Bruce Springsteen, who had not performed in Seattle since 2008, reprised his album “The River” at KeyArena Thursday, March 24, and continued with a marathon show that highlighted his move toward more grown-up work.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band made their first Seattle appearance since 2008 on Thursday (March 24) at KeyArena with a marathon, 35-song concert. The show ran for nearly four hours — Springsteen’s longest ever in our city — and included Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder.
The night opened with “Meet Me In the City,” an outtake from “The River.” Springsteen and the E Streeters then played that 1980-era album in its entirety. Springsteen said “The River,” his fifth album, represented a move away from “the young men’s records” that preceded it.
That duality was never more clear than with the next two numbers: “The Ties That Bind,” with its adult-world problems, followed by the youthful party-rocker “Sherry Darling.” That contrast — which was tortured in a way, but consequentially powerful — would continue all night.
The “River” songs were faithful to the album, and Springsteen talked only briefly, explaining that “Independence Day” was about “adult compromises.” At 66, and a father of three, Springsteen understands that in a way he didn’t when he wrote the song.
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The E Street Band was spot-on all night. Particularly strong were “The Price You Pay” and “Stolen Car,” which displayed the band’s capacity to play with quiet shading.
“The River” is an album that switches between moody ballads and rave-ups, but the whole evening was kind of a thematic monster of a show, mixing one big album with other hits. The first two hours were “The River,” but once that was done, 14 hits followed. It was an “encore” of sorts that was longer than many entire concerts.
Many younger fans, perhaps seeing Springsteen for the first time, probably thought the show actually took off when chestnuts like “Born to Run” followed. But Springsteen’s focus was stronger on the lesser-known “River” songs, perhaps because he felt he needed to sell those more.
The rest of the set was also spirited, notably “Badlands” and “Adam Raised a Cain.” When Eddie Vedder came onstage for “Bobby Jean,” to wild applause, Springsteen joked, “I get booed in my hometown.”
Yet the night’s musical highlight came earlier, with “Stolen Car,” from “The River.” The song, while never a hit, encapsulated the concert’s themes of escape and fatalism.
“I travel in fear, that in this darkness I will disappear,” sang the rocker.
Springsteen’s place in rock history was cemented long before Thursday’s concert, but with a performance lasting just under four hours, this one will go down in the history books. It was not only his longest Seattle show, but his best here in years.
He gave the impression he didn’t want the night to stop. At the end of the “River” set he talked about mortality and a feeling of “the clock ticking.”
“You walk alongside of your own mortality to do your work,” he said, “to raise your family, and to try to do something good.”
To emphasize his point, he repeated that final line one more time — “to do something good.”
By the end of the night, there was no doubt Bruce Springsteen had achieved that.