Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA, November 19, 2007
By Erik Flannigan
There is something appealingly workmanlike about the Magic tour. Reunion celebrated the return of the E Street Band and revisited the legacy. The Rising tour was imbued with the spirit of answering the call in the wake of 9/11 (famously, a fan on the street yelled to Bruce, “We need you, now”). In contrast, Magic reads more like, “we made a great record and we’re excited to take those songs on the road.”
That commitment comes through loud and clear on Boston, November 19, 2007, a cracking Magic show that showcases eight of the album’s 12 songs along with several special additions spotlighting one band member in particular.
Springsteen’s final U.S concert of 2007 would prove to be Danny Federici’s last full gig in the E Street Band. Following Boston and ahead of the European tour it was announced that Federici would take a leave of absence to receive treatment for melanoma. Well aware of the pending change, Bruce’s drafted a setlist for the second night in Boston with Phantom Dan in mind and soul, dipping deep in The Wild & The Innocent for three songs and adding the tour debut of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” another chapter in the band’s origin story. Even the night’s lone track (!) from Born in the U.S.A., “Working on the Highway,” rides a Danny keyboard riff.
Compared to the sprawling, three-and-a-half to four-hour epics to come a few years later on the Wrecking Ball tour, Boston ‘07 looks merely long, clocking in at a tight two hours, twenty-two minutes, and that includes almost 12 spent on “Kitty’s Back.” There’s barely a wasted second and the set derives potency from its taut pacing especially at the start, as Springsteen walks up to the speed bag and starts jabbing: “Radio Nowhere,” cross to “Night,” hook to “Lonesome Day,” uppercut with “Gypsy Biker.” It is a thrillingly breakneck start.
We get a moment to catch our breath with the cautionary ballad “Magic” before Bruce raises his gloves again. The bullet-mic, honky-tonk arrangement of “Reason To Believe” is one of the tour’s signature performances: Bruce blows some mean harp and his distorted singing through the vintage microphone gives this “Reason” it’s deliciously dark and dirty texture. From there, we roll straight into “Darkness On the Edge of Town” (sounding rich and expansive in Jon Altschiller’s guitar-forward, multi-track mix), then the always welcome “Candy’s Room” propelled by Max Weinberg before crunching guitars transition to a crisp “She’s the One.”
That song had barely concluded before Max counts in the next, “Living in the Future,” another tour highlight and a moment Springsteen seemed to relish each night, commanding every corner of the stage as he delivered a song about “sleepwalking through changes that shouldn’t have happened” in our country. One might forget that upon Magic’s release, a few questioned why the album didn’t overtly address the actions of the George W. Bush administration. Metaphorically it did, in spades, and Bruce seemed to be responding to that misunderstanding of his work and his role: “We’re gonna sing about it. We’re musicians! That’s a start and after that, the rest is up to…all of us.”
The Boston show also brought the tour premiere of “This Hard Land” in a fresh full-band arrangement, embellished with solo spotlights for many members; not surprisingly, Springsteen calls on Danny first. But the proper showcase was to follow. “Winner of the Ted Mack amateur hour in 19….not that long ago, Dan Federici,” Springsteen says as Danny comes to the front of the stage, accordion adorned, for a touching and fitting “Sandy.” Staying circa 1973, “E Street Shuffle” slides in for a playful romp through one the band’s most joyful slices of musical myth making.
The rest of the show blends setlist stalwarts (e.g. “Badlands,” “Born to Run”) with the remaining core Magic songs. All sound vital in retrospect, none more so than “Devil’s Arcade.” The performance builds slowly from Soozie Tyrell’s violin to ultimately soar on some of Springsteen’s most evocative guitar soloing this century. The crescendo, rising from the repeated phrase “the beat of your heart/her heart” is captivating, as Bruce pushes and bends his guitar tone sharply before giving way to Max’s repeated drum beat that winds the song to conclusion. A stunner.
The encore brings the night to a highly satisfying conclusion, first with what Bono recently called a song that should have been a hit, “GIrls In Their Summer Clothes.” The aforementioned “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” gives Clarence Clemons a chance to shine, then Springsteen gives the entire band their due with a long “Kitty’s Back” packing solo after solo, kicked off by a full minute of blissful Phantom Dan Federici organ. The show ends on a boisterous note with both Danny and Roy Bittan on accordions at the front of the stage for “American Land.”
The following March in Indianapolis, Phantom Dan made one last appearance as a special guest before passing away on April 17, 2008. Indy was goodbye. Boston is a celebration of Danny’s five-decade role in the E Street Band and damn good Magic tour performance.