Setlists: 2009 (Jan-Aug)
August 2 / Monte Del Gozo / Santiago, ESP
To begin with, arriving through a small road to the auditorium on top of the hill was a real adventure that took a long time. According to the press, the organization oversold by thousands of tickets, resulting in a real overbooking, with around a thousand people who couldn't physically enter the venue and had to stay outside. Meanwhile, there were around 40,000 fans crushed inside and packing the house. The people outside tore down some fences trying to get in, and by just a pure miracle there wasn't a riot where people could get hurt. A lot of people ended up seeing the show from the grass outside the venue, and 50 of them went to the police station to file a report.
A bit after 10 p.m., the best version of Bruce Springsteen came onstage to offer a vibrant performance, similar to the one in Bilbao just one week ago. Nils Lofgren played the very popular "A Rianxeira" on the accordion, and the E Street Band quickly kicked off the show with a rousing "Badlands." Bruce was completely "on," tonight, and the tension and excitement grew and grew song after song.
"Adam Raised a Cain" was the first highlight of the night, an audible that took the show to another dimension. Bruce sang and played with fury, and the song smoked. It was a tremendous electric storm that continued with a fabulous "Murder Incorporated," where the guitar trio shone, followed by "Johnny 99" and a really great performance of another classic: "Darkness on the Edge of Town."
Thanks to a big sign held by a group of Italian fans Bruce debuted a tremendous version of Elvis Presley's "Burning Love." A superb performance that was followed immediately by an exciting "Born to Be Wild" that segued into "My Love Will Not Let You Down." Max went crazy on this one, and his final drum fills received a huge roar from the audience.
This was Bruce Springsteen at his best. The excitement and energy level never went down. Another sign request brought a beautiful "This Life," right into an immense "Backstreets" that filled the auditorium with emotion. It was epic: Bruce sang with passion, and everyone on the green hill was in awe.
With such high adrenaline levels both on stage and in the audience, there was a long, eight-song encore that started with a rare acoustic version of "No Surrender." That was followed by "Land of Hope and Dreams" and "American Land," plus the crowd favorites "Glory Days" and "Dancing in the Dark." A rousing "Rockin' All Over the World" led into the classic "Twist and Shout."
The audience couldn't stop singing, dancing, and jumping all over, and there was no way this could end. A totally unexpected and powerful "Born in the U.S.A." sent everyone hope with the feeling that we had attended a very special show.
- Salvador Trepat reporting - photographs by René van Diemen (1, 2, 4, 5) and Andrea Valvassori (3)
The show was highlighted by the return of "No Surrender," "Night," "Spirit in the Night" and "Trapped," all returning to the set list for the first time in a while. Powerful versions of "Seeds" and "Johnny 99" really got the crowd rolling, and when Bruce unfurled the first sign request"You ain't got the balls to play 'Great Balls of Fire'"it seemed as though it was just the challenge he was looking for. I think even the crowd was shocked when the band launched right into the 1957 classic (written by Otis Blackwell, but made popular by Jerry Lee Lewis). Not unlike "You Never Can Tell" a few nights earlier in Bilbao, the band nailed it, and raised the energy level even more. The second request was "blind," so to speak. Bruce held up a poster-sized "letter" addressed to him which he opened after "Great Balls of Fire," asking if he'd please play "Something in the Night," which was really well done. The third request was a bit of a birthday gift and a surprise, none other than "Surprise, Surprise" from Working on a Dream, with Happy Birthday wishes going out from Bruce to the 14-year-old girl who requested it.
"My Love Will Not Let You Down" and "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" both stayed in late in the set, and "American Skin" was perfectly executed and powerful. The encore, which began with "Seven Nights to Rock" and ended with "Twist and Shout," had the crowd on its feet the entire time.
I was fortunate enough to run into Nils Lofgren in my hotel over breakfast the next morning. I complimented him on the evening's show, and he responded that he thought the audience was great, which was quite indicative of the ongoing affection between the band and the Spanish crowds. One last show in the historic city of Santiago de Compostela, then it's back to the U.S. for a slightly weary-looking band that has played their hearts out in Europe this summer.
There were tour debuts of "Girls in Their Summer Clothes", "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" (slowed down, unrehearsed, not really his best version) plus a nice full-band "If I Should Fall Behind."
