Bruce Springsteen At L.A. Memorial Sports Arena

Bruce Springsteen At L.A. Memorial Sports Arena

  • Bruce Springsteen
    Photo: Jason Merritt/WireImage.com

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By Crystal Larsen
Los Angeles

To see Bruce Springsteen live is really to see Springsteen alive. Friday marked the Boss' second performance of a two-night stand at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena or, as he so affectionately referred to it multiple times that evening, "the least luxurious place in Southern California." With nearly three hours of nonstop music backed by some of the most talented musicians around, Springsteen was full of more passion and vigor than ever. 

"Are you ready to be transformed tonight?" the Boss asked before he launched the E Street Band into a set that would cover some of the most memorable moments of his more than three-decade career, including songs from albums such as Born In The U.S.A., Darkness On The Edge Of Town, The Rising, and his most recent release, Wrecking Ball, among others. Following a solo acoustic performance of "For You" earlier in the evening, the sold-out show got underway at 8:30 p.m. with Springsteen and the E Street Band taking the stage (a simple, no-frills platform on the floor of the arena) to perform "No Surrender." Though the song was released more than 25 years ago, Springsteen made one thing certain: "The mission of the E Street Band remains the same." That mission? Eloquently expressing the pain in human and national struggles, while offering hope for the future and belief in the people's ability to make a change. 

To the thousands of faces looking up at the platform that held such mighty musicians as drummer Max Weinberg, guitarists Nils Lofgren and Steven Van Zandt, and saxist Jake Clemons (nephew of the late Clarence Clemons), Springsteen was a musical god, putting on a killer show complete with his trademark knee-slide across the stage, and plenty of time spent on the floor with the crowd. At one point during a cover of "634-5789" (a song originally recorded by Wilson Pickett), Springsteen mounted a platform that was planted in the middle of the audience and fell back onto the fans as they carried him back up to the stage. Watching hundreds of hands carry the 20-time GRAMMY-winning artist was surreal. But this is an artist who clearly loves his fans, and that love was evident throughout the show as Springsteen would stand in silence, eyes closed, looking up toward the ceiling wearing the smile of a 10-year-old boy on Christmas morning, seemingly in disbelief of the extraordinary success he's amassed since his modest beginnings in Freehold, N.J.

One of the more solemn moments of the evening came during a performance of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" in which Springsteen stopped and said, "Can the big man join the band?" — referring to Clarence Clemons. And for a moment Springsteen stood there, eyes closed, with his guitar up in the air while a tribute to his late right-hand man Clemons covered the screens.

While Clemon's nephew Jake was more than capable of filling the Big Man's shoes, evidenced by the deafening applause he received with every solo, there was another special guest who brought out a glimpse of the chemistry and fire that Springsteen and Clemons were known for creating onstage — Rage Against The Machine guitarist and the Nightwatchman himself, Tom Morello. Armed with his custom "Arm the Homeless" guitar, Morello joined the band for several songs, including the powerful "The Ghost Of Tom Joad" — which featured a pumped-up, punked-out performance from the Boss and the Nightwatchman, accentuated with plenty of guitar tricks from Morello — and the sobering "Jack Of All Trades."

The night continued with spinning (literally) guitar solos from Lofgren, sweet harmonies from Springsteen with wife and E Street Band member Patti Scialfa, a duet between the Boss and a young girl he pulled from the audience for "Waitin' On A Sunny Day," and one lucky fan who danced onstage during "Dancing In The Dark" after holding up a sign that said "May I dance with Garry?" — referring to E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent.

While the night's performances swayed from the personal (memories of Clarence Clemons) and political (songs depicting a corrupt society and the need for change) to a sense of the spiritual (with gospel-tinged takes on songs for a good portion of the evening), similar to the themes found on Wrecking Ball, the thousands of music fans filling the sports arena undoubtedly left with a renewed appreciation for music or, as Springsteen put it early on, "the joyous power of rock and roll music."  

Set List
"For You"
"No Surrender"
"We Take Care Of Our Own"
"Wrecking Ball"
"Badlands"
"Death To My Hometown"
"My City Of Ruins"
"Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?"
"Jack Of All Trades"
"Youngstown"
"Prove It All Night"
"Darkness On the Edge Of Town"
"Easy Money"
"Waitin' On A Sunny Day"
"Racing In The Street"
"The Rising"
"Lonesome Day"
"We Are Alive"
"The Ghost Of Tom Joad"
"Land Of Hope And Dreams"
"Rocky Ground"
"Bobby Jean"
"Born To Run"
"Dancing In The Dark"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"

To catch Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band in a city near you, click here for tour dates.