If Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band were a playground basketball team they'd be the one made up of local legends that don't have as much spring in their legs as the young bucks, but get by on guts and guile. Culled from the two Madison Square Garden shows that closed out the revived E Street Band's 1999-2000 road show, this 20-song collection deftly entwines fan favorites with fresher material, including two new offerings, the stately "Land of Hope and Dreams" and the solemn "American Skin"--the latter prompted by the shooting of unarmed New Yorker Amadou Diallo by police officers. When Springsteen and company (including both Miami Steve Van Zandt and his successor, Nils Lofgren, on guitar) look back, they temper the force of the original arrangements with ingenuity and a sense of spacing. The E Street Band in their heyday may have served up four-hour marathons, but they felt stopwatch-tight. Here Springsteen reconciles his rocker and reflective sides as "The River" curves along through a serpentine course, "Mansion on the Hill" is given a curious (albeit lovely) Hawaiian treatment, and "Born in the U.S.A." resurfaces as a deep-blues lament. The gang can still muster a take-no-prisoners attack, as witnessed by the hard-charging likes of "Two Hearts" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."
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