Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: A Classic for Fenway Night #2 (2012)

The Boston Globe headline for their review of Bruce’s opening night at Fenway Park read “High-energy Bruce Springsteen concert is an instant Fenway classic.” Sure enough, from the entrance with “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the background into “The Promised Land,” to surprises like a searing “Boom Boom,” and the classy tribute to Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky, to the encores torqued up with “Rosalita” (personally, I can never get enough of Rosie) and the Boston-centric “Dirty Water,” it would seem that a classic was born.

Except for one thing: the Night Two rule. No matter how great the first night it, expect Bruce to elevate from there.

Last night, you could tell something special was going on at Fenway Park. Many of us were following the setlist at sites like Backstreets and Greasy Lake. This is nothing unusual. What was different was the explosion of activity on Twitter. The songs were raining down and the reactions were furious. I’ve written many times that being at an E Street show is something of a communal experience, with all of us taking in the music in the present while reliving the past (and possible futures) at the same time. It was weird, but last night I felt some of that as the messages flew back and forth. We were so happy, not only for the people at Fenway but for the entire fan base.

So what actually happened at the show? It was like Bruce tossed the setlist and made up a summer-themed dance party on the spot. Bruce and Roy Bittan opened with a piano-only “Thunder Road,” followed by inspired four-pack of: “Hungry Heart” -> “Sherry Darling” -> “Summertime Blues” -> “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” An amazing pile ‘o fun and a great start on this warm and damp summer night.

With the arrival of Wrecking Ball‘s “We Take Care Of Our Own,” we wondered if a more standard set would follow. Not to worry! A few songs later came this ridiculous sequence: the Eddie Floyd classic “Knock On Wood” -> “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?” -> “Thundercrack” -> “Frankie.” That was capped off by “Prove It All Night” (with the 1978-era guitar intro) into “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.”

[CAN'T GET ENOUGH BRUCE?: Check out our weekly feature 'Sparks Fly on E Street,' where Mark Saleski breaks down Bruce Springsteen's legendary career - song after memorable song.]

I thought the show must have hit its peak with “Frankie,” especially with the anecdote of Bruce telling a short story of watching fireflies while writing the song. I was wrong. “Backstreets” was played later in the set, with the old (and beloved) “Sad Eyes” interlude replaced by a bit of “Dream Baby Dream.” Incredible.

Things got even crazier in the encores, with Bruce bringing back “Detroit Medley” as well as the (now) quite rare “Quarter To Three.” Many hours after the Bruce closed the show with “American Land” (with the Dropkick Murphys Ken Casey on vocals), fans were still going crazy on the Internet. People were just so buzzed that they couldn’t sleep, even after a long show and even longer drive home through the pouring rain. There are already calls for Bruce, Inc. to release this show on CD/DVD. Yes, please!

A classic night at Fenway Park? I’m pretty sure it was, and I wasn’t even there.

Setlist: Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Fenway Park, August 15, 2012:

Thunder Road
Hungry Heart
Sherry Darling
Summertime Blues
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
We Take Care of Our Own
Two Hearts
Wrecking Ball
Death to My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Knock on Wood
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Thundercrack
Frankie
Prove It All Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Working on the Highway
Shackled and Drawn
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
Backstreets
Badlands
Land of Hope and Dreams
Who’ll Stop the Rain?
Rocky Ground
Born to Run
Detroit Medley
Dancing in the Dark
Quarter to Three
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
American Land

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.