A minimally edited version of this post originally appeared on Backstreets.com, which you can read here.
“This one’s for the old timers.”
Unbeknownst at the time to the lucky tramps within the walls of Buffalo’s First Niagara Center on Thursday night who had escaped the chilly snowstorm outside, those six words uttered by Bruce midway through the evening introduced a smoking hot, guitar-heavy stretch of three songs that proved to be the highlight of the show AND epitomized the pure, unadulterated rock and roll heat that Bruce and the Band were slinging all night long at the crowd, full of both old and new timers rocking out alike. By the time the 34 song, 3 hours and 15-minutes set came to a close, the sweaty masses filing out of the arena probably wanted to jump in the piles of snow lining the streets of the city to cool off after witnessing such a fiery concert.
After the somber “Wreck on the Highway” conclusion of yet another masterful album performance, Bruce immediately got the crowd energetically “tra-la-la-ing” back to their feet with the welcome return of “The Promised Land.” And then, it was time to set the place ablaze.
After the aforementioned one sentence, “old timers” introduction, Bruce launched into the sole tour premiere of the night: a blazing “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City.” Though some may have expected tonight’s tour premiere to be one of the excitement-generating soundchecked songs – “We Take Care of Our Own” and two outtakes: “I Wanna Be with You” and “Take ‘Em as They Come” – Bruce instead decided to reach deep into his catalogue for another rarity off his first album. Perhaps the the snow outside combined with the song’s plethora of heat-related imagery inspired Bruce. No matter the reason, those in attendance – surely full of hot buffalo wings themselves – were treated to a blistering rendition of the song, highlighted by Max’s vicious drum solo and the customary, flame-throwing (yet too short!) guitar duel between Bruce and Little Steven.
Bruce obviously felt good taking center stage with his guitar, following up “Saint” with “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” Always a highlight of a setlist, the song allowed Bruce to rip off yet another scorching guitar solo. But no night full of E Street guitar solos is complete without letting Nils command the spotlight for a few minutes, which he achieved with aplomb – as always – with his usual sizzling (and spinning) work on “Because the Night.” The night belonged to guitars.
And yet, there was one more searing surprise in store; after the main set ended with the usual song selections, Bruce opened the encore with perhaps his biggest love-letter of a cover to red-hot rock and roll: a feverish “Detroit Medley,” which he dedicated to a Stephanie in the crowd for her 22nd birthday. Stephanie, Buffalo thanks you – not a bad present from the Boss for us all!
For those wondering, I’ve made a point of using as many heat-related descriptors as possible only because Bruce himself kept referring throughout the night to the snow descending upon Buffalo. For some reason, inclement weather of any kind tends to bring out the best in him. Rain, heat, wind, thunderstorms, snow, etc. – if there’s any trace of these in the air, you know you’re in store for a special performance, and tonight was absolutely no exception. Bruce repeatedly mentioned the poor weather conditions throughout the show, from changing the “Cadillac Ranch” lyric to “drivin’ alone through the stormy Buffalo night,” to noting the “little bit of snow out there – we like it!” during “Meet Me in the City.” He was truly giddy from the get-go, starting the night by gleefully singing a riff on the classic opening line from “Buffalo Gals” – “Buffalo won’t you come out tonight?”
And what I’m sure many Buffalonians had come out tonight to see – the full River performance – was as stellar as ever. Bruce and the band once again found ways to add new little wrinkles throughout the 20 songs – from Bruce responding to the tepid reaction he received to his nightly, “Who remembers their first kiss?” during the “I Wanna Marry You” introduction with, “Has to be more than that! How do you keep yourselves warm out there?!”…to Bruce poetically adding, “Did you forget our love? Did you forget our pain?” over the coda of “Point Blank.”
But the absolute funniest difference in the performance of The River tonight belonged to a rather unlikely band-member: Mr. Garry W. Tallent. Since Patti didn’t make the trip to Buffalo, Bruce called on him to replace her call-and-response solo in “Out in the Street.” Perhaps emboldened by the imminent release of his first solo, Garry gave the slowest, completely off-tempo, yet coolest delivery of “meet me out in the street tonight.” Keep doing you, Garry.
Though The River performance was as good as ever, Buffalo’s show will probably be remembered for the consecutive sizzling guitar work on “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City,” “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” and “Because the Night.” This stretch should’ve reminded the tempest-tested Buffalo crowd that – to borrow and slightly alter a famous quote from Jon Landau – Bruce may no longer be the future of rock and roll, but he and the rest of the old-timers in the E Street Band on this River Tour are sure as hot hell the inextinguishable face of it right now.
 More on that in a bit.
 This was the second show in a row featuring a tour premiere from “Greetings from Asbury Park” after Cleveland was treated to a surprise “Growin’ Up” on Tuesday.
 Don’t worry – I’m close to running out of adjectival synonyms for “hot.”
 One unusual part: he decided not to play a slower, more ballad-type song before “The Rising.”
 Another one!
 I told you – he was obsessed with the weather this evening.
- Meet Me in the City
- The Ties That Bind
- Sherry Darling
- Jackson Cage
- Two Hearts
- Independence Day
- Hungry Heart
- Out in the Street
- Crush On You
- You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
- I Wanna Marry You
- The River
- Point Blank
- Cadillac Ranch
- I’m a Rocker
- Fade Away
- Stolen Car
- The Price You Pay
- Drive All Night
- Wreck on the Highway
- The Promised Land
- It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City
- My Love Will Not Let You Down
- Because the Night
- Lonesome Day
- The Rising
- Thunder Road
- Detroit Medley
- Born to Run
- Dancing in the Dark
- Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)
- Bobby Jean