No discussion about Irish Americans making music in New Jersey would be complete without mentioning the mack-daddy of them all, Bruce Springsteen.
I took in one of the epic shows he did at the MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands over the weekend, and it was one for the record books!
There’s an interesting dynamic at the Boss’s shows nowadays -- you have a bunch of middle-aged fans tailgating in the parking lot wondering how the heck we were going to keep up with the 63-year-old legend inside the venue.
Rumors of four hour shows and visions of traffic clogs had us all fretting about how much the babysitter was going to cost and how we would manage to get up with the kids the next morning.
With the first power chords of the obscure rocker “Living on the Edge of the World” from Tracks, thoughts of everyday parental dreariness were replaced with dreams of joining the rock and roll circus on E. Street and putting those pesky kids up for adoption!
The set clocked in at a little over three hours and was crammed with the hits and the kind of rare tracks that makes die-hard fans pinch themselves in disbelief.
The slick radio sheen of “Dancing in the Dark” sat alongside the stark beauty of “My City in Ruins” from his 17th and newest album, Wrecking Ball. The title track, written in honor of the old Giants Stadium that once stood here, was played on this night with gusto.
“I was raised outta steel here in the swamps of Jersey/some misty years ago. Through the mud and the beer/the blood and the cheers I’ve seen champions come and go,” he sang defiantly, encouraging the agents of change to “bring on yer wreckin’ ball.”
The gospel flourishes of songs like “Shackled and Drawn” and “Rocky Ground” has brought new cast members to E. Street; the trio of backup singers brought out the innate soul music the Boss created with his old pal Gary US Bonds, who guested on a few songs.
Speaking of old friends, the ghost of Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons was acknowledged with moving video tributes and heartfelt stories in between songs. His nephew Jake Clemons let the horns rip and the band didn’t miss a beat as they looked backward on their fallen comrade.
You can hear Springsteen’s Irish roots shine through in “Death to My Hometown,” a fiddle-infused ditty about hard economic times from the new album. It has become a set highlight on this tour.
The Boss unleashed the paint-peeling Celtic rock blast of “American Land” to end the show. Violinist Soozie Tyrell flirted with her fiddle as Charles Giordano prowled the drum kit with a squeezebox.
“The McNicholas, the Posalskis, the Smiths, Zerillis, too/the blacks, the Irish, the Germans, and the Jews/come across the water a thousand miles from home/with nothin’ in their bellies but the fire down below/” growled Springsteen. The rafters shook and girls danced the jig in the steep section of nosebleed seats all around me.
New Jersey has gotten a bad rap for its portrayal on reality shows airing on MTV and Bravo lately, but seeing Springsteen whip a crowd into a frenzy in the Meadowlands made you feel kinda sorry for everyone born outside of the Garden State on this magical night.
If you’re not from Jersey that’s okay. We’re willing to share him, and you are advised to see the Boss at his best when he comes to Hartford, Rochester, and State College, Pennsylvania in the coming weeks!