Friday's show, however, measured up to any standard of E Street excellence, its 27 songs keeping the 16,000 fans -- including more than a few family units passing the proverbial torch -- on their feet from start to finish. The weak point, surprisingly, was the recitation of Springsteen's landmark 1975 "Born to Run" album in its entirety, a performance that, due to too many song tempos that were subtly but perceptibly slowed, felt more perfunctory than passionate save for an eloquent rendering of the gentle "Meeting Across the River."

Fortunately it was bookended by plenty of aces that did indeed rock the house, starting with the Celtic-flavored "Wrecking Ball," a new song about resilience in the face of decay before powering through "Prove It All Night" and a gritty full-band version of "Nebraska's" "Johnny 99." During "Hungry Heart" Springsteen, whose voice showed a little late-tour husk, made his first foray into the crowd, slapping hands as he walked to a platform situated between the two sections of the general admission floor and then leaning back to let the crowd pass him back to the main stage.

A raucous "Working on the Highway" regained the momentum after the "Born to Run" segment, while Eddie Floyd's "Raise Your Hand" served as a vehicle for Springsteen to gather the request signs. Strong takes of "Lonesome Day," "The Rising" and "Badlands" brought the main set to resonant close, while the encore began with Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" -- preceded by Springsteen's pitch for donations to Focus:Hope -- and a carefully placed "Born in the U.S.A." before that "good times" mission kicked in with "American Land," "Dancing in the Dark," the welcome return of "Rosalita" and, in another Motor City nod, Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher."

There is concern among fans that this tour, which wraps up later this month in Buffalo, will mark the end of the road for the E Street Band -- though Springsteen himself has said the group will play together again. Either way, it was a night those fans at the Palace will remember, and a place Springsteen isn't likely to let himself forget again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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