Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

MCI Center, Washington, DC • September 3, 1999

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and… well, you know the rest. What rock-journalist-turned-Springsteen-manager Jon Landau wrote back in 1974 after seeing the Boss live turned out to be a fairly accurate prophecy of the next 25 years. We can only hope that the future will stretch well into the next millennium, because this three-hour celebration and reunion with the E Street Band is truly something special.

Springsteen got things going with a rousing version of The River ‘s “Ties That Bind,” followed by an anthem for the evening, “Prove It All Night.” As guitarist Steve Van Zandt shared the microphone with Springsteen and the Boss ripped off a couple of solos on his trusty wood grain Telecaster, drummer Max Weinberg hit the skins hard, and all was right with the world. By the fourth song, “Promised Land,” Springsteen was stalking the stage like a preacher and the Church of Bruce was officially in session.

The band slowed things down a bit for a country-tinged “Mansion on the Hill,” featuring pedal steel, accordion and lovely duet vocals from Patty Scialfa, Springsteen’s wife. A brooding, reworked version of “The River” followed, which downplayed the melody and featured smoky sax solos from Clarence Clemons.

Springsteen seemed to put his heart and soul into some of his lesser known numbers, like the vocal tour de force “Youngstown” and surprising crowd favorite “Murder, Inc.” The one-two punch of “Badlands” and “Out in the Street” elevated the crowd to a new level, as first Springsteen and then the rest of the band ran to the back of the stage to say hello to fans behind the drum riser.

During an overlong but entertaining “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Springsteen leaped onto Roy Bittan’s piano, demonstrated a pretty fair falsetto voice, threw in a bit of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” and endorsed Clemons for president (he plays a better sax).

Concluding their main set with a rockin’ “Light of Day,” Springsteen fell to his knees in mock (and probably real) exhaustion, and was helped to his feet by the rest of the band.

But Springsteen saved the best for last. Beginning an hour-long set of encores with “Bobby Jean” and “Born to Run,” the Boss then brought out some famous friends to conclude his three-night stay in Washington. Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin-Carpenter and David Lindley all joined in on the audience-participation “Hungry Heart” and “Red-headed Woman.”

The band took their bows and basked in the adulation of the crowd for several minutes. Then, as if to prove his stamina, Springsteen asked what time it was, decided it was too early, and had the roadies bring out the instruments one more time. The band ripped through The River ‘s “Ramrod” to end the evening.

Looks like the future of rock and roll, or at least its present, is in pretty good hands.

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