Though the accolades and mega-hype given Bruce Springsteen's The Rising have focused on the more serious tones of the material (much of it inspired by the aftermath rather than the events of September 11), in a live setting there are few better hosts for a raucous rock and roll party. Springsteen -- as diehards will tell anyone who'll listen -- has always summoned a power on stage that no studio record can capture. And though the 53-year-old rocker has cut out the knee-splits and four-hour shows, those are perhaps his only concessions to age.
The band's previously fluid set list has stayed pretty much the same during this tour's early stages, but more recent shows have seen the appearances of tracks like "Candy's Room," "She's the One," "No Surrender" and more obscure songs such as "Kitty's Back" and a solo-on-piano rendition of "For You." Fan sites also have reported that Springsteen's performances are getting looser as the tour rolls on, perhaps because the band now feels unchained from the considerable starkness of the record.
Still, don't expect a muscular, nostalgic review like the band's amazing 2000 appearance in Houston. In fact the two-and-a-half-hour show features The Rising almost in its entirety, from the jubilant "Mary's Place" to the heartbreaking "You're Missing" and current single "Lonesome Day." The addition of violinist Soozie Tyrell to the venerable E Street gang enhances both types of material.
Given Springsteen's often restless nature in his musical phases, one never knows if this will be the last barnstorming romp with the classic lineup. During the last tour, Bruce-as-Baptist-preacher performed a long soliloquy extolling the "majesty, ministry and mystery of rock and roll." And in the Church of the Boss, you at least get a more earthly return on your tithe, one that nonetheless often transcends into the spiritual realm. Can I get a witness?