ALBANY, N.Y. >> Confession time: When I heard rocker Bruce Springsteen was touring and playing his double album "The River" in its entirety, I was a little disappointed.
How would this work? Could The Boss keep our interest throughout a 20-song run? Would it be as spontaneous as previous shows?
Oh, me of little faith. Springsteen and the E-streeters presented an exhausting, 34-song, 3½- hour show, with no intermission, that nearly blew the roof off the Times Union Center.
"The River," released in 1980, was a key turning point in the evolution of Springsteen. As he explained on Monday night, it was "a big album with big ideas. It started out as one record, then we took it back and made it a double album, because one album wasn't enough."
Themes of love, pain, growing older and evolving into adulthood took center stage on Monday. Although, let's face it, there were songs about having fun, dancing, living life large — and cars. Four songs about cars ( "Drive All Night," "Cavilled Ranch," "Stolen Car," "Wreck on the Highway")
But hearing the entire 20-song album performed live, by this band, was, in some ways, revelatory
The songs, as a group, fit together in a more cohesive way. It was easier to see the way the record fiT.
To be honest, one could just sit back and listen without extensive analysis and still enjoy the show. I forgot how many great songs were on the two discs. And the rest of the numbers were very strong, as well, and one sees what a dramatic statement about coming of age "The River" actually was.
But The Boss did not stop there on Monday. In addition to a pair of tracks ("Meet Me in the City," "Be True") that didn't appear on the double disc, Springsteen played, essentially a whole other concert after he finished "The River," beginning with "Badlands," "Wrecking Ball," "Backstreets," "Be True" and a blistering, passionate version of "Because the Night," with guitarist Nils Lofgren killing the solo.
Springsteen deliberately played with a relatively stripped down band of eight other musicians. (Believe me, after seeing the 15- and 16-person regiments he's presented in previous tours, nine is stripped down).
The show highlighted the vocals of Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg's thunderous drum rolls and Jake Clemens' accomplished sax solos. The encore was an eight-song offering, including "Born To Run," "Dancing in the Dark," "Bobby Jean" and what Boss veterans now call The Song: That little ditty called "Rosalita."
In addition, we got the old Mitch Ryder medley, which, as Springsteen explained to the audience, "We played this at the end of the first 'River' tour every night, so we might as well do it here."
Might as well. Bravo.