Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Farm Bureau Live, Virginia Beach, Virginia | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Farm Bureau Live, Virginia Beach, Virginia, April 12th, 2014

May 20, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Of the vista-scraping crowd gathered at the Farm Bureau Live amphitheater in Virginia Beach, it’s a safe bet that more than a few had seen Springsteen perform live, with or without The E Street Band, at least once. One attendee claimed to have flown in from Barcelona for the express purpose of seeing this and three other shows on the tour, marking over 150 times he’s held tickets for this band. What brings them all back?

The Virginia Beach show answered that question as well as any in recent memory. At 64, Springsteen may well have taken over the “hardest-working man in show business” mantle, approaching every performance like it’s the first you’ve seen and the last he’ll play. The music and showmanship of Springsteen and the E Street Band also offer appealing, now-rare echoes to early rock and roll styles. And while these are undoubtedly beloved songs, there’s a difference between catching a cover band playing them and the infectious enthusiasm at the source of those songs, which includes a bunch of folks who seem to love nothing better than playing together for an audience.

After opening the show with “May I,” a local tip of the hat to the Portsmouth, Virginia band Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Springsteen dropped the volume during “Mary’s Place” to rein in the crowd and find an intimacy in the open-air shed. Guitarist Tom Morello, now a familiar face on this tour, joined the Boss at stage center for some startling soloing, including the use of his teeth, during a hyper-percussive “High Hopes.”

One of the joys of an E Street show is watching the front line move as one toward the audience, a moment that never fails to get a major rise out of the crowd. Of a stage-filling 17-member E Street Band, Springsteen occasionally lined up with Morello, guitarist Nils Lofgren, singer Patti Scialfa, bassist Garry Tallent, and sax player Jake Clemons to move over the stage like a friendly gang.

“Are you ready? Are you really ready? Are you fucking crazy-ass ready?” Springsteen asked at one point. He was, obviously, taking a tall glass of beer from the audience during “Sherry Darling,” then prompting and re-prompting Clemons to extend a sax solo while he carefully knocked it all back.

There were numerous highlights. “More obscurities? I hope you’re ready for this,” Springsteen offered at one point as they brought out songs like “Seaside Bar Song,” which was recorded for his 1973 album The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and eventually made it onto the ‘98 Tracks set. He and Morello traded verses on “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” matching each other with some fiery guitar solos before Morello exploded with a lengthy exposition of his own.

Springsteen also told of having recently spent time in nearby Richmond for his godson’s graduation. This prompted recollections of his opening early shows in Richmond for Ike and Tina Turner and for Chicago with Iron Butterfly, along with a nod of gratitude at how Virginia offered some of the few places he could play in early days and be sure of drawing a good crowd and getting paid. A rousing “Because the Night” followed the familiar ritual of the crowd taking the opening verse of “Hungry Heart,” and a spirited “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” included big-screen photos and footage of the late Clarence Clemons as well as a shot of the late keyboard player Danny Federici.

“I’ve been coming down here to Virginia since 1968, ‘69. That’s a lot of stories. But now, listen…” And they did, with few not budging until they were certain Springsteen’s stories were over when the lights came up.


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