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Concert Reviews:
Seger helps Springsteen ride "The River" at The Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, April 15, 2016

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AUBURN HILLS -- It was quite a ride down "The River" on Thursday night, April 14, at The Palace.

If it had been a standard-issue show by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band -- nearly three -and-a-half high-octane hours and more than 30 songs, including a full recitation of his chart-topping 1980 album -- it would have more than lived up to the group's usual standard of in-concert excellence. But an encore appearance by hometown hero Bob Seger, as well as a bit of poignant political commentary from Springsteen, made the night even more memorable.

Springsteen and Seger have some history with "The River," of course. The New Jersey rocker opened the original tour supporting the album on Oct. 3, 1980 at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor -- with Seger joining for an encore reprise of "Thunder Road." On Thursday Seger and his wife, Nita, watched most of the show from front row seats on the side of the stage, getting a warm smile from Springsteen during "Thunder Road;" he then joined the E Street crew for the end of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" and the show-closing rendition of the Isley Brothers' "Shout," even taking the final bows with the band.

It was an ebullient moment that countered a much more poignant one shortly before.

Eschewing the usual walk-off between the main show and the encore, Springsteen paid tribute to the Gleaners Community Food Bank, which was collection donations on the concourse. He then warned the Palace crowd filled with sign-toting boomers and, in quite a few cases, their children that Michigan was considering LGBT-discriminating legislation "similar to the ones that forced us to cancel our show in North Carolina" on Sunday, April 10 in Greensboro. "We hope the bill doesn't pass, 'cause we love playing in Michigan," Springsteen added. "So keep your heads up." He and the band that launched into "Born in the USA."

Springsteen had not made any reference to the Greensboro cancellation LGBT issues during his previous show. on Tuesday, April 12 in Columbus, Ohio.

Before all that, however, Springsteen and company were delivering a rave-worthy performance, clearly enjoying their immersion in "The River" as much as the healthy, albeit not sold-out, Palace, where some had scored behind-the-stage, upper bowl seats for $17 from StubHub. Walking on with the houselights up, the group charged into the "River" outtake "Meet Me in the City" before getting into the 21-track album, which Springsteen introduced as "my coming of age record."

Designed to be "a record that felt as big as an E Street Band show," "The River's" diverse flavors, textures and tempos felt like a concert unto itself, blending frat-party rockers such as "Cadillac Ranch," "Crush On You," "Out in the Street" and "Ramrod" with introspective anthems like "Independence Day," "Fade Away" and a gorgeous back-to-back arrangements of "The Price You Pay" and "Drive All Night." The nine-piece E Street Band extended most of the songs from their recorded versions -- although in the case of a lengthy "Ramrod," not entirely to good effect -- and Springsteen made forays into the crowd during "I'm a Rocker" and "Hungry Heart," crowd-surfing his way back to the stage during the latter.

The "reward" for the crowd's "River" indulgence was rewarded with another 80 minutes of favorites, cherry-picking Springsteen's 43-year catalog for anthems such as "Badlands," "The Promised Land," "Because The Night" and "The Rising," while a forceful rendering of "Backstreets" ended with Springsteen paying an unspoken tribute to deceased E Street members Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici, holding a finger from each hand towards the heavens as he intoned "forever friends, until the end."

After a surprisingly wobbly version of "Thunder Road" and "Born in the USA," the Palace party shifted into overdrive with the houselights up again for "Born To Run," "Dancing in the Dark" -- during which Springsteen brought two young women on stage to dance -- and a gleefully unhinged "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)." In its wake the Seger finale was a kind of icing on the cake -- but certainly sweet.

Summing up "The River" Springsteen told the crowd that the album is ultimately about "time slipping away" and mortality, and about the quest to "try to do something good." On Thursday night he and his band did just that, and even more.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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