TORONTO – As it was famously said back in 1974, it could be said the future of rock and roll still rests in the hands of Bruce Springsteen.
And after an awe-inspiring marathon Friday night at Toronto’s roof-opened Rogers Centre as part of his Wrecking Ball world tour, how could you argue he’s not?
With a large video screen behind him and his large ensemble dubbed the “rebooted E Street Band,” Springsteen, 62, launched into a brassy Working On The Highway after sauntering out to Take Me Out To The Ballgame.
From there he briefly became a conductor, letting the audience take over Hungry Heart as he picked up a home made sign. It was also the first time Jake Clemons, the nephew of the late Clarence Clemons, got to shine.
Churning out one song after another, Springsteen nailed We Take Care Of Our Own, Wrecking Ball’s first single, while playing off guitarists Steve Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren.
“Toronto let me hear your voices call,” The Boss said during the uplifting Wrecking Ball and the Celtic-tinged Death To My Hometown as more than 40,000 boisterous fans cheered. He’d return to the album later with the somber Jack Of All Trades as Springsteen donned a large marching drum.
Part of Springsteen’s long-standing appeal has been to completely revamp songs as was the case on lengthy, stirring My City Of Ruins which had a distinct Sam Cooke-like soul flavouring throughout before doing some introductions. But the biggest absence of course, aside from wife Patti Scialfa, was the late Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons. “Are we missing anybody tonight?” Springsteen repeatedly asked to collective cheers as everyone knew who he meant.
Working his way across the lower stage during Spirit In The Night, Springsteen looked like a possessed preacher as he glad-handed many in the front before running to the far end of the stage.
“It’s too early,” he said before chugging a beer, walking back to centrestage and then kneeling down as Clemons performed.
“That’s tricky, very tricky,” Springsteen said, picking up a myriad of homemade signs with requests and obliging with Thundercrack, holding the sign with its drawing of a lighting bolt coming out of a derriere.
By the proverbial sixth round of this 15-round fight, Springsteen brought the rock factor back with Murder Incorporated and jamming out some fine riffs. But even that paled to the thunderous foot-stomper Candy’s Room propelled by drummer Max Weinberg.
The lone time Springsteen was upstaged was when a young girl came onstage to sing a portion of Waitin’ On A Sunny Day. Springsteen let her run with it before getting her to say, “C’mon E Street Band!”
“Canada has talent!” he quipped afterwards.
Slowing things down alone on piano with Incident On 57th Street, the band shifted back into a higher gear for the homestretch of The Rising, Badlands and Land of Hope And Dreams to end the 150-minute main set.
The encore kicked off with a rambling We Are Alive before Thunder Road, Born To Run and going deep into the crowd with Tenth Avenue Freeze-out punctuated an incredible evening.
After 215 minutes, The Big Man would be proud.
1) Working On The Highway
2) Hungry Heart
3) Sherry Darling
4) We Take Care Of Our Own
5) Wrecking Ball
6) Death To My Hometown
7) My City Of Ruins
8) Spirit In The Night
10) Jack Of All Trades
11) Murder Incorporated
13) Candy’s Room
14) Mona/She’s The One
15) Darlington County
16) Shackled And Drawn
17) Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
18) Incident On 57th Street
19) The Rising
21) Land Of Hope And Dreams
22) We Are Alive
23) Thunder Road
24) Born To Run
25) Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
26) Dancing In The Dark
27) Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
28) Twist And Shout
29) Glory Days