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Live Review and Photo Gallery: Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field • Chicago

| August 13, 2023

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL

Friday, August 11, 2023

Review by Jeff Elbel. Photos by Curt Baran.

After packing Wrigley Field on Wednesday, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band ushered in the weekend with a second sold-out performance on Friday night in the Cubs outfield.

At showtime, the members of the E Street Band emerged in single file from beneath the stage to growing fanfare from the audience. Saxophonist Jake Clemons and pirate-garbed guitarist Steven Van Zandt received particularly rapturous cheers. The welcomes were crowned by a massive howl of Bruuuce! as The Boss emerged and strapped on his familiar, weatherbeaten Fender guitar.


The bones of the two shows were similar, in contrast to several past two-night stands in Chicago by Springsteen. The second night’s set list included a few surprises for those who were fortunate enough to see both performances, however.

Friday’s show opened with Born to Runs portrait of hot rods and escapism “Night,” before leaping into Wednesday’s adrenalized opener, “No Surrender.” Im ready to grow young again, emphasized Springsteen during the latter songs lyrics. Surrounded by 40,000 adoring friends, the 73-year-old singer and his trusted bandmates tapped into a youthful energy that never flagged.

The amorous Candy’s Room” from 1978s Darkness on the Edge of Town was played instead of Wednesdays “Darlington County.” The anthemic chorus of Jimmy Cliffs “Trapped” earned a roaring singalong when the song appeared in place of “The E Street Shuffle” and “Johnny 99.”

Flanked by accomplished guitarists Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren, Springsteen stepped forward to uncork bristling leads himself on songs including Prove it All Night. Van Zandt added color and style throughout the set, playing an enviable assortment of classic Rickenbacker, Vox, and other guitars while acting as Springsteens onstage foil. The pair joined voices at Springsteens mic in brotherly unison and harmony while drummer Max Weinberg pounded the Hand Jive rhythm of Shes the One.

Lofgren added shimmer and jangle on acoustic guitar during Letter to You. He later stepped forward with soulful and electrifying lead guitar heroics during Springsteen’s and Patti Smiths co-written classic Because the Night.

At its full strength, the E Street Band held 18 positions on stage. The four-piece E Street Choir was featured during a mesmerizing slow burn through The Commodore’s eulogyNightshift, as recorded for Springsteens 2022 covers album Only the Strong Survive. Singer Curtis King joined Springsteen arm-in-arm as the song reached a powerful peak. The five-piece E Street Horns punctuated set pieces, including the swinging centerpiece Kittys Back. The song was propelled by Garry Tallents walking bassline and colored by Charles Giordanos bristling Hammond organ as the horn players traded solos.

The crowd joined the E Street Band frequently as a 40,000-strong choir, raising a storm of voices on songs like Out in the Street from 1980s The River. Clemons prowled the rim of the stage with his saxophone before joining Springsteen among the crowd on the catwalk. The song shared a common theme among Springsteens material about working class people seeking meaning and joy amid everyday cares. The celebratory Marys Place followed suit as a hymn of ecstatic communion that would have blown the roof if Wrigley Field had been under a dome. When Springsteen asked, Is there anybody alive in Chicago tonight?, the passionate response indicated that everyone was ready to join the party.

Last Man Standing from the 2020 album Letter to You was introduced with Springsteens memories of joining his first band at age fifteen. He told the tale of being invited by his sisters boyfriend George Theiss, to join The Castiles as lead guitarist from 1965 to 1967, describing it as an explosive time in history. Springsteen then recalled visiting his old friend on his deathbed 50 years later, and the realization that he was the last man standing to carry the bands youthful dream forward. Death gives you pause to think about the gift to the living of whats possible in this life, Springsteen said, blessing the crowd with encouragement to be good to themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them. The song was performed by Springsteen on a cracked and dented acoustic guitar, accompanied only by Barry Danielians lonely trumpet solo.

Springsteen held his guitar aloft like a holy relic while Roy Bittans sparkling piano introduced Backstreets and its riveting portrait of a broken relationship. Springsteen expanded the tale with spoken asides about the value of shared history, despite any old wounds. Im gonna carry you right here,Springsteen repeated in conclusion, covering his heart in the emotive performance. Audience member Kevin Kuster shared his reaction, saying, The older Bruce gets, the more introspective he gets with what he shares during these great old songs.

“Wrecking Ball” was an anthem of experience and hard-won resilience, coalescing into a boisterous jig punctuated by the E Street Brass. The performance marked Springsteen at his most uplifting and affirming. The Rising reflected upon heroism under the intense pressure of the 9/11 terror attacks.

The main set neared its conclusion with Badlands, capped by Weinbergs thundering tom solo. Beginning with Springsteens harmonica, The Boss gave the opening verse of set-closer Thunder Road to the crowd, who sang in roaring melody. Springsteen sang from within the crowd on the catwalk again, as the song built into one of his most perfectly constructed rock and roll symphonies with its exultant desire for escape and freedom.

The E Street Band offered a high-octane encore of cant-miss classics, beginning with one of rocks grandest rock anthems, Born to Run. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) followed, sending people dancing into the aisles while Clemons and Van Zandt bedeviled Springsteen with Three Stooges-styled slapstick antics. The dance party continued during the paradoxically nostalgic and anti-nostalgic Glory Days. Springsteen and Van Zandt discussed on mic whether or not it was time to go home before the audience response led Springsteen to profanely conclude that no one was ready to return to real life just yet. Springsteen ripped his shirt open with theatrical bravado during Dancing in the Dark, eliciting adoring screams from the fans.

The chugging Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out was the final song by the full band and one more chance to feature Jake Clemonswailing saxophone as a bloodline connection to his late uncle and original E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons. This is the important part, said Springsteen before singing the songs verse about the time when the Big Man joined the band. Screens flanking the stage showed images of Clemons in concert, in addition to late organist Danny Federici.

Springsteen stood at the back of the stage like a sports teams player-coach, congratulating his bandmates with smiles and claps on the back as they each left the stage. Last to depart was Van Zandt and then Clemons, who shared a warm embrace and a few words with his bandleader. Springsteen then returned alone to promote the evenings local charity partner Healthy Hood Chicago, describing the groups programs designed to elevate the body and the mind. Please give them a hand, he added. Theyre on the front lines doing Gods work!

Springsteen then performed Ill See You in My Dreams alone as a benediction. Thank you, Chicago, for two fantastic nights,Springsteen exclaimed. The E Street Band loves you!

All in, the E Street Band performed 26 songs and played for two hours and forty minutes. It wasnt a four-hour marathon like those shows that cemented Springsteen’s reputation as The Boss, but it was an energetically delivered and tightly paced concert full of musical thrillers and adventurous diversions. Despite the years and miles, the E Street Band performed like a band that still has fuel to burn.

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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews

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