Sevilla's Olympic Stadium provided enough of a ground level atmosphere to support the Bruce's raw power, despite the fact that many seats remained empty towards the back of the arena. The now-traditional European accordion intro from Nils got the typically rowdy Spanish crowd going, so another "Badlands" intro did seem to be in order, and the Boss rarely misses a trick. A surprise "My Love Will Not Let You Down" worked well early in the set, and the ever-crowd pleasing “Hungry Heart” never disappoints as a sing-along.
As with San Mamés, "Working on a Dream" gained one of the best receptions of the night, complete with arm-waving and booming Spanish voices. The return of "Seeds" now seeemed a little misplaced in the set, but it was worth it to watch Bruce lose himself in the angry solo. And as "Johnny 99" rolled into the station, the crowd came back, fueling this locomotive of a song with the energy it now demands. The remarkable version of “"Youngstown" which has been played at a few points in the tour (I was lucky enough to see it in London in June) slowed the show down beautifully.
Request time. The most exciting part of the show... usually. However, not as many signs appeared as usual in Sevilla; a banana puzzled Bruce as he was handed it with a request written upon it. I was a little disappointed for "Raise Your Hand" to remain just an instrumental but then, in the Boss's own words, a "very obscure" choice of "Quarter to Three." It is an amazing feeling to experience something you know you probably never will again, and this is exactly what you get during a rare Springsteen request moment, just like the Chuck Berry cover two nights before. Another nice surprise came with "The E Street Shuffle," played just like the recordit seemed strange for Bruce not to change it up at all, but was very nice to see. There was then a pause as the Boss scrambled to find a request worth playing. He and Stevie finally settled on "Loose Ends" which, seeming forced due to lack of choice, didn't come across as well as it could have.
After a strange request section, Bruce picked it up as he always has the ability to do. "Darlington County" played with a great velocity followed by "She's the One." The perfect remedy, both songs resonating beautifully in the late Sevilla night. "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" once again had Bruce giving the mic to a young child to sing the chorus. Unfortunately, this boy didn't quite have the singing capabilities of the "young Bruce" of two nights before, but he opted to give the Boss some of his sunflower seeds instead.
The best surprise of the night: "I'm on Fire." Perfectly placed, with the precision and timing only associated with one man. The Boss brought a chair out to the front of the stage runway to sing the second verse. "American Skin (41 Shots)" seemed a little lost on the Spanish crowd, as many of the slower songs did, but it did work well with the previous track. "Lonesome Day" and "The Rising" then picked up the crowd as they always do, the latter in particular getting everyone going, followed by what else but "Born to Run."
Without a soul but Max Weinberg leaving the stage, the encore began. Jay Weinberg entered on drums for "Glory Days," unfortunately lacking in the now customary "Stevie, what time is it?" dialogue. But throughout the encore, it was quite clear that it was still "Boss Time." Seven fingers to the band indicated "Seven Nights to Rock," and "American Land," to my surprise, garnered one of the best receptions of the night, with the Spanish crowd knowing almost every word. Then came the best moment of the night for me, as Bruce screams "Professor!" and the magical piano intro to "Bobby Jean" came belting out from the stage. "Dancing in the Dark" was obviously a crowd favorite, with a lucky señorita plucked from the crowd, and finally another show-closing "Twist and Shout." Five minutes in and the Boss collapses to the floor; a roadie runs on stage with an oxygen mask, straps it around Bruce’s face and... and... he makes a miraculous recovery in time to complete the song. A true showman. The humor at this point went down well with the crowd as they got fully involved.
Although not as relentless as the show in Bilbao two nights before, the encore proved once again the sheer might of Bruce and the E Street Band. The Boss showed just how consistent he can be throughout his tour, playing just as well for a Sevilla show with empty seats as he did at Glastonbury a whole month previous.
July 26 / Estadio San Mamés / Bilbao, ESP
Just the right tonic, it seems, as there looked to be plenty of energy left to fuel the passion of the rabid Spanish audiences that have created this love affair for El Jefe over the years. Adding to the likelihood of a special evening was Estadio San Mames (The Cathedral) itselfthe old warhorse of Spanish stadiums, originally built in 1913, renovated modestly since then but literally falling apart at the seams, broken chairs and all. For some reason, these types of venues tend to bring out the best in Bruce, and tonight was no exception.
