Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Live at Mohegan Sun Arena (2014)

Emotions were running high in anticipation of this last pair of 2014 E Street shows. Tickets for the tiny Mohegan Sun Arena were a tough get. We felt lucky to be in the building. Oh right, the building. Approaching the complex, our friends commented that when you first see the place it sort of looks like Emerald City. Indeed it does. Emerald City…surrounded by parking garages. We made our way through the casino, a surreal place full of stores, flashing lights, gaming tables, and slot machines. There are lot of sad-looking people parked in front of these things, cigarette on one hand and drink in the other. It’s the the freaking mall from hell. With gambling.

Now of course, none of this has much to do with the Bruce show to follow, but it just added to the surreal feeling that I get at the end of a tour. Each time around, people repeat the “This is the end” mantra. And hey, they could be right. It would be very strange to have the memory of this extremely odd bit of American culture attached to my very last E Street Band show.

Tour end aside, another reason for the high expectations was the word that Steve Van Zandt would be returning for the final two dates. This turned out to be a very big deal as Bruce was obviously inspired by the presence of his old friend.

The show kicked off with an intense reading of the 1978/The Promise version of “Racing In The Street.” Initially with just Bruce and Roy in the spotlights, the arena exploded when the full band kicked in. It was obvious right from the start that night was going to be full of that special intensity that develops when Bruce is both loose and focused. We got pairings of high energy rockers (“Clampdown” into “Badlands”), visitations from old friends (a request for “Quarter To Three”), and a few stories here and there. Bruce’s retelling of his early songwriting environment (hair dryers at the salon) was a crackup, a fun introduction to a solo acoustic “Growing Up.”

I’m not much of a song-chaser…with one exception. I haven’t heard “Rosalita” since my very first show on The River tour. Well, this was not to be. But honestly, there was no disappointment on this night, because the highlights were just too strong. It’s sort of weird to hear Bruce play “Hearts of Stone” and “Talk To Me,” since they’re so closely associated with Southside Johnny, but they were a lot of fun. They also fit in perfectly with the mood set by “Frankie Fell In Love,” the end of a Stevie three-fer that began with “The Ties That Bind” and “Two Hearts.” “Raise Your Hand” kind of went along in that direction, reminding me of all of those nights sitting around listening to old Springsteen bootlegs LPs transferred to wheezy cassette tapes. And clearly, Bruce and the rest of the band were having a blast with all of this. At one point, Steve was cracking up as he watched the horn section gymnastics that went on during “Jesse James.”

The main set ended with a super-intense version of “Light Of Day.” I loved this song during the “Other Band” tour, but on Saturday night it was totally over the top. At one point, Nils begins to have a battle with Max, the two men trading blistering fours.

The encores bookended with two pairs of acoustic songs. I was really surprised by “I’ll Work For Your Love.” So beautiful. This was followed by “Grownin’ Up” and the hairdryer story. We were then off into a fairly standard but barn burning four-pack of “Born To Run,” “Dancing In The Dark,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” and “Shout.” There was no “Rosalita,” but I was too tired and blissed out to care. And you know, that short tribute to Clarence and Danny is still very touching. People who think this segment has worn out its welcome just don’t understand Bruce very well.

None of us wanted this to end, but of course it had to. Bruce was again at the acoustic guitar for “If I Should Fall Behind,” and “Thunder Road.” After all of these year, the two parts of a Springsteen show that always get to me are when the lights go up for “Born To Run” — a 10,000 person mass celebration — and when the crowd sings the lyrics to “Thunder Road.” I hope we get to sing those words again.

Setlist:

1. Racing In The Street (78)
2. Clampdown
3. Badlands
4. The Ties That Bind
5. Two Hearts
6. Frankie Fell in Love
7. High Hopes
8. Raise Your Hand
9. Quarter To Three
10. Stayin’ Alive
11. Hearts of Stone
12. Talk To Me
13. The Price You Pay
14. American Skin (41 Shots)
15. The Promised Land
16. Prove It All Night
17. Jesse James
18. Shackled and Drawn
19. The Ghost of Tom Joad
20. Radio Nowhere
21. The Rising
22. Light of Day

Encores:

23. I’ll Work For Your Love (Solo Acoustic)
24. Growin’ Up (Solo Acoustic)
25. Born To Run
26. Dancing in the Dark
27. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out
28. Shout

29. If I Should Fall Behind (Solo acoustic)
30. Thunder Road (Solo Acoustic)

Up next: Leah


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.

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