Review: Springsteen, E Street Band make 'Magic' in Oakland

Bruce Springsteen for president … perhaps the savior of ‘n’ roll wouldn’t want the job, but if he were to take it (no question he’d be elected), America would likely be in better shape than it is now.

But wouldn’t it be amazing if the country ran as smoothly, and as passionately, as a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show?

For fans who have been following The Boss for decades, the opening Bay Area show Thursday night at the Oracle Arena in Oakland might not have been the longest, most intense or most hit-heavy concert they’ve experienced.

Yet it was as solid as concert events come. Any time Bruce reunites with his iconic band _ Roy Bittan and Danny Federici on keyboards; Clarence Clemons on sax and percussion; Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa and Steve Van Zandt on guitars, Garry Tallent on bass and Max Weinberg on drums _ it’s time to celebrate rock music and the U.S. of A.

Even better, the two-hour set, which featured most of the tunes from Springsteen’s new album, “Magic,” revealed how relevant the rocker remains after making recordings (and touring) for 35 years.

The new material measures up to the classics. He opened with “Radio Nowhere,” which has the guts to be as big an anthem as “Born to Run” someday.

The band kept the pace throughout, though, in typical fashion, periodicallyslowed things down, the quieter tunes providing powerful punctuation.

“The Ties That Bind” followed second, then “Lonesome Day.” Springsteen pulled out the harmonica for “Gypsy Biker,” also off the new album, and then the title tune, “Magic,” a song about tricks, he said. Violinist Soozie Tyrell added gorgeous shadings to many of the ultra-melodic recent songs.

The originally sedate “Reason to Believe” was reworked into a fun bluesy romp, before the religious revival mood kicked in for “Adam Raised a Cain,” and then “She’s the One,” which featured excellent keyboard work.

“Livin’ in the Future” (new) tackled the theme of shrinking civil rights today; it was nicely juxtaposed to “The Promised Land,” which followed.

Scialfa got her moment in the spotlight with her husband in the perfect duet, “Town Called Heartbreak.”

The fan-favorite “Backstreets” revved up the crowd of mostly middle-aged white folks, as did the inspirational “The Rising.” The new “Last to Die” came next, a fitting thematic choice for the set list.

Likewise, new, orchestral “Devil’s Arcade,” along with “Long Walk Home” and “Your Own Worst Enemy” rounded out the show before the band closed the main set with “Badlands.”

For many, the best came last. Springsteen and the band packed the encore with the new, Beach Boys-like “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” before coming to an apex with the emotional “Thunder Road” (bringing some to tears), the definitive “Born to Run,” the pop hit “Dancing in the Dark” and, finally, the political “American Land.”

Yes, Springsteen for president.

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