Bruce played it loose again Monday at Xcel Energy Center with Max Weinberg and Little Steven Van Zandt. / Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

Bruce played it loose again Monday at Xcel Energy Center with Max Weinberg and Little Steven Van Zandt. / Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune


Springsteen fans who attended both the Sunday and Monday concerts at Xcel Energy Center will probably debate to no end over which was the better show. There were a lot of two-nighters in the crowd Monday, too, based on the response when Bruce asked about them. “We like repeat customers,” he cracked.

One point nobody can argue with, however, is how different each of the gigs was from the other. That much was apparent from the get-go Monday. Instead of the montage of new songs at the start of Sunday’s set list, the E Streeters kicked it off with a bunch of older deep-album cuts, starting with the surprise opener “I’m a Rocker” and soon followed by “Night,” “Loose Ends” and “Stolen Car.” With "Hungry Heart" also in the mix, that amounted to three tunes from 1980's "The River" up front. As beginnings go, those first 45 minutes weren’t just different from Sunday night, they were pretty unique to the entire tour.

Doing "10th Avenue Freeze-out" on Monday

Doing "10th Avenue Freeze-out" on Monday

OK, so Bruce did repeat some of his routine from Sunday night, like crowd-surfing his way from the middle of the arena to the stage -- but he did that right away during the second song, “Hungry Heart.” He also chugged a beer that a fan handed him both nights, this time during a version of “Waiting on a Sunny Day” for which he also brought up a girl, age 11 or so. She sang the final chorus solo and then ended with an emphatic rally cry, “Come on E Street!” That girl is officially cooler than you or I.

The audience interaction just kept on coming, much like it did Sunday. A woman who came from Rome got her wish to dance with Little Steven during “Dancing in the Dark,” which is also when another middle-age woman got to cozy up to Bruce thanks to the sign she waved declaring herself a vet (perhaps from the first Iraq War or earlier).

As far as the requests go, the only song that I know for sure came off a fan sign was the “Seeger Sessions” rouser “Pay Me My Money Down,” which actually wound up being one of the highlights of the show. The newly expanded, horn- and gospel-raised version of the E Street Band worked wonders in folky, rootsy tunes like that one, “Shackled and Draw” and the encore finale, “American Land,” plus it added a nice New Orleans-mournful undercurrent to “My City in Ruins.” The emotional centerpiece of the concert was another surprise, “Devils & Dust,” which Bruce dedicated to veterans for Veteran’s Day and performed with the full band in an extra-gritty, dark tone.

As for the dedication that the Boss and his crew got from the city of St. Paul, Bruce joked about that mid-show: “Yesterday, we had two streets named after us," he said. "Today... nothing!” They also didn’t wind up with a sold-out arena on Monday, with a few sections in the upper corners sitting vacant. If Bruce noticed the empty seats, he certainly didn’t seem to mind. In fact, it might’ve even made him work harder. He wouldn't want it to happen again, after all.

Crowd-surfing in "Hungry Heart"

Surfing in "Hungry Heart"

Here’s Monday’s full set list:

I'm A Rocker  /  Hungry Heart  /  No Surrender  /  Night  /  Loose Ends  /  Something in the Night  /  Stolen Car  /  We Take Care Of Our Own  /  Wrecking Ball  /  Death to My Hometown  /  My City Of Ruins  /  The E Street Shuffle  /  Pay Me My Money Down  /  Devils & Dust  /  Youngstown  /  Murder Incorporated  /  She's the One  /  Shackled and Drawn  /  Waitin' on a Sunny Day  /  The Rising  /  Badlands  /  Land of Hope and Dreams       ENCORE: Jungleland  /  Born To Run  /  Dancin' in the Dark  /  Tenth Avenue Freeze-out  /  American Land