Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 5/6/2014
It's fitting that the rooflike shelter hanging above the seats at the Woodlands Pavilion is shaped in a tent spire. Because no one has ever merged the concepts of rock and roll show and religious tent revival like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Sure, the usual aspects of a Springsteen concert are well-known even to non-fans, taken for granted now and almost a parody: marathon running times, inhuman energy, hits, deep cuts and choice covers. And at the head pulpit is the Reverend Bruce himself, shouting and shaking and sweating and testifying like a rural Pentecostal preacher on amphetamines, only holding aloft his guitar instead of some writhing reptile.
Yes, it's the Springsteen stereotype. But to actually witness (or give witness) to an event brings it to live, shocking reality: This guy is 64 years old and exudes more firecracker energy and explosive rock and roll fervor than most anyone else ever could or did, at any age. And Tuesday he did it for three hours straight -- with no intermission or bathroom break -- wearing a T-shirt and olive military jacket that had both been turned shades darker with perspiration by the end of the evening (which was past the Pavilion's 11 p.m. curfew, I might add).
Springsteen and his 17-piece 2014 backing band (take that, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom!) were only bereft on this leg of the tour of guitarist/onstage foil Steven Van Zandt, off in Norway filming episodes of his Netflix TV show Lilyhammer.
Nonetheless, the band came raging out of the gate, fully locked and loaded with "Seeds" -- with its reference to a can't-catch-a-break workin' man living "on the streets of Houston town" -- the title track to most recent record High Hopes and crowd-pleaser "Badlands."
It was clear early on that a couple of new faces would get plenty of musical and personal attention: cut-and-slash guitarist Tom Morello (living on E Street after Raging Against the Machine), and saxophonist Jake Clemons. Uncle Clarence, of course, was Springsteen's blood brother for decades before his death, but the cheers for the younger Clemons were well-earned on his own and not just exhorted as a tribute to his late uncle.
Both, along with a crack horn section and an energized longtime guitarist Nils Lofgren in the Van Zandt-foil position, added a newer vitality to the lineup since the band's last show in Houston, in 2009.
Review continues on the next page.