Governor Jodi Rell declared October 2 to be “Bruce Springsteen Day.” The Boss and the E Street Band kicked off the “Magic” tour Tuesday in Hartford – so with citizens making the pilgrimage up 1-91, airwaves crowded by tracks off the new album of the same name and the state officially endorsing all this frenzy, Connecticut was hit hard by Bruce fever.
“Magic” is here to advertise his new album and showcase old hands – even though we were told that last time was the “last time,” Clarence Clemens, Max Weinberg and all the others were back in full force. The crowd was assembled by 7:30, clutching stadium hotdogs, wearing old tour t-shirts that might as well have carbon dated them and skipping the bathroom line for the time being, lest they miss the opening chords of – what would he start with? A new track, maybe? “Magic” itself? Or “Born to Run”? “Born in the USA”? An hour passed; it was getting difficult to keep that breath held in.
And then – ! “Radio Nowhere” – a new song, but one that the entire crowd seemed to know the words to by the end. He was back at it, and man, can this guy perform. The concert went on for a seamless two hours and was – this is the mark of a good show – one where you just couldn’t sit down. Even if you couldn’t dance, you could sway, or raise your hands, or just try to get a tiny bit closer to that god gracing this Hartford stage. Bruce Springsteen was, for the night, an undisputed messiah: Liberating baby boomers from their generational label, liberating listeners from substandard music – liberating a student or two from hours otherwise spent in SML. He’d simply lift up his arms and the entire crowd responded with a salute to the sexiest man this side of Jersey.
The band did a good job of tempering new music with old; though ostensibly designed to promote the new tracks, this tour seemed just as eager to give loyal fans a sampling of those stand-bys well-known and loved. A nod to “Born to Run” (“She’s the One” was greeted with screams of delight) segued neatly with the relatively unknown “Devil’s Arcade” and “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” These new songs bore the Boss stamp – upbeat, tightly crafted, perfect for singing along to – but were sometimes grounded by a more Americana, down-home element, perhaps a result of his summer collaboration with Pete Seeger. A balance was struck between coherence and variety; nothing seemed out of place – not too pop, not too folksy – but he kept things interesting. The constant switching of guitars between songs wasn’t just some flashy move but really indicated the concert’s breadth.
They left the stage after 90 minutes or so and came back for three or four rounds of encores – a kind of neat microcosm of Springsteen and the E Street Band’s collaborative trajectory. You might think that was the last – and how good it was! A great note to end on! – but then, of course, they come back for more. And more, and more. No one was going to complain about that; the deep, collective rumblings of “Bruuuuuuce” reverberated through the Civic Center until the lights finally came back on and concert-goers left that magic behind and returned to the real world.