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Review: Bruce Springsteen rocks Xcel for 11th time

Springsteen and the E Street Band brought their trademark passion and energy for a two and a half hour long set.
Image by Ethan Lambert
Springsteen’s stop at the Xcel was part of his first tour in six years.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Xcel Energy Center for the 11th time on March 5, which Gov. Tim Walz proclaimed Bruce Springsteen Day.

Springsteen, 73, is taking the E Street Band on the road for the first time since 2017, and their singular energy is still there. While they may not have the same youthful energy they had onstage in the ‘80s, or even during their 2009 Super Bowl halftime show, you would have a hard time finding an act of their age that puts on anywhere near as good of a show.

At any Springsteen show, there is an unwritten conversation prompt among the attendees: “How many times have you seen Springsteen?” or, for many, “Where did you travel from?”

In passing, I heard attendees of the 2023 tour throw out numbers ranging from six to 116 lifetime Springsteen shows.

The E Street Band members took to the stage in St. Paul one by one that Sunday evening. Finally, with thousands of fans yelling his name, Springsteen walked onstage, wearing a blue button-down, blue jeans and a pair of red Doc Martens.

Springsteen opened with “No Surrender,” a track from his megahit album “Born in the USA.” A familiar track, “No Surrender” worked well as an opener, keeping the audience captivated as they waited for Springsteen’s signature hits.

After the setlist opener, Springsteen performed “Ghosts,” a single from his 2020 album, “Letter to You.”

With any rock act touring decades past their peak, most audiences will not show anywhere near as much enthusiasm for the new material as they do the big hits. While that was still the case with the crowd at the Xcel, the band still brought their newer material to life without forcing it down the audience’s throat.

Springsteen walked onto a platform just behind the general admission area during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” (Ethan Lambert)

The energy in the room really flourished once Springsteen played “The Promised Land” and then “Candy’s Room,” two tracks off of the fan-favorite 1978 album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” People were singing along to just about every song of the night, but these two songs were when the audience really started to show their passion for the music.

Springsteen is not one to do an arena tour and play the exact same setlist every night. At this show, Springsteen brought a surprise to Minnesota with the tour debut of “Workin’ on the Highway,” off “Born in the USA.”

Another highlight of the night was Springsteen’s performance of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night,” which Springsteen wrote before Smith recorded the song in 1977. A staple of Springsteen’s live set for decades, it was one of the night’s most engaging songs.

To pick just one, the true highlight of the E Street Band’s performance was, without a doubt, Springsteen’s magnum opus, “Born to Run.” At this point in the show, the house lights at the Xcel were on and the crowd became overjoyed by the greatest song The Boss has ever written.

The band was on point for this song, performing a rendition very faithful to the studio recording. Jake Clemons, the current E Street Band saxophonist and nephew of late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, honored his uncle by masterfully delivering the iconic saxophone solo halfway through the song.

At the show, fans speculated this might be Springsteen’s last tour with the E Street Band. The closing song, “I’ll See You In My Dreams,” which featured Springsteen sans the E Street Band on stage with just an acoustic guitar, had emotions running high in the arena, and it felt like a farewell.

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