There was little if any resemblance between the current iteration and the shows played when the tour began; what has evolved is more of a Reunion or late Magic tour style show, where the band reaches deep into the catalog and just tries to have fun. This was evident on many levels tonight, right out of the gate with "The Ties That Bind" into "Badlands" into "Hungry Heart" opening trio. "Outlaw Pete" was powerful and an early highlight. "Working on the Highway," with Bruce on acoustic guitar, was exceptional. Only "Johnny 99" remains from the original "recession" part of the showinstead, Bilbao got "Murder Incorporated," a beautiful "Factory" (a request) and "This Hard Land" (an audible). "Because the Night" was thrown in for good measure, with Nils' solo typically brilliant. (This replaced "Streets of Fire," which was originally on the setlist.)
After collecting no fewer than 30 signs during the intro to "Raise Your Hand," Bruce seemed perplexed about which to play and in what order. With a Santa Claus hat collected along with the signs and hanging from his back pocket, the band broke into "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"; they followed with "Thunder Road" and a rare treat of "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" All of this worked really well, but the energy level kicked up several notches during "My Love Will Not Let You Down," where the side-by-side-by-side searing guitar work of Bruce, Nils and Steve was remarkable. "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" was a crowd favorite, made particularly special when Bruce brought a young boy on stage and handed him the micamazingly, the boy sang the chorus perfectly, with Bruce's arm around him. "The Promised Land" into "The River" never disappoints, and the set closed with the fairly typical "Lonesome Day," "The Rising" and "Born to Run," preceded by a slightly off-key "Radio Nowhere," which seemed a bit lost and sandwiched in late in the set.
Expecting the band to go off stage after "Born to Run," I was a bit surprised when Bruce charged back into the crowd to pick up yet another sign, which he brought back to the band, then picked up a guitar. It was tonight’s "Stump the Band" moment, and after a few minutes of trying to get the key and chords right, the band broke into the night’s biggest highlight and surprise: Chuck Berry's "You Never Can Tell." It always amazes me to see this band take a song from way outside of their repertoire and absolutely nail it. The pumped-up crowd went into a frenzy after this one, and it was only after we went straight into "Jungleland" and "American Land" did I realize that there wasn’t going to be a break in the show at all and this was the encore. As if this weren't enough, Bruce brought "Rosie" out for the Spanish crowd, which danced onward to "Dancing in the Dark." Bruce collapsed afterwards with guitar in hand, saying, "No mas! Mo mas!" But of course there was mas, and the band closed with "Twist and Shout," complete with La Bambas.
Three hours and 29 songs later we all filed out at 1 a.m. My friend, who was with me tonight at his first ever Bruce show, was shaking his head in disbelief that any band is able to do what they did tonightto have the energy and the stamina to play their hearts out for three straight hours. Exactly how old are these guys, he asked? And how many shows do they play like this over the course of the tour? Just four more this week, I responded, then back to the U.S. for another 25 or so. Just un otra dia en el vida.
July 23 / Stadio Friuli / Udine, ITA
Bruce was great, as usualno news there!and the band played strong, with some excellent moments. The opening number was an accordion trio, with Nils joined by Roy and Charlie, playing a fiesta dance song like a tarantella. That introduced "Sherry Darling," a rare one for the first E Street song of the night.
The crowd was not the usual Bruce audience, the one that knows all the words and sings alongmaybe due to the fact that Udine is close to the border of ex-Yugoslavia, where Bruce has never played. Many came from that land to be introduced to the best rock 'n' roll show we can attend these days for the first time. So a less "crazy" Italian crowd, but new people had the chance to experience Bruce and his music, and this is always good.
"Summertime Blues" and "Twist and Shout" were pure, vintage rock 'n' roll, slipping into "La Bamba" as well, with Bruce as the master of ceremonies, generating some great call-and-response. Just a pity he didn’t think to add "Do You Love Me" like he did in 1984-1985, it probably would've torn down some stadiums walls! "Be True" was a premiere that I don't think many here were waiting for, judging by the tepid responseas opposed to "Streets of Fire,” which was a gift for this crowd as an unexpected but always long-awaited song.
Lots of fun at the end, when Bruce collapsed to the floor, exhausted, asking for a large, folded card, that opened to reveal the word grappa (which is the famous drink of this land). Little Steven poured some grappa on the Boss (was it really water? Probably, but who cares!) and he stood back up, rejuvenated for the usual great finale.
Bruce is untouchable for the quantity and quality of the music, the intensity, the emotions, and his ability to make all of the crowd part of his show. He may be bringing us more joy than in 2002-2003, but he still makes us think, and even makes us cry, just as he makes us enjoy, smile and have fun. He gives his mic to a child to sing; he brings a girl up from the pit to dance with; he drives the crowd into the songs and makse them part of it. Being on stage as the best live act there iswhich he demonstrated over these three Italian showsBruce clearly remembers that it is also (and in no small part) thanks to his crowd. There are no kind of walls or limits between Bruce and his audience, from the first row in the pit to the last row in the faraway seats.
