The power and the glory were unleashed in the heart of Harlem on Friday night as Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took to the stage of the storied Apollo Theater.
Springsteen, self-introduced in a deadpan delivery as ‘the hardest-working white man in show business,’ was intent on proving it with music and physical antics that whipped the packed house into a frenzy.
In a nod to Apollo legend James Brown, the ‘hardest-working man in show business,’ Springsteen milked his own Godfather of Soul routine, staggering dramatically around the stage wearing a black towel ‘cape’ that was ceremoniously draped onto his shoulders by guitarist Steven Van Zandt.
The show aired live on SiriusXM Radio’s E Street Channel as part of the satellite company’s 10th anniversary celebration. It was a prelude to a world tour that launches March 18 in Atlanta in support of the Wrecking Ball album, whose liner notes include a touching homage to E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died in June.
There were some familiar, ever-popular moves – sauntering up the aisles, cavorting on the audience’s seats, perching on the piano, languishing on the drum risers.
Springsteen also stretched, Gumby-like, to grasp the hand of a man who leaned precariously out of a box seat.
Even band members exhibited wide-eyed amusement when Springsteen bounded around the balconies and lowered himself back onstage on metal pipes attached to the walls.
E Street’s last tour ended in 2009. ‘We’ve missed you,’ Springsteen told the audience.
Springsteen, who recently noted that it ‘takes a village’ to replace Clemons, assembled a heavenly horn section punctuated with Jersey Shore panache. Clemons’ nephew, Jake, blasted out numerous full-throttle sax solos to a great crowd response; Springsteen beamed at his new team member.
The new album expresses outrage on behalf of America’s increasingly downtrodden masses. The Boss and the band contrasted that by filling the drop-dead-gorgeous, neo-classical surroundings – ornate gilding, crystal chandeliers – with a joyful noise.
His trademark intensity was there throughout: face furrowed with emotion; frame taut as a cobra.
The musical blend featured favorites and the stylistically wide-ranging new material. Other highlights included the Smokey Robinson/Temptations hit, ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do’ and selections from Wilson Pickett as well as Sam and Dave.
Springsteen and the audience together paid tribute to Clemons during the song ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-out,’ an old favorite about the band coming together. References to the ‘Big Man,’ Clemons’ nickname, drew loud cheers, as it did again when Springsteen did a roll call of the band during another song.
‘Are we missing anybody?’ he asked. The crowd memorialized Clemons and keyboardist Danny Federici with lengthy cheers and applause.
‘If you’re here and we’re here, then they’re here.’