I've seen three … well, plenty of fans have posted their impressions, but I've seen three newspaper reviews. Two are from the CC Times, and are not quite negative, but less than a rave. Both do the damning-with-faint-praise routine by saying it was a better show than just about any you might see, but not up to the standards Bruce has set over the years. (This isn't entirely inaccurate, and it's not enough to just respond by noting the band is a lot older than they used to be. But anyone seeing Bruce for the first time, unable to say "I saw him in '78 and this ain't '78," would have found the show to be very good, indeed.)
Jim Harrington brings his review down by demonstrating a rather uninformed perspective. He complained that there were too many new songs and not enough "greatest hits." This is true, but one thing that marks Bruce as different from nostalgia acts is that he is still doing vital new material … he doesn't just throw together an album to justify a tour. Magic is the #1 album in the country, which doesn't mean as much as it did back in the day, but it does mean Bruce is right to mix in plenty of new songs. The uninformed part is his bitching about the lack of "hits." He played four songs from Born to Run (that's half the album), including a revitalized "Thunder Road" (how much greater of a hit do you need? "Thunder Road" is surely at least in the Bruce All-Time Top Ten) and "Backstreets," which unlike the inevitable "Born to Run" doesn't get played every night. He played three from Darkness, including an incendiary "Adam Raised a Cain" which I, at least, hadn't seen him play in eight years.
The bit about the "short" length of the show, which was two hours exact, give or take a minute or two, is being talked about a lot by fans, and it's fair for Harrington (and also Tony Hicks in the Times) to bring up the subject. They make no mention of the aging of the band … maybe they think that's a topic that should be off limits? Clarence (and we have to be honest and note that it's Clarence we're talking about here) played very well last night, and the crowd loved his every note, as always. He also had a seat of his own, and he was in that seat a lot of the time, and when he played his biggest saxophone (I don't know my tenors from my sopranos, but the biggest one) he didn't even pick it up, but just played it on its stand. He moved pretty darned slow, too, although he is still and always the Big Man and he was cooler moving slow than anyone else in the building moving fast. But it seems clear … OK, we're just guessing, but it's a reasonable guess … that the shows on this tour, which "only" last two hours, and which are streamlined to avoid pointless emptiness (short breaks, or none at all, between songs, remarkably little Bruce Patter, no long band intros, one encore of five songs instead of two encores of six songs), are constructed in part to allow Clarence to participate, no, not just participate, but contribute at a high level. If anyone has earned the right to sit down, it's Clarence Clemons, and if it means a more rushed pace to minimize the actual time spent on stage, I can live with that. Besides, both Harrington and Hicks complain that parts of the show are too slow, while simultaneously saying things were too hurried. The reality is that Bruce, still a master showman, builds a show around what he's got, and the result is, during the faster numbers, a different but in its own way just as berserk concert experience as in their younger days. That's the upside to the let's-play-one-song-right-after-the-other presentation … it's like the Ramones, you shout "1-2-3-4" and the next song is underway.
Shay Quillen of the Mercury News had a much better time at the show. His take on the presentation was that it lacked some of the "goofy fun" of the past, but was "no-nonsense," "a great band performing the work of a still-vital 58-year-old rocker." Same show, in essence the same observation, but Quillen saw the positive aspect of the performance.