For seven long years, the only Bruce Springsteen concerts in NYC have been stripped-down shows with the New Jersey legend performing solo and telling stories in a Broadway theater.
It was almost as if he was accepting that his glory days were finally over.
But on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the Boss was back in all his arena-rocking glory — with the E Street Band by his side once again.
In the first of his area concerts on a 2023 trek that kicked off in February, Springsteen and his beloved backing band played together in NYC for the first time since “The River” tour in August 2016.
And you could feel the excitement and anticipation in the air even before Springsteen and crew took the stage just 10 minutes after the scheduled 7:30 start time — the better to play those marathon, three-hour-plus concerts they’re famous for.
Chants of “Bruuuuuce!” rippled through the arena until the band hit the stage, one by one, but they reached peak roar when Springsteen himself finally made his entrance.
“New York City!” he shouted as if he was just as happy to be back home with his musical family.
And as he launched into the “Born in the USA” anthem “No “Surrender,” it was clear that the ever-buff Boss was not backing down to Father Time — even at 73.
Even when he went into “Ghosts” — from 2020’s “Letter to You,” which found him confronting his own mortality — Springsteen sounded as vital as ever.
And you could feel some love from the other side when Clarence Clemons’ nephew Jake channeled the spirit of his late uncle on saxophone.
Although Springsteen’s latest album, 2022’s “Only the Strong Survive,” is a solo affair — which he nodded to with the soulful swagger of his Commodores cover “Nightshift” — this tour is definitely all about those special E Street moments like him sharing the mic again with ace sidekick Steven Van Zandt again on classics such as “Prove It All Night.”
Which is exactly what they did —until the concert reached its crescendo with an epic encore starting with the dramatic duo of “Jungleland” and “Thunder Road” And then there was “Born to Run,” which, with the house lights turned on, was nothing short of a religious revival for “tramps like us.”