by Jay Lustig
The Newark Star-Ledger
Friday August 01, 2008, 4:16 PM
Bruce Springsteen had a perfectly good excuse to play a shorter show than usual Thursday night at Giants Stadium. An accident on the New Jersey Turnpike made it a nightmare to get to the Meadowlands, from any direction, and with many fans stuck in their cars, the opening was delayed from its anticipated opening time (somewhere around 8:30 p.m.) to 9:30 p.m.
But it's not Springsteen's way to take the easy way out. And he certainly wouldn't do that for a full house at the biggest concert venue in his home state. He and his E Street Band actually played slightly longer than they did at their two prior Giants Stadium shows this week, on Sunday and Monday, clocking in at three hours and 15 minutes. They ended at 12:45 a.m. with a one-two punch of the rarely played "Jersey Girl," followed by perennial fan favorite "Rosalita."
Perhaps sensing that the crowd on this hot, humid night could become restless, they kept the show fast-moving and hard-hitting, with minimal delays between songs. The middle section of the set was crammed with some of the band's most energetic material: "Light of Day," "Blinded By the Light," "Cadillac Ranch," "Candy's Room," "Night," "She's the One."
The biggest surprise, though, was more low-key: a slow, sweet cover of Manfred Mann's 1966 hit, "Pretty Flamingo." Springsteen dedicated it to wife Patti Scialfa, who celebrated a birthday on Tuesday. He and the band have played it before, but seemed to be relearning it on the spot.
The elegant, darkly romantic "Incident On 57th Street" made a welcome appearance late in the set; it was one of several songs suggested by signs held up by fans. In this case the sign read "Incident on 57 For Your Old Bald Fans."
The epic "Jungleland" got the encores off to a rousing start. Three members of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions Band (violinist Sam Bardfeld, bassist Jeremy Chatzky, singer-percussionist Curtis King) guested on another encore, "American Land."
These shows kicked off the last leg of Springsteen's 2007-08 "Magic Tour," which ends in late August. They were his last Jersey shows of the tour, and could be his last Giants Stadium shows ever. He has presented only two series of shows there previously, in 1985 and 2003, and the stadium is scheduled to be demolished in 2010.
If he had any thoughts about the show's significance, he didn't share them. He didn't talk much at all, in fact, and when he did, he usually said the same things he did at the other two shows. (The exception was a funny rap about his relationship with Scialfa, before "Pretty Flamingo.")
This show, like the others in the stand, was pretty much E Street business as usual. Springsteen and the band averaged almost 30 songs a night, from classics to some of the least well known songs in their repertoire (Sunday's "Janey Don't You Lose Heart," Monday's "Held Up Without a Gun," Thursday's "Pretty Flamingo"). The shows were not only long, but extremely physical, with Springsteen racing around the stage, guitarist Nils Lofgren turning mid-solo somersaults, and drummer Max Weinberg leading the band through one fast song after another.
These may have been Springsteen's last Giants Stadium shows. But they didn't feel like the end of anything.
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
"Prove It All Night"
"The Promised Land"
"Spirit In the Night"
"Light of Day"
"Blinded By the Light"
"Because the Night"
"She's the One"
"Livin' In the Future"
"Incident on 57th Street"
"Last to Die"
"Long Walk Home"
"Born To Run"
"Dancing In the Dark"
photographs by Joseph Quever
Jay Lustig may be reached at email@example.com or (973) 392-5850.