Tonight’s show seemed to begin at the impossibly high level the previous night had ended at, and just climb up from there. Bruce began the proceedings on this muggy, hot night (severe thunderstorm warnings thankfully never came to fruition during the show) with a solo acoustic version of “Factory.” This was followed by four more songs from “Darkness on the Edge of Town” : “Adam Raised a Cain”, “Streets of Fire”, “Prove It All Night” (with extended ‘78 intro), and “Something in the Night.” Bruce himself has been dressing for stage much like he did in 1978 with tie and vest, and one honestly might never know by looking at him it was literally 34 years later. “Philly Philly Philly!” Bruce shouted. “We’re gonna make you sweat tonight! We’re gonna make you work on Labor Day!” The audience screamed their approval.
The “Darkness” songs segued perfectly into “We Take Care of Our Own” and “Wrecking Ball” (it’s been pointed out to me since last night that the footage of the stadium crashing down is actually that of Veterans Stadium) followed by a spirited “Death to My Hometown”. And once again he turned to the past that Philadelphians in particular can really appreciate, it being one of the few places where the first album – “Greetings from Asbury Park” – actually got lots of airplay: a trifecta with one of the best versions I’ve ever seen of “Spirit in the Night”, “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?”, and “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City.”
“Can you feel the spirit? Can you feel the spirit now?” Bruce sang and the entire audience joined the E Street Choir testifying “yeah, yeah!!!” As with the previous night and indeed the tour, it was a night of jubilance and joy in the moment mixed with an acknowledgement and an honoring of those ghosts who are no longer with us on the stage and in our lives. Yes, we felt the spirit. Did we ever.
“Frankie” was next, pure delight and beauty, and Bruce again urged the crowd to show him their fireflies – thousands upon thousands of bright cellphones waving in the air looking for all the world like a field of fireflies in the summertime. “Jack of All Trades” was introduced with Bruce saying “Labor Day. Before it was another day at the beach, it was a day that people stopped and reminded themselves of the blessedness of work.” He went on to praise firemen, policemen, and teachers and talked a little bit about the work ethic in his own home, adding a shoutout to his mother who was in the audience.
A feisty “Atlantic City” followed next with the chorus “Meet me tonight in Atlantic City,” sung by thousands in the crowd. A true party song, “Darlington County,” came up on its heels ending with a joyous onstage stomp with Jake Clemons and Soozie Tyrell tearing it up, down and sideways. “Shackled and Drawn” next; even better than last night, Cindy Mizelle’s vocals send shivers down the spine and the song has become an essential powerhouse that extends the message of the “Wrecking Ball” album that much further.
“Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” followed (speaking of which, no rain throughout the entire evening!). Bruce plucked a sign from the front that read “Please play The River for my husband in Afghanistan” and gave the signal to the band. As they prepared for the song, chants of “USA! USA!” from the audience were heard. It was a truly stunning rendition, especially with the two shot of Bruce and Steven at the beginning to start the song.
“Lonesome Day,” “Badlands” and “Thunder Road” finished the set. The pure beauty and delicacy of “We Are Alive” began the encores, a song which every time I hear it I love it all the more. It begins softly and quietly as Bruce looks like he’s at a vast campfire telling a ghost story; after a few verses it then rounds the corner into a roaring band celebration of life.
“Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark” provided a full release of energy for the crowd under the stadium’s bright lights. “Jungleland” began with Roy Bittan’s gorgeous piano open leading to the poetic story of the Magic Rat and the gang-infested urban streets and raw unbridled passion of young love. You could hear a pin drop in that vast structure when Bruce sang, “Beneath the city two hearts beat…soul engines running in a night so tender.”
“Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” and “American Land” closed out the show with more dancing and jubilation and we rolled on out of there, holding the night close to our hearts and feeling the after-concert glory, cherishing it and taking it with us. Happy Labor Day!