Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The River Tour, Milwaukee 2016

TheRiver2016Every year or so, there comes a time when it is a bit more likely for someone to see me singing and dancing while sitting in my car, through the windows of my living room, or in the downtime at my day job. This sudden increase in my musical energy originates from the fact that The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is back on tour.

I have had the pleasure of witnessing Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band live from every angle and distance, from the near-stage positioning of the general admission pit to the highest corners of the Palace in Detroit. Whether the band was within reaching distance or appeared as a tiny speck on a bright stage, the energy of the room is always all around. This time, we took in the show somewhere in the middle, seated in the corner of the second balcony of the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Our position provided an excellent view of one of my favorite aspects of Springsteen and company, the crowds he draws in. As my companion Jeff said, “I love the demographics of a Bruce show”. The crowd is a mixture of age, race, and culture. Rockers, frat boys, hippies, and suits all singing and dancing the night away together. Young children, musical veterans, and every age in between is represented. As my fiance, Kristin, once said, “it’s amazing that one dude can bring all these people together.”

The concert took place this past Thursday, March 3rd. This is a unique set of shows for Bruce and company. The tour, appropriately titled “The River Tour 2016,” is largely dedicated to the album of the same name, with each show featuring performances of the recording in it’s entirety. Full of energetic cuts such as “Out In The Street” and “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”, it has many opportunities to bring the energetic dance party the E Street Band is known to create. I did, though, have reservations before the show. While it is a record with plenty of fast paced songs, at twenty tracks, it also has a number of Springsteen’s slower, lyrical stories of personal darkness and the struggles of love and opportunity in America. These are experienced entertainers, however, and they knew how to balance the two styles, creating long reflective moments as breaks to the ever increasing energy of the evening. “Stolen Car” in particular captivated the audience with an emotional rendition of the tale of a relationship lost and a soul unsure where to turn.

The balance ended with the final track of the album. Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band gave only a moment of reflection on “The River” before launching into a string of performances meant to keep the crowd moving. Nils Lofgren gave an astounding guitar solo on “Because The Night”, leaving the arena rumbling long after the song had ended. Jake Clemons has come into his own in filling the shoes of his beloved uncle, Clarence, especially during the signature saxophone solo in “Jungleland.” The spirit of his uncle was in the room through him and during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”, a song that has transformed from one of mourning to one of celebration since his death in 2011.

I had barely returned home from the concert before I was already scheming ways to afford catching another concert on the tour. However, even if sold-out tickets keep me from going, I will be singing and dancing around the house for the near future.

If you have yet to see The Boss yourself, I urge you to make it a priority. You can find information on the tour at brucespringsteen.net.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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