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Springsteen brings hope to Izod Center

Bruce Springsteen, left, of performs with Steve Van

Bruce Springsteen, left, of performs with Steve Van Zandt during their Wrecking Ball tour at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. (April 3, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The highlight of Bruce Springsteen's Izod Center concert last night turned out to be a surprise.

It was the first official show for the E Street Band in New Jersey since the death of Clarence Clemons and emotions certainly ran high during the band roll call during “My City of Ruins” and especially during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”

“This is the important part,” Springsteen said before stopping the show to lead the sold-out crowd in a lengthy ovation after the line, “The Big Man joined the band.”

However, in a night filled with musical declarations, (even more so than last month's Apollo show) the best came shortly after the halfway point, following his tribute to soul music with the good-time medley “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “634-5789.”

There was a pause. Then the band somberly launched into “American Skin (41 Shots)” – Springsteen's song inspired by the shooting death of unarmed Amadou Diallo in 1999. It was controversial when he sang it in 2000 at Madison Square Garden, where New York City police officers protested his shows because they believed he was blaming them.

Now, in the wake of the death of Trayvon Martin, however, the lyrics just seem so unfortunately prescient. Springsteen made no mention of the 17-year-old killed in Sanford, Fla., as he sang the lines: “Lena gets her son ready for school / She says, 'On these streets, Charles, you've got to understand the rules / If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite / And that you'll never ever run away / Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight.'”

As the song unfolded, it turned into a beautiful, wrenching back-and-forth between Springsteen and saxophonist Jake Clemons. “Get killed just for living,” Springsteen kept repeating, the anger and sadness building each time, as Clemons answered with increasingly pretty sax riffs.

“American Skin” ended up being the strongest of Springsteen's arguments about the country's problems today and he balanced it with the longest run of inspirational songs of the night, ending with a massive version of “Thunder Road” that made the most of the mightier-than-usual E Street Band, now 17 members strong.

“Hard times come and hard times go,” is his mantra from his new epic “Wrecking Ball” and it turns out it's his method of the evening – outlining problems and then rolling out the reasons for hope to chase them away.

As upsetting as the new tales of economic hardship “Death to My Hometown” and “Jack of All Trades” are, they can't match the possibilities of “Waitin' on a Sunny Day,” especially when delivered by a cute grade-school girl that Springsteen plucked from the crowd, or The National Anthem of Tramps Like Us, delivered with the house lights on so everyone can see each other scream “Born to Run” at the top of their lungs.

SETLIST: We Take Care of Our Own / Wrecking Ball / Badlands / Death to My Hometown / My City of Ruins / So Young and in Love / The E Street Shuffle / Jack of All Trades / Seeds / Prove It All Night / Easy Money / Waitin' on a Sunny Day / The Promised Land / The Way You Do The Things You Do/634-5789 / American Skin (41 Shots) / Because the Night / The Rising / We Are Alive / Thunder Road // ENCORE: Rocky Ground / Out in the Street / Born to Run / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
 

Tags: Bruce Springsteen , E Street Band , Jake Clemons , Amadou Diallo , Trayvon Martin

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