An enormous turnout for one last Magic show, Bruce and the E Street Band’s Saturday night special for Harley-Davidson’s 105th Anniversary; it was one last stadium-sized performance, the outdoor set slightly tailored (and lengthened) for the occasion to be a fuel-injected, good-time rock ‘n’ roll blowout. Gates opened early for showgoers to get some relief from the brutally hot day — at least the stage offered some shadow. Bruce himself arrived in Milwaukee in time to emerge before his opening acts — looking like a biker himself, in long sleeves, denim, and sunglasses — coming out on stage to greet the crowd, shake some hands and give some waves to the field before the sun went down. (Apparently not in time to practice with Alejandro Escovedo, though, who put in a well-received 45-minute set with no Bruce appearance.)
Main event showtime at 8:45, with Bruce and the E Street Band taking the stage to the vroom vroom sound of a revving Harley, Bruce shouting out, “Good evening, Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts!” Actually, there seemed to be as many Bruce fans as riders in the crowd (not that there wouldn’t be crossover between the two), judging by what looked to be a one-to-one ratio of Springsteen shirts to Harley shirts. Bruce made ’em both happy with the opener, a scorching “Gypsy Biker”‘s first time in that position.
A rocking sign set commenced with “Wooly Bully,” the old Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs hit, the request spelled out in cotton balls on a sign in the shape of a bull. “Any bar band worth its salt has to know this one,” Bruce said, Charlie’s sodium level mighty high on his organ solo. “Darlington County” and “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)” followed by request, Bruce and the band powering through at a blistering pace more reminiscent of the early part of the Magic tour despite the sign collection. The only time they really seemed to slow down to catch their breath was on “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” a beautiful performance that served to center the band before they dove back into the fray with “Youngstown.”
“Racing in the Street,” another sign request, was played for Willie G. — that’s Harley hero Willie G. Davidson — and as a “summer song” for the end of the season. It was one for the ages, too, boasting an extended coda with an otherworldy performance from Roy and Charlie. “Seven Nights to Rock” kept the engines roaring after “Badlands” to close the main set.
“Jason…” Bruce said as the encore began, “Jason, if you’re here, come see Kevin.” No it wasn’t someone who had left their lights on — Bruce was calling for Jason Federici to join in on “Sandy.” “This is the first time we have a tour closing without Danny, and we’re lucky enough to have Danny’s son with us.” Jason took the stage with an accordion strapped on, joining Roy to squeezebox on his father’s signature favorite. He was absolutely beaming, getting hugs from Bruce and Steve before leaving the stage.
Of course, “Sandy” also includes the line “Every summer when the weather gets hot they ride that road down from heaven on their Harleys…” and was a reminder if anyone needed it, of how long Bruce has had an eye on hog heaven. Some have expressed surprise that Springsteen would play a corporate event, but it’s hard to deny his affinity with the “product.” The runaway American dream of “Born to Run” was pure euphoria, with an ocean of arms in the air. For “Thunder Road,” the screens displayed Bruce’s motorcycle cred, showing a series of images of Bruce riding over the years — and the crowd ate that up, too
Thanks to backstreets.com for this review. It was a great show. A quick kiss for Ginny — “That’s my sis!” — in the family & friends section at the end of “Tenth Aenue Freeze-out.” A thanks to the crew before “Dancing in the Dark,” Bruce reeling off a list of names at this final show on the schedule. And then one more — “We have to do this one!” — Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” The place went apeshit. A fun set, a loose set, a rocking set, a long set, a last chance power drive, putting the final punctuation mark on the Magic tour with the longest show of the past year, at 31 songs and three-and-a-half hours. “Thank you, we’ll be seeing you!”