Jake wows as Bruce hits New Jersey

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — I had been wondering how Bruce would replace the dearly departed Clarence Clemons on his latest concert tour, which began in earnest on Tuesday night with a date at the packed Izod Center in his home state of New Jersey.

The answer was a full out horn section with Jake Clemons, replacing Clarence on the sax. Jake is not Clarence’s son. He is his nephew. But the resemblance is uncanny, both in the way he looks and sounds. Jake took the solos on such standards as Thunder Road and Born to Run. Not only did he fail to miss a beat, but he added a youthful vitality to the legendary E Street Band that is now bulging with more than a dozen performers and a big sound.

Bruce has been around so long he noted that the band began playing this particular building in the swamps of Jersey 30 years ago when it was “named after a person,” former Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne. Since then, “it has been renamed after an airline and now a shirt,” Bruce said. So the bigger the sound and the younger the musicians, well, the more the merrier.

This was the third time I’d seen some version of the band in this building over the years and seventh in the Meadowlands. The other four were at now gone Giants Stadium, for which the song “Wrecking Ball” was written three years ago as Bruce played the last series of concerts in the old stadium. Hence, the name of his latest album and this tour. As it turned out, it would be the last time Clarence would work with the group. He died from complications of a stroke this past summer.

Bruce paid homage to Clarence in two moments, during the show. The first was while the band was performing a somber rendition of “My City in Ruins.” After Bruce introduced the current members of the band he implored the crowd by asking if anyone was missing? When the response was a resounding and repeated affirmative, he responded:

“Do I have to say his name?” That was the way he introduced Clarence in the old days. “No, I don’t,” Bruce now added.

At the end of the show as he finished with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” Bruce stopped at the line, “when the Big Man joined the band” and thrust the microphone toward the crowd in front of him. The music stopped dead in its tracks and a five minute ovation for Clarence ensued. It was dramatic and good stuff. A subtle tribute that pulled the heart strings. When the music continued the message was clear. Life goes on “Within you and without you, ” as George Harrison once wrote. It does without Clarence and now with his younger personification in Jake, who helped carry the show and revitalized the Viagra taking, history making E Street Band.

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