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Springsteen rocks the house in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — There’s a car sitting in your garage. It’s 35 years old. You’d like to get rid of it but you can’t bring yourself to doing so. 

You think about getting it up to speed with a little touch-up engine work, a fresh coat of paint, polish up the chrome and take her back out on the road.

To your surprise, the car still runs pretty good. There’s a level of comfort you had forgotten that it gave you. And as you step on the gas, it all starts coming back to you.

Bruce Springsteen knows a thing or two about cars. And about making records. So when he decided to breathe some new life into The River, his classic 1980 double-album, he did so with the meticulous care he gives all of his projects.

Saturday, he took it out for a test drive at the Consol Energy Center and wouldn’t you know? It sounded just as good as back in the day.

Twenty songs. Eighty-three minutes and 47 seconds. Start to finish. In order.

Springsteen and the E Street Band had tried this once before. On November 8, 2009 at Madison Square Garden, he wedged The River in its entirety into the show. It was a great treat for the fans who had heard him do other albums from beginning to end during that tour.

I was there that night, and to be honest, it seemed to feel as though it was almost contrived, a gimmick if you will. Saturday, it fit. Maybe because the fans who attended knew it was coming and they accepted the performance on its own terms.

Was it his greatest show? Hardly. But no one seemed to complain, nor should they. 

You got 3 hours and 22 minutes of rock and roll. No political preaching. No sign requests, though a few fans brought their oak tag into the arena hoping to hear something from the distant past (as though songs from a 35-year-old record wasn’t good enough?) And, thankfully, there was no Waitin’ On a Sunny Day with a 7-year-old kid yelling into a microphone. The cuteness quota on that was spent a long time ago.

No, this was a great and important album coming back to life by a band that made sure it got the respect it deserved. 

So after the debut of “Meet Me in the City” which is one of the tracks that never made it to an album but is included in the box set that went on sale just in time for Christmas, it was a time for The River. 

It’s an album that is roller coaster ride of emotions and for some in the audience that had either never heard it or didn’t remember it, it probably seemed like forever. 

But everyone seemed to deal with it fine. It was a generational crowd Saturday. Those who were in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s when they saw Springsteen’s The River tour back in 1980 and ’81 were now in their late 50s and early 60s.

Springsteen himself is 66 and eligible for Social Security, but he can still deliver a live performance like few in rock can. And it helped to open the tour where he is not just appreciated, but is feted as a favorite son. 

Pittsburgh has always been good to Springsteen and lived up to its reputation as a bastion of loyalty to E Street. They stayed from start to finish. They knew the songs and the love between audience and performer was clearly felt. 

Along with doing The River and some of the greatest hits, Springsteen also found time to pay tribute to the late David Bowie as the band did their version of “Rebel, Rebel.” And by the time he ended with the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” another recent tour staple, it was clear both the Boss and the fans were enjoying a night that neither wanted to end. 

However, the Penguins have a hockey game Sunday afternoon and they wanted their building back, though most Penguin fans these days would probably prefer to see Springsteen instead of Sidney Crosby.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.



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