Thanks to The Boston Globe and Staff Writer Sarah Rodman
Even by their own typically Herculean standards, the performance given by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the TD Garden on Thursday night was legions above and beyond the normal concert experience.
If someone had been magically transported from outside the building onto the arena floor around the halfway point of the maniacally spirited version of “Rosalita,” they never would’ve guessed by the posture, expression, or energy level of any of the band members — and most of the sold-out crowd, for that matter — that the concert had just hit the three-hour mark, with 20 more jubilant minutes still to come.
It seemed clear that the decision to play the entirety of his 1980 double-album “The River” — in connection with a recently released boxed set — has injected the already indefatigable Springsteen and his merry band with a jolt of powerful electricity. In many ways it’s a perfect album (albeit a lengthy one at 85 minutes) for this treatment, thanks to its variety of tones, and provides an opportunity to play both big hits adored by the casual crowd and also underplayed — and underrated — deeper cuts beloved by diehards.
From the giddy crowd-surfing highs of “Hungry Heart” to the moody, noir-ish narrative beauty of “Point Blank,” the clutch of bar-band rave-ups like “Cadillac Ranch” and “Ramrod,” and the always gutting disillusion of the classic title track, “The River” proved a spectacular first set. There were breakneck rockers and contemplative moments that served as breathers but, remarkably, not as lulls.
Between a few of the tunes, the New Jersey rocker — who was in tremendous voice and spirits all night — talked a bit about the ideas behind some of the songs. One particularly moving revelation came before the aching ballad “Independence Day,” when he discussed the moment a young adult recogizes the humanity of her or his parents, the hopes and dreams they might have had, and the compromises they made
Of course, the testifying, speechifying, rock ‘n’ roll evangelizing Springsteen was in the house as well, exhorting the crowd of 16,654 to let loose. The post-“River” set featured a barrage of big hits and fan favorites: sing-along staples “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” “Badlands,” and “Dancing in the Dark,” alongside a few surprises like the rare “Roulette” that allowed them to do just that, and raised the energy level even higher.
As usual, Springsteen interacted playfully with his band members all night, sparring around the microphone with foil Steven Van Zandt, watching as guitarist Nils Lofgren literally spun his way through a frenetic “Because the Night,” and swaying with guitarist-vocalist (and wife) Patti Scialfa, who was particularly great on an intimate-yet-rocking version of “Human Touch.”
J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf got into the action on a wild and woolly take of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” that brought the night to a raucous close, but you got the sense that if it had been allowed, the band would’ve kept right on playing.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
At the TD Garden, Thursday