It’s two in the morning and raining, and I just witnessed the patron saint of New Jersey rock Giants Stadium for the last time. Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band took a wrecking ball to the doomed venue with a vintage 197 minute performance that defied time. (As one native New Jerseyan proclaimed to me as Springsteen tirelessly bounded around the stage: “He’s f—kin’ 60 years old? I mean, c’mon!”)
Performing all of Born in the USA, the album the band first “played the first time we set foot in this arena” back in 1985, the concert was a fitting farewell from the man who’s practically made the Meadowlands his home field over the years. He opened again with “Wrecking Ball,” the new song about the soon-to-demolished stadium he unveiled only last week, and the crowd was ready. Fans held “Wrecking Crew” signs, wore “I Was at the Wrecking Ball,” t-shirts, and roared approvingly when he sang, “Here where the blood is spilled, the arena’s filled, and Giants play the game.”
The 12-song Born in the USA set, performed in such an enormous setting, was a powerful reminder of that album’s contagious energy, and with the opening bars of the title track, the concrete vibrated all the way up to the upper deck. It could’ve been 1985, though instead of Courteney Cox dancing with Springsteen on-stage during “Dancing in the Dark,” it was a middle-aged bald man pulled from the crowd.
The album portion of the show closed appropriately with “My Hometown,” but the band rallied for 13 more songs, including the Rolling Stones’ “Last Time,” Moon Mullican’s “Seven Nights to Rock,” and a rollicking, folksy “American Land.” In closing, Springsteen kissed the lady farewell with “Jersey Girl,” leaving the masses swaying and wanting more.
Springsteen shrank from speechifying, but he subtly acknowledged the tough economic climate by pounding home lyrics like “Hard times come; hard time go” in “Wrecking Ball,” and “Cover Me’s” “Times are tough; just getting tougher.” The only odd moment was during the Boss’s band introductions, which didn’t occur until late in the night. When he pointed out the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, the imposing saxophonist pimped his new book, Big Man: Real Life & Tall Tales, by holding it prominently so it appeared on the giant video screens.
Shameless self-promotion aside, it was a glorious night—it felt like the best Irish wake you’d ever attended. As far as I can tell, Springsteen intends to be around to close Giants Stadium’s successor in 40 years.
Were you there last night? What song were you singing all the way home? (Me? “American Land”) Were you disappointed that the parking-lot rumors about special guests failed to be true? How long did you wait after “Jersey Girl” in the hopes that the band would return for another encore? (Me? 11 minutes.)