July 21 / Stadio Olimpico / Torino, ITA
Thank God I was there. Not only because the setlist included a good nine songs not performed during the previous show, six of them tour premieres (can anybody in the pop-rock business top that these days?), but due to the energy and joy Bruce and the E Street Band brought to that very same stage they had hit twice 21 years before, both with the Tunnel of Love Tour and the Human Rights Now! Tour. "Loose Ends" was a brilliant choice to begin the setlist with. "American Skin" was surprisingly played two nights in a row, as if Bruce knew that racism and intolerancein the Berlusconi erais increasing under the Italian skies. "Murder Incorporated" was another unexpected number that worked very well after "Working on a Dream," as a warning that when you are fullfilled with promises of a better government you always have to remember of all the things that didn't work before the election. So less of a "recession segment" tonight, but but then three songs"Drive All Night," "Two Hearts" (which included the now standard "It Takes Two" coda) and "My Love Won't Let You Down"that smartly followed a thematic fil rouge.
The preparation for "Drive All Night" was hilarious. When the band broke into "Raise Your Hand" to let Bruce collect signs for requests, three identical, sealed and numbered envelopes reached the stage. After playing a rockin' "Travelin' Band" (in a matter of days John Fogerty will perform in a few Italian cities), Bruce decided to open those envelopes. Inside, the first one says "Drive All Night." Bruce shakes his head; "naah, too difficult and long," he seemes to say, while the crowd dives into visible desperation. Envelope 2, the paper inside says "Drive All Night" once again. The trick is almost revealed, so when Bruce opens envelope 3 everybody is screamingand needless to say, marked in black is "Drive All Night"and a collective dream comes true. In a show really close to perfection (every musical ingredient is there, almost every Bruce topic woven through the setlist), "Drive All Night" is a brilliant example of how the art and magic of Bruce Springsteen not only lies in what the audience usually gets, but
If four songs from Born in the U.S.A. played in Rome (plus "Pink Cadillac to boot) weren't enough, here we got another batch from that chartbuster, adding "Working on the Highway," "Glory Days," and the tour premiere of "My Hometown" to the Italian roster. (In Udine, "Downbound Train" and "I'm Goin' Down" could now make a bunch of fans happy).
The night before the Torino gig, while recovering from the first of three Italian Bruce Springsteen shows (a memorable rock 'n' roll evening already reported here), I felt so tired that I almost fearednot even turned 48my golden age of rock 'n' roll fanatism and activism was suddenly over. The "pit experience," though very satisfying, had been particularly stressful. My back was on fire, my legs were gone. My head was in turmoil. My nerves were shaking. Plus, Bruce was reported a few miles from my apartment watching Ennio Morrricone and his orchestra performing and I decided not to go. Squeezedthat's how I felt after spending two months retouching my new book and getting ready for the three upcoming E Street Band concerts. In the end, while walking home I couldn't hold a couple of tears. Now, after one of the best Springsteen concerts I've ever seen, I feel "born again," like Bruce himself in "Leap of Faith." Thanks one more time to the power of rock 'n' roll, I don't think about buying a fishnet yet, and I am sure I have a few more miles to go.
"I would love to hear 'Once Upon a Time in the West' while you are entering stage in Rome..." I asked Bruce when I interviewed him a month ago. He kept his word, and after that intro the following "Badlands" and "Outlaw Pete" (with "Out in the Street" interpolated) sounded like a Western saga: the duel under the moon between Bruce and the crowd ended up with 45,000 people shouting “Can you hear me?” and yes, he surely could. I don't know if the Italian fans are the best in the worldbut along with the Spanish, they are the wildest, there's no doubt about it.
"We are so glad to play in the most beautiful city in the world," Springsteen said before the Recession Trilogy (where "Atlantic City" replaced "The Ghost of Tom Joad"). As he said, "My favorite promise is to tell you the bad news and the good news." Good news arrived after he collected the signs from the crowd: "Hungry Heart," "Pink Cadillac," "Surprise, Surprise" (for the 35th birthday of a Jersey fan) and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" are perfect for a continuous and joyful call-and-response between Bruce and the audience.
It’s time for "The River" now, but Bruce decides to play "American Skin" insteadthe highlight of the show, a stunning rendition of this beautiful, underrated song. "Because the Night" and "Kingdom of Days" were scheduled, but there's no time for them. At the end of "Born to Run" the band doesn’t even leave the stage, Bruce asks for some silence and then he says, "We don’t play this one often. We want to dedicate this song to the people of L’Aquila." And that's when I found my heart broken and my eyes in tears.
The day before the show, I was on the radio with Steve Van Zandt, and I gave him a letter for Bruce that I received from "Vittorio and the fans from L’Aquila." The letter says, "Dear Bruce, for long time I have dreamed to have a chance to ask you a song that is special to me. Today I want to ask you a song that has unfortunately acquired a new and stronger meaning to me and many of my friends since last April, 6. That day, our area was struck by a terrible earthquake. About 300 people died, thousands were injured, tens of thousands are now homeless and they do not know when they will be able to have their homes rebuilt. Most of the people are still living in tents; factories, offices, schools, the university, everything is gone now, and it is difficult to think about tomorrow. Our city is in ruins, Bruce, so some days ago I found myself thinking that I would love to listen to 'My City of Ruins' in the show in Rome, and so would my friends from L’Aquila and all the area, as many of us will be there for you.
A lengthy applause rises from the stadium at the end of the song, as Bruce blows the first notes of "Thunder Road" on his harmonica. A surprise "You Can't Sit Down," follows (a 1963 hit by The Dovells). On "American Land" two very special guests join Bruce on stage: Adele and Edie Zirilli, his mom and auntie, jigging like two young Irish dancers. At 1:25 am (!), the show ends with a wild "Twist and Shout," including snippets of "La Bamba." The Boss kept all his promises.
The show was a bit shorter than usual, as due to the fetival arrangement, they had "only" two-and-a-half hours to play. No Nils accordion intro, for one thing. But otherwise the opening was similar to recent European shows. "Badlands" and "No Surrender," for starters, who could argue with this? There had been a storm in the forecast and we did get a taste of the infamous local drizzle, but the only rolling thunder was on stage as the band geared up for the Recession pack. Brilliant play by Nils, Steve and Bruce on "Seeds" and "Johnny 99," followed by "Youngstown" and a bonus "Darkness."
The fans offered some rarities for the sign colection. "41 Shots" would have been a nice pick given the latest incidents involving police violence in Sarkozy's France... Bruce went for "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" and "I'm Goin' Down." Songs from "Born in the U.S.A." featured well into the finale5 of them in all, including "Dancing in the Dark" for which Bruce obliged a self-proclaimed "French Courteney Cox" by inviting her on stage. A nice treat just before the band brought the house down on "Twist and Shout."
Radio France had a partial broadcast from the festival, as well as an Exclusive interview with Springsteen.
July 14 / Hampden Park / Glasgow, SCT
At exactly 8:00, Nils strolled on with an accordian to play "Flower of Scotland," which got the mass throng behind the band from the off. One by one the E Street band filed onto the stage until Springsteen himself strolled on last... cue mass hysteria. Straight into "Badlands,” the crowd are bouncing as one, and everyone I can see has a beaming smile ear to ear. Gem after gem is played, "My Lucky Day" goes over like a long lost classic, and Bruce is pressing flesh with the front few rowsafter "She's the One," he gives his harmonica to a guy in the front row who practically bursts into tears right on camera! Bruce was a man intent on making it a night to remember for everyone: constantly falling backwards into the crowd, slapping hands, pointing crazy hats out, stretching his guitar neck into the throngs, and when he spoke to the crowd, he did it in his best Scottish accent, Shrek style.
Springsteen calls out "Working on the Highway," and it seems the band weren’t expecting it, guitars had to be swiftly changed. Bruce set up his mic near the front and gave those lucky enough to be around one of the three platforms a barnstorming performance. He was scoping the crowd for something, and then when he sang the line "pretty little miss" he zeroed in on a woman sitting on someone's shoulders and did a pelvic thrust.
The “Seeds"/"Johnny 99"/"Atlantic City" trilogy was one of the main highlights for me, "Johnny 99" was especially was incredible in this rawkus, stretched-out version. Then request time arrives, and my fears about no signs are unfounded. Bruce spends a few minutes collecting from every part of the walkway, and something catches his eyehe mouths, "Fuck me!" and struggles to carry this huge sign (big enough to fit on the side of a bus) on to the stage. After the