“Can you feel the spirit?” Bruce sings in falsetto, still hiding himself behind the stage while the organ notes of “Spirit in the Night” suddenly turn the vast Roman hippodrome into the Main Point, Max’s Kansas City, or one of those other clubs where the E Street Band used to stir the crowd into rapture back in 1973. That July, Springsteen was a promising singer-songwriter wrestling with the recording of his second album, The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. 40 years have passed, but he’s still that visionary artist, always in search of perfection: in fact, he rehearsed for two days in a small club in Rome to prepare the biggest surprise of the tour so far. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

After “Spirit in the Night,” the one-two punch of “My Love Will Not Let You Down” and “Badlands” was just the warm-up for an energetic first part of the show, with “Roulette,” “Lucky Town,” and a trio of rock ’n’ rollers, “Summertime Blues,” “Stand on It,” and “Working on the Highway,” all played by request. Then Bruce let the crowd choose between two signs, “Candy’s Room” and “Brilliant Disguise,” but he ended up playing both of them, with a stunning “She’s the One” in the middle.

Already a great, great show. But then… “Kitty’s Back,” the first one of 2013, and for 15 minutes we were all back to 1973 again. And, wait a minute… What’s next? Is it really “Incident on 57th Street?” Yes it is, and when Bruce’s own West Side Story is about to end with Roy’s carillon-like outro on the piano, almost everybody in the field starts to dream about “Rosalita,” as it is next in sequence on The Wild, the Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. Boom! Delivered! This show is becoming a real event. Now, don’t tell me that the sequence will go on with “New York City Serenade”…

It did. The fourth performance of “New York City Serenade” of the 21st Century, obviously a tour premiere, broke the hearts of all 35,000 gathered in the Eternal City. I’ve never heard this song played so well: for the piano intro Roy followed the score, coloring the jazzy original of David Sancious with his romantic touch, and a string section from the Roma Sinfonietta (Morricone’s orchestra) helped the band wrap up this unforgettable present that Bruce wanted to give to his Italian fans. Some magic happened when he was singing “hook up to the night train” and a night train actually crossed the railway at the right-hand side of the hippodrome—a real surprise!

The rest of the setlist was standard, with “Land of Hope and Dreams” closing the main set and “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Born to Run” opening the encores. For “Dancing in the Dark” Bruce invited on stage a girl holding a big sign: “If you dance with me, he will marry me,” Bruce hauled her boyfriend up, too, forcing him to kneel down and make the promise. “Twist and Shout” and “Shout” followed “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,” and a moving “Thunder Road” played acoustic by Bruce ended the best show of the Wrecking Ball Tour.

Did we feel the spirit? You bet your life.

—Leonardo Colombati, Backstreets.com