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Updated Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 01:16 PM

Bruce Springsteen delivers rousing show in Vancouver, B.C.

By Charles R. Cross
Special to The Seattle Times

Concert Review |

It's still not clear why Bruce Springsteen skipped Seattle on his current tour, in favor of Vancouver, B.C. on Monday night, and a Portland show coming up Wednesday. But guards at the Canadian border confirmed that many fans made the trip north Monday. Those travelers were rewarded with a rousing and energetic concert, well worth the border delays and the long drive.

When Springsteen played a Tacoma Dome show in the '80s, a local radio station tricked listeners by reporting he was still onstage the next morning. Springsteen is 63 now, but his Vancouver show at Rogers Arena still ran until nearly midnight, and showed him to be in incredible physical shape. When the encores finally ended with "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," and Bruce jumped in the air, he appeared to do so with a young man's knees — and spirit.

Some of that spirit came in the form of a re-energized E Street Band, now supplemented by a horn section and three backup singers. They muscled their way through classics like "Badlands" and "Streets of Fire." If Clarence Clemons was dearly missed as an emotional center on stage, his nephew Jake admirably played those sax parts with enthusiasm and aplomb.

By the third song, "Hungry Heart," Springsteen was already walking deep into the arena. He fell back into the crowd and fans carried him on their hands toward the stage, an act of faith on their part, as well as a bit of show business hucksterism on his.

Sometimes those crowd-pleasing antics competed against the musical tautness of songs like the deadly serious "Because the Night," as if entertainer and musician were two separate beings. And some of the new songs, like the sea shanty "Death to My Hometown," were too much of a thematic shift to allow the entire night the cohesiveness that was evident during Springsteen's tours in the '70s.

But a few of the newer songs had an emotional depth that seemed to live somewhere further back in time than the decade in which they were written. Before "My City of Ruins," the concert's high point, Springsteen spoke eloquently about Asbury Park, "the place where [the band] all met." He talked about the recent hurricane damage, but also how the song has become about "ghosts," which clearly included his deceased band members Clemons and Danny Federici.

Springsteen joked that he "likes his job."

But it really wasn't a joke — from the first song to the last, he was running around the Rogers Arena trying to pull in every last fan.

And over the course of three plus hours, he did.

Charles R. Cross: therocketmagazinelives@gmail.com or www.charlesrcross.com

Additional performances

Bruce Springsteen

7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Rose Garden, One Center Court, Portland; $48-$98 (800-845-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).

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