Bruce Springsteen brought his E Street Band to Baltimore over the weekend, kicking off the grand opening of the city’s $250 million renovated CFG Bank Arena to an enthusiastic, adoring, sold-out house.
With a new, reconfigured stage, the historic arena—originally known as the Civic Center—never sounded better, and it proved a hit in terms of a concert-viewing experience. Originally opened in the fall of 1962, the venue has hosted everyone from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to James Brown, The Jackson 5, and Elvis.
On Saturday night, the Eagles followed Springsteen at the arena—which is owned by the city, but managed and operated by the Los Angeles-based Oak View Group. A major sports and entertainment company, the Oak View Group is leveraging the renovated venue and its contacts in the music industry to bring more “A-list” artists to Baltimore. With Lizzo, Janet Jackson, and Blink-182, among others, all booked in the coming weeks—as well as national comedy acts, a monster truck show, professional wrestling, and “Stars on Ice” figure skating—the arena would appear to be on track to break previous annual attendance records as promised when Oak View began its privately funded renovations a year ago.
Meanwhile, as the 61-year-old arena desperately needed a renovation, Springsteen appeared almost ageless—ripping through 26 songs in an energetic 2.5 hours.
Among the early highlights were a cover of the Commodores’ “Night Shift,” from his most recent album of R&B and soul covers, Only the Strong Survive, and “Hungry Heart” with the local crowd—which stood throughout the entire show—singing the first verse and chorus:
Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going
The only personal exchange between Springsteen and the audience was related to his old friend George Theiss. Springsteen reminisced about their first band, The Castiles, which they started in New Jersey when he was 15 and lasted three years—a long time at that age, he noted. Springsteen talked about visiting Theiss before he passed in 2018, noting that he was now the last member of his teenage band still alive today. He then sang the ballad “Last Man Standing” alone on acoustic guitar.
Springsteen and the legendary E Street Band—featuring Steven Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Nils Lofgrin, and now Jake Clemons, the nephew of the late Clarence Clemons, on sax—soon kicked back into high gear with “Because the Night,” originally co-written with and for Patti Smith, “She’s the One,” “The Wrecking Ball,” “The Rising,” and “Badlands.”
The seven-song encore got rolling with “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” and included “Dancing in the Dark” and “Glory Days”—fittingly with the Orioles winning their home opener nearby at Camden Yards just hours earlier.
At 73, with the loss of loved ones and friends—as well as his own mortality clearly on his mind these days—”The Boss” finished with “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”