Bruce Springsteen at Pepsi Center, 11/19/12

Categories: Last Night

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Eric Gruneisen
Bruce Springsteen last night at the Pepsi Center. Slide show: Bruce Springsteen at the Pepsi Center

The first tribute to Clemons came in "My City of Ruins," albeit in a subtle fashion. The saxophonist wasn't the only one missing when Springsteen asked for a roll call -- longtime organist Danny Federici, who died in 2008, was also one of the "ghosts" summoned in the ballad. Springsteen sad a few rounds of the Sam Cooke line "I'm in a sad mood tonight" before asking for silence.

Later, after hamming it up with Jake Clemons in a coonskin cap during "Spirit in the Night," Springsteen would offer a more direct remembrance of the Big Man. He collected requests from the audience in the form of handmade signs. After fulfilling a twelve-year-old's request for "Bishop Danced" and another hand-written demand for "Human Touch," Springsteen spotted a sign that read, "Saving Up. My mom worked at Big Man's West. Play one for the Big Man."

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Eric Grueisen
Nils Lofgren and Jake Clemons last night at the Pepsi Center. Slide show: Bruce Springsteen at the Pepsi Center

The Big Man's West was a bar Clarence Clemons opened in Red Bank in the era of "Urban Cowboy," a faux Western bar that failed and sucked up Clemons' investment. "I personally had some of the finest nights of my life there," Springsteen said, before adding that he felt guilty and wrote the tune for Clemons. "This is a message song," he said, a clear reference to the chorus of "You better start saving up/For the things that money can't buy."

The intensity mounted from there with performances of "Shackled and Drawn," "Raise Your Hand" and "Lonesome Day." "Land of Hope and Dreams," from Wrecking Ball, tapped into an effusive, gospel feel, as Springsteen took cues from old spirituals in lyrics for the outro ("People get ready/There's a train coming/You don't need no ticket/You just get on board.")

In lieu of a formal encore, the band just switched gears and moods. After a rendition of "Across the Border Line," the house lights came up and illuminated the entirety of the crowd. Every one in the house was in stark focus for rousing versions of "Born to Run," "Bobby Jean," "Dancing in the Dark," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."

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Eric Gruneisen
Nils Lofgren last night at the Pepsi Center. Slide show: Bruce Springsteen at the Pepsi Center

The lights didn't stop the antics. During "Dancing In the Dark," Springsteen recreated the iconic music video moment that first featured Courtney Cox. He brought up three dancers to the stage instead of one -- two danced with Roy Bittan on one side of the stage, and Springsteen danced solo with another on the other side. Springsteen donned a Santa hat for his Christmas tune, and he spun his guitar around his neck multiple times at the close of "Born to Run." These were iconic moments, feats that spoke of a performer who hasn't lost his flair for the stage.

It was a skill that was in full force when Springsteen announced the last song and the first strains of "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" rang loudly. Springsteen jumped on the top of Bittan's piano and gestured to the crowd. The masses sang the melody of the wordless intro, and Springsteen basked in the sound. He leaned drunkenly on his mic stand, he hurried back to the platform in the middle of the floor.

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Eric Gruneisen
Bruce Springsteen last night at the Pepsi Center. Slide show: Bruce Springsteen at the Pepsi Center

Then came the final tribute to the Big Man, an homage that was much less subtle. After the second chorus, Springsteen announced, "This is the most important part!" The words, "When the change was made uptown/And the Big Man joined the band," followed.
Springsteen and the band went silent.

The live feed on the Pepsi Center's massive video screens was instantly replaced by photos and still images of Clemons. He was on stage performing with an older iteration of the E Street Band. He was posing with his saxophone. He was smiling big. Then a lone picture of Danny Federici. Springsteen watched the screen intently from his perch among the milling, crowing fans.

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Eric Gruneisen
The E Street Band last night at the Pepsi Center. Slide show: Bruce Springsteen at the Pepsi Center

The video tribute ended, and Springsteen made it back to the stage to finish the song. Before linking arms with the other sixteen players, Springsteen asked a final question as the last chords of the song rung out. "Can you feel the spirit?" he demanded once more.
The answer was pretty obvious.

Keep reading for Critic's Notebook and Setlist

Location Info

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Pepsi Center

1000 Chopper Circle, Denver, CO

Category: General

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1 comments
Ben Barr
Ben Barr

I didn't know Tony Danza had a band.

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