A massive crowd shuffled into the sold-out First Niagara Center last Friday to see one of the biggest acts America has ever known: Bruce "The Boss" Springsteen.
Springsteen returned to Buffalo after a three-year hiatus to perform selections from his new album, "Wrecking Ball," an angst-filled disc directed at those causing America's Great Recession. This theme was present throughout the show.
Perhaps as a tribute to our hometown, Springsteen's cover of "Buffalo Gals" played over the loudspeakers as he walked onstage to a thunderous roar. He wasted no time, beginning the show with "We Take Care of Our Own" from "Wrecking Ball." Three songs immediately followed -- "Wrecking Ball," "The Ties That Bind" and "Death To My Hometown."
Springsteen spoke to the audience after these numbers, slowing down to start playing the 9/1 1-evoking "My City of Ruins."
He introduced the E Street Band, new and old members alike, then asked the audience: "Are we missing anyone?" Though he didn't directly state who, any Springsteen fan would tell you that he was speaking of late band member, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died of a stroke last year at age 69. The absence of Clemons was filled by his nephew, Jake Clemons, who did a fantastic job.
Following the introduction was "Rendezvous," a cover of "Mountain of Love" and the new Springsteen ballad "Jack of All Trades." Then came classics "Prove It All Night," "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and another newbie from "Wrecking Ball," "Shackled and Drawn."
During "Waiting on a Sunny Day," a young girl came on stage to sing the optimistic melody of the song, encouraging the band to "Play it loud!" Following this number came "The Promised Land," "Apollo Medley" and "Point Blank." Things took a different turn during "American Skin (41 Shots)," a ballad about gun violence, which many in the audience took as a tribute to Trayvon Martin, the young victim of a recent fatal shooting in Florida. Then came my favorite Springsteen song, "The Rising," and "Lonesome Day," both numbers about 9/1 1.
To conclude this long first set was a new song, "We Are Alive," and the classic "Thunder Road."
After the band took a two-minute break, Springsteen was joined by Michelle Moore to perform the ballad "Rocky Ground." Following that was "Ramrod," performed to the liking of Max Weinberg, the band's drummer, as it was his birthday.
Then the arena's lights came on for three Springsteen classics: "Born to Run," "Dancing in the Dark" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out." The last number of the show featured a tribute to Clarence Clemons, and it was just large enough for the Big Man, with a slide show of memories that Springsteen shared of Clemons, concluding with thunderous applause.
Springsteen delivered another one of his gifts: putting on a flawless performance.
Jesse Orrange is a freshman at Kenmore West High School.