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Springsteen’s The River Proves It’s Not Hard to be a Saint in the City

As a follow-up to the somewhat less commercial Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce Springsteen released his fifth studio album, The River, in 1980. Rolling Stone called the double album “a contemporary, New Jersey version of The Grapes of Wrath, with the Tom Toad/Henry Fonda Figure – nowadays no longer able to draw upon the solidarity of family – driving a stolen car through a neon dust bowl.” I like to think it’s about a young, 30-something steering through the discovery of love and learning that truly, “two hearts are better than one.”


This past Thursday, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band visited the First Niagara Center for what many called ‘the most anticipated tour of the year.’ In support of The Ties that Bind: The River Collection, Bruce & Company brought a high powered performance that couldn’t be any simpler. A stage, no backdrop, one screen, spotlights, and a one-act show.


Bruce opened the set with “Meet Me in the City,” a previously unreleased track, then dove straight into The River, from start to finish. The biggest highlight from this set was the opening to “Hungry Hearts,” to which the house lights came on and the sold-out crowd sang the entire first verse.

If you took a moment to look at the faces of those in the crowd, many were drawn to the musical trip down memory. Both young and old, male and female, Bruce’s music doesn’t draw to one demographic. It’s an Americana style that everyone can find their own meaning in.


Concert photos: Heather Bellini

Closing the set with a mix bag of hits, the Boss included The Rising, Thunder Road, Badlands, Born to Run, Dancing in the Dark, and closed the evening with The Isley Brothers’ hit, Shout. In a music industry that is flooded by “YouTube sensations,” Bruce & the E Street Band set the bar for what it takes to make it and keep filling arenas.


Like Springsteen, many high profile artists have visited the Nickel City, bringing about a resurgence in the concert industry throughout the area. Garth Brooks, The Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney, The Eagles, Dead & Company, Stevie Wonder and Bruce have all shown what takes to be the highest grossing tours, selling out venues across the country. Luckily, our city has been graced with a stop on each of their tours, making Buffalo a marquee stop for musical acts of every genre. Whether it be at the First Niagara Center, Darien Lake PAC, Canalside, or Ralph Wilson Stadium, we are becoming a top competitor with other markets for big name tours.


In previous years, Buffalonians would have to road-trip to Toronto, Pittsburgh, or New York City to see the leading acts, now they are coming to us. People are visiting our town, staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants and spending money here. Of course we graced Mr. Springsteen with a little snow during his stop in Buffalo, but that’s what we’re known for. “A little bit softer now, a little bit softer now. A little bit louder now, a little bit louder now.”


Written by A Ellis Cairns

A Ellis Cairns

A Ellis Cairns has been living in Buffalo since 2006. Hailing from Pittsburgh, A also lived in Maryland and New Jersey. Graduating from Duquesne University with a BA in Communications, he got an internship with Live Nation the summer before his senior year. Upon graduating, A accepted a full-time position with Live Nation at the Darien Lake Amphitheater. Working in the music industry for over 15 years, A has seen and worked with a variety of artists and performers. In his spare time, A is a concert photographer and board member for the Elmwood Village Association.

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