Not many artists can play for four hours and fewer still can bill a tour after one of the most iconic albums of all time and not play the title track. But we’re  talking about Bruce Springsteen. “Well, we’re back where we started,” he said Sunday evening as he strolled,  onstage in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. He kicked off “The River” tour here in January. That show featured the entire album, in sequence, where he peppered in choice hits and back catalog.  This time around, it was a complete 180 degree turn. “The River” was in the pepper shaker this time. Only two of the 32 songs performed were from the album. ”Cadillac Ranch” and “the lesser known “I’m A Rocker” were squeezed in at the midpoint of a colossal 32 song set where five tracks from 2002’s classic “The Rising,”  choice deep cuts and a few Top Tens shouldered most of  the heavy load. The remainder of this North American leg will feature a full string section. On this night, he showcased some tour debuts, tipped the four hour mark and made it clear that, at 67, he is nowhere near finished. After opening with ”New York City Serenade” featuring the string section he brought out local legend and longtime friend Joe Grushecky for the tour debut of “Light Of Day.” The next of many pleasant surprises came shortly thereafter when he broke into “You’re Missing,” from “The Rising.” It was last performed by the band in 2003. From then on, the iconic E Street Band put its foot on the gas and didn’t slow down for the next 230 minutes. Jake Clemons, the nephew of the late Clarence, proved that he is more than capable of filling the slot left vacant by the untimely death of his iconic uncle. He is equally effective shining out front on the high decibel “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” or playing as a subtle accompanist on “My City In Ruins.”


Guitarist Nils Lofgren showcased his talent later on the gritty cover of the Patti Smith Group’s “Because The Night” He twirled in his Mad Hatter ensemble and scorched one of the more notable yet often overlooked solos in the business. Given his four decade career being known as a classic rocker with a cla songwriting prowess often mentioned in the same sentence alongside Dylan, this Hall of Famer’s show would not be complete without bringing a lady onstage for a pop romp during “Dancing In The Dark.”

Given the somber significance of the date, the choice to include the rarity “American Skin (41 Shots),” a song  inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou ZDiallo, seemed to ring especially true in the wake of Trayvon Martin and the Orlando shootings. While this show did not have the narrative thread of “The River” album for cohesion, it felt more like vintage Springsteen; a case where timeless material, an ageless rocker and an unmatched work ethic made the whole was equally as great as the sum of its parts.