He Took Care of His Own

27 Mar

Hard times … Baby, well, they come to us all.

Few people understand that statement as well as Bruce Springsteen does. And that theme permeated a good chunk of Springsteen’s show last night at the TD Garden here in Boston.

With a new album out, Wrecking Ball, that addresses the tough, unfair economic climate, and a set list that drew heavily from that album, it was clear that Springsteen came to town hoping to give voice to the frustrated and angry.

And he did, beginning the show with sound and fury: “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Badlands,” and the Celtic-flavored “Death to My Hometown,” one after another. That’s what he called putting “a whoop-ass session on the recession.”

Later on, he performed “American Skin (41 Shots)” as a not-so-subtle reference to Trayvon Martin.

But it didn’t take long to pick up on the fact that Springsteen had more on his mind than current events.

Paying respects to Clarence Clemons

This being the first time Springsteen and the E Street Band had been to Boston since the passing of Clarence Clemons, it was our first chance to pay our respects to the Big Man.

While Springsteen never mentioned Clarence by name, he made multiple references to him, starting in “My City of Ruins,” five songs into the show, and even more specifically, in the night’s closing number, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”

During that song, when Springsteen got to the line “And the Big Man joined the band,” the music stopped, and for three minutes and eight seconds (according to Backstreets.com), the audience just roared with applause. It turned the entire place into what felt like a celebratory wake, a giant public tribute to Clarence, and it was hard not to be completely moved.

Then the song resumed, and life went on, the audience feeling relieved to have finally gotten a chance to say a proper goodbye.

The next generation

Actually, the show provided much proof that life is already going on for the E Street Band.

Filling in for Clarence these days is his nephew, Jake. And man, can that guy play.

Jake — or “JC” as Springsteen called him at one point — had multiple chances to shine, and you got the feeling on songs like “She’s the One” that even Springsteen was impressed.

Watching Jake play was like watching Jay Weinberg sit in with the band three years ago: It gave the band (now 16 people strong, plus Springsteen) new life, new energy, and a renewed sense of purpose.

And every time Jake stood out from the (kick-ass) horn section to take a solo, it was like Clarence was right there with him, giving that same approving nod that he gave me 13 years ago when I saw Springsteen and the E Street Band live for the first time.

And when, at the end of his solo in “Thunder Road,” Jake raised his sax up to the sky, it was as if he was telling his uncle, “I’ve got this.”

Moments like that made last night’s Springsteen show one to remember, like so many others that have come before.

More to remember

And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible performance of “Thundercrack,” a request from a 17-year-old audience member up front.

Or the moment in the Apollo Medley when Springsteen ran through the crowd and was right there in front of us for a few minutes (we had general admission tickets).

Or the boos during “Wrecking Ball” when Springsteen referenced the Giants (which he knew was coming, and seemed to enjoy).

Or Peter Wolf joining the band for a lively version of “Raise Your Hand” during the encore.

“Are we missing anybody?”

At the start of “My City of Ruins,” Bruce acknowledged that while the band’s mission remains the same, things weren’t the same on E Street this time around. “Tonight, we’ve got some old friends, and we have some new friends with us,” he said.

Then he introduced the band, asking, “Are we missing anybody?” That was followed quickly by applause and an assurance that “if you’re here, and we’re here, then they’re here too.”

Clarence was in our hearts all night long, and Springsteen with the E Street Band gave us a show to remind us that while Clarence will never be forgotten, life indeed goes on.

(Concert photos from Backstreets.com)

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One Response to “He Took Care of His Own”

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  1. Greetings from Fenway Park, MA « Martin's Musings - August 15, 2012

    […] he did in March when the Wrecking Ball Tour first came through town, Bruce used the song as a somber remembrance of people who’ve left us. Last night he took the […]

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