Three years ago I celebrated Bruce Springsteen’s birthday weekend with him (and 60,000 others)

That day I met Bruce at MetLife Stadium during the Wrecking Ball tour. And Clarence's cousin.
That day I met Bruce at MetLife Stadium during the Wrecking Ball tour. And Clarence’s cousin.

Here is the story I wrote for the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union about seeing Bruce at MetLife stadium.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, MetLife stadium, NJ (09/21/12)

By Joyce Bassett

Bruce Springsteen is celebrating his birthday this weekend with with three shows in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium. Friday’s set, the second of three shows, served up a “one for the ages” performance that will be tough to top during the grand finale Saturday, when the crowd-surfing ultimate rock performer turns 63 at midnight.

The betting line on Saturday’s performance at an 82,000-seat football stadium (his concert setup entertains about 60,000) suggests he’ll top Friday’s show.

This week marked Springsteen’s first appearances at MetLife, which opened in 2010. He closed the former Giants stadium next door with five shows in 2009 during his “Working on a Dream” tour. He wrote a song for that special occasion, “Wrecking Ball,” that became the title track of his latest album.

His references to Jersey during Friday night’s show brought huge roars from the nearly sold-out arena, with general admission ticket holders filling up the floor. He dipped back into his early albums and certainly felt right at home, introducing those songs with storytelling, a trademark of his early ’70s and ’80s shows. He explained “Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?,” from his 1973 debut album, was written during a bus ride through uptown Manhattan. (It was also part of his demo for John Hammond of CBS Records which earned him a recording contract.)

The “Wrecking Ball” songs are still a core part of the tour’s stadium shows. The lyric’s reference to “the arena’s filled and Giants played their games” at the home field of the Super Bowl champs provided a comparison to early shows on the tour, including the band’s April visit to Albany.

Seeing Bruce early in a tour and at arenas is like going to watch the Giants during spring training in Albany: arena shows are more intimate, the sound is terrific and the atmosphere is subdued but often thrilling. At stadium shows, the sound isn’t as good, some seats are far, far away from the action — but the atmosphere is beyond-incredible.

In spring training, Giants players are starting a long journey on the road to reaching a Super Bowl. On tour, Springsteen builds on and perfects his setlist, building up to ultimate performances that showcase an entire tour, like Friday night in New Jersey.

And the big plays are bigger. At each Springsteen concert, you have your tour premieres and surprises. In Albany, an acoustic rarity “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” was the talk of Twitter during and after the show. The “Born in the USA” songs “Darlington County” and “Downbound Train” also made their debuts in Albany.

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