"I'm an old man, give me my thrills" Springsteen said before bursting into "Girls in their Summer Clothes", which was also dedicated to a fresh father who missed the postponed Arnhem show because his wife was giving birth. Springsteen had something to make up for after last December when he fell ill the day of the Dutch show and gave a short and mediocre, by his standards, performance the day after. He did so in spades. Right up until the encores Amsterdam looks like a pretty standard show on paper, no big surprises from the looks of it. But the Boss and the band were on a roll. Springsteen was in a chipper and interactive mood, enjoying the hell out of the cat walk in the middle stage. He used every opportunity he could get down on his knees and emerge himself in the audience. During "Spirit in the Night" he almost looked like he was about to jump into the crowd again like he did in his early years. He may claim to be an old man, but he has the vitality of a man in his thirties, it was the audience who had more difficulty keeping up with the pace of the show.
Springsteen's brand of R&R is an odd one. Though it does follow the archetype of R&R rebellion, Springsteen has never been the type of artist that wallows in excesses of the sex and drugs part of the equation, never the artist that alienates. Springsteen rather connects. Aside than looking for a lot of physical contact during this show, Springsteen went out of lengths taking requests. Though some of them were already on the set list he made sure the dedications were personal. "The River" was performed for somebody's birthday, "Backstreets" for a ten year old, "This song was written about 25 years before you were born" he joked. The one unfulfilled request was for Little Steven though. When crashing into "Darlington County", the Boss and Miami noticed a sign in the crowd that made them stretch out the opening vamp to get it. The request, "Princess of Little Italy" from Stevie's first solo album proved a bit too much of a challenge for even the almighty E-Street Band and Springsteen's all knowing teleprompter. It wasn't played, but it did underscore that Springsteen with the E-Street Band transcends the individual artist.
The fact that this was my last show of this tour which could be the last tour for the band made this a very special night for me. Maybe that's why I was so taken by his classic songs and so overwhelmed with all the impressions from the E-Streeters. Most noticeable tonight were Steven, who manages the band and the stage as if he were still Silvio Dante. When Springsteen makes a slippery mess with his sponge its Silvio who summons a roadie to clean it up. Clarence is the elderly statesman of the band. Though aging in the most obvious ways he is commanding in his solos, nailing "Bobby Jean" tonight. Charlie, who replaces the recently deceased Danny Federici, is the Benjamin of the band With his nerd like looks complete with glasses he's the most unlikely Rock and Roller I've ever seen. Yet when he attacked the keys with his hat during "Living in the Future" he surely was captured by spirit of it. Funnily enough he isn't quite as subtle as Danny, but more raucous. Appearances can be deceiving. The tight chops Max brings, cemented by Garry solid but fluent base lines were fundamental in making "Mary's Place" one of the highlights of the evening. Springsteen turned the show into a Soul revival on that point of the likes I've only heard on Sam Cooke's "Live at the Harlem Square Club".
A high until Springsteen decided to take one final request from a seven year old. The kid had been holding up signs requesting various songs seated on top of his father's shoulders through out the evening. "Summertime Blues" was just one of four. When Springsteen went out to collect them an observant Little Steven already started playing the chords to Eddie Cochran's Rockabilly classic. As if he wanted to warn Springsteen not to let this one slide, van Zandt was determined to drag Springsteen back into his underground garage. A place the Boss hadn't really visited for years. The ploy worked, "Stand on It" and "Seven Nights to Rock" were thrown in on the spur of the moment, making these encores possibly the most memorably of the Magic tour yet. They might even have been better than anything he's played in Philadelphia.
A mystery beneficiary by the name of Seaside Barsong was kind enough to send me a sneak peak of the Amsterdam bootleg. "Backstreets" sounds more than promising. It could be proof that great recordings are possible in big washtubs after all. I've left the download function off to allow the taper to have the pleasure of releasing the full recording first. Can't wait to hear it in full!