Jim Harrington in various local papers (I’ll link to the Tribune, but he’s syndicated or something):
Springsteen was joyful to the point of near-giddiness. The 63-year-old star shook hands, let fans strum his guitar, mugged with his E Street Band members and exuded more energy than most artists half his age -- all of which, I realize, are trademarks of his live show. Yet, the way he conducted himself seemed particularly genuine and natural on this night. He acted like he was having the time of his life as he performed before the capacity crowd.
And the feeling was most definitely mutual. Fans ate up pretty much everything Springsteen had to offer, which added up to 27 songs over the course of three-plus hours. …
The song that fans will still be talking about today, however, came at the start of his typically generous encore. He opened the five-song set with an epic version of "Kitty's Back," a treasured "deep cut" from 1973's "The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle." It stretched 12 minutes, roughly five more than found on the record, and was filled with more interesting jams than one would find during an entire String Cheese Incident tour.
The crowd had a blast. Yet, Springsteen seemed to be having at least as much fun as anybody.
Backstreets.com is the top site for hardcore fans, with reviews of every show for more than a decade. Jonathan Pont had this to say about Oakland 2012:
Take an old building in a hard-luck city and fill it with a Friday night crowd that began cheering when the lighting guys climbed their ladders a half-hour before the music began. That was the setting in Oakland, where a hard rain had fallen all morning before letting up just after noon, something that didn't appear lost on Bruce Springsteen.
He followed the E Street Band on stage at Oracle Arena, and with the lights up, "Land of Hope and Dreams" opened the show. Putting his newest old song (or oldest new one) first may seem like a novelty, but it takes Springsteen out of his comfort zone. …
[I]t's worth noting that Springsteen didn't let up … All night, he was strong in voice, strong in spirit, and made so many trips to the mid-floor riser I thought they actually might start asking to see his wristband. His crowd surf during "Hungry Heart" took longer than usual: Springsteen kept pointing toward the stage (really, people: is there someplace else to pass him?) and at one point he asked, "What the fuck?" with surprise in his voice. A lot of first-time attendees made themselves known at this show, and a few revealed a long-standing interest in Springsteen's music. If one had to guess, they'll be back.