Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Xcel Energy Center, 11/11/12

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Steve Cohen
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
Sunday, November 11, 2012

If there are two Americas -- or realistically, a lot more -- it's safe to say that a good portion of them were represented for Bruce Springsteen's show Sunday in St. Paul. The show was the Boss' return to full-scale performances after the 2012 election. The first of back-to-back nights in town meant showing the packed Xcel Energy Center what it means to get back to a tireless work schedule.

"Good evening, good evening, Minneapolis-St. Paul!" called out the energetic 63-year-old rocker, clad in a mussed collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a black vest to mask the sweat, and dark jeans for full range of motion. "We're glad to be here tonight in a city where there's two streets named after us. Just today. Not tomorrow. They want to honor us, but not too much. Just enough."

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The humble and proud Springsteen did seem to enjoy a bit of this pomp from the jacket-and-tie portion of his constituency, but there's no way to place the roar of 18,000 or so folks bellowing "BRUUUUUUCE" on the mantle. And, damned if he was going to let an opportunity to charm and incite his crowd elude him as three hours quickly rumbled by.

Anyone who digs more than a spoonful into Springsteen's lyrical content can gather that there's no need for lengthy diatribes on any topic when entertaining is the first order of business. Every message he's needed to put across has been turned into a song already. So, was the passionate opener "We Take Care of Our Own," a finger-wag at anyone able to turn a blind eye to the downtrodden "wherever this flag's flown," the right place to start because the show fell on Veteran's Day? He left that interpretation to us.

Photo by Steve Cohen
Not long after, a gospel take on "My City of Ruins" lept out of its origins as a song about revitalization of Springsteen's beloved Asbury Park, New Jersey, and grew into a chance to openly acknowledge anyone we missed that night. For the E Street Band, this proved to be the first proper nod to the Big Man, now-departed saxophonist Clarence Clemons -- as well as a fervent introduction to his nephew Jake, a tall, bespectacled gent with an impressive afro, who proved he can seriously blow all night long. So while the ten-minute song was dedicated to the ghosts living in our memories, it was also a lengthy showcasing of the living, breathing 16-person ensemble spread across the rising stage.

Multi-tasking proved essential as Bruce Springsteen attempted to touch, roll, crawl, and slide on his knees 'cross every corner of his stage, the long catwalk set up in the middle of the floor, and obviously into every beating drum inside the audience's chests. For how many people get to pat him on the back, slap their hands on his guitar, and scream into his microphone, it's apparent that it's never enough as far as he's concerned. This level of audience interaction reached a sweaty peak as the Boss fell into the masses and enlisted all the "strong men and women" to carry him, wearing a "don't you dare drop me" grin on his face, from the middle back up to the front of the stage during "Hungry Heart." Germaphobe, he is not. 

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