Springsteen at Nationals Park

The organ played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took to the stage at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. Friday. It was the latest stop on a ballpark tour that previously taken him to Boston, Chicago and Philly.

The Nationals are doing best of those city’s teams, but were out of town, allowing the sellout though the band was just at the Verizon center just five months ago.

Still, he knows how to shake things up, so he started with “Prove It All Night” as he did earlier on tour, with Roy Bittan’s instrumental intro from 1978. It matched another high point later in the 3 ½ hour show when a regal piano intro went into “Racing in the Streets.”

It was an interesting grabbag of songs, with “Prove It All Night” moving to a couple of pledges, “My Love Will Not Let You Down” and “The Ties That Bind” and later, a “Spririt in the Night” followed by the similar “Blinded by the Light” for the first time on the tour.

Songs like “Jackson Cage,” “She’s the One” “Johnny 99” and “Darlington County,” to name one four song run, were inserted amid the songs from “Wrecking Ball.” It wasn’t until nearly 20 songs in until there was an expected concert anthem along the lines of “The Promised Land.” But once there, “Badlands” follwed with “Thunder Road,” “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freezout” all in the extended encore that had the whole Mitch Ryder “Detroit Medley” in there, topped by “Twist and Shout.”

The passing of Clarence Clemons was not quite as big a part of the show as it was in April, though it was noted in the band intro of “My City of Ruins” and especially in “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” where images of the Big Man were projected on screens. Nephew Jake Clemons by know masterfully stands in for the iconic solos, without adding or veering far from what’s expected.

There didn’t seem an especially political bent to the show despite its setting in D.C., though “We Take Care of Our Own” sounds a little like a current hit since its prominent use at the Democratic Convention. Other songs from his latest album spoke of the same contemporary concerns, “Shackled and Drawn” and “Jack of All Trades.” And yet, when was the last time Springsteen toured in an election year and didn’t at least remind people to vote?

Four years ago, he ventured on a solo acoustic tour on behalf of Obama; eight years ago, he put together shows to support John Kerrey. Why go apolitical now, even as the songs themselves continue to speak of the travails of the working man and the culpability of big business? The Washington audience didn’t seem to mind, perhaps relishing a break from partisanship.

Musical guest stars have shown up in other cities on the stadium tour – both Eddie Vedder and Tom Morello joined in at Wrigley Field. But in D.C., the only additional member was Ali Weinberg, drummer Max Weinberg’s daughter, lending an accordion to “American Land” – a song that already had two accordions, it should be noted.

Early on, Bruce said his wife Patti Scialfa couldn’t be there and sent her regrets. But with a band this big – a veritable orchestra with a full horn and vocal backing sections, pushing the on-stage number to around 16 — her guitar and backing vocals were not exactly missed.

At 62, Springsteen was full of energy, though he creakily climbed atop the piano at one point, did not venture a knee slide, but was scurrying out into the crowd on various runways throughout the show. In a stadium, that covers an awful lot of ground. But the crowd was glad to receive him.

Here’s the 30-song set list for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Friday:

  • “Prove It All Night”
  • “My Love Will Not Let You Down”
  • “The Ties That Bind”
  • “Hungry Heart”
  • “We Take Care Of Our Own”
  • “Wrecking Ball”
  • “Death to My Hometown”
  • “My City of Ruins”
  • “Spirit in the Night”
  • “Blinded by the Light”
  • “Jack of All Trades”
  • “Jackson Cage”
  • “She’s the One”
  • “Johnny 99”
  • “Darlington County”
  • “Shackled and Drawn”
  • “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”
  • “The Promised Land”
  • “Racing in the Street”
  • “The Rising”
  • “Badlands”
  • “Land of Hope and Dreams”

(encore)

  • “We Are Alive”
  • “Thunder Road”
  • “Born to Run”
  • “Detroit Medley”
  • “Dancing in the Dark”
  • “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
  • “American Land”
  • “Twist and Shout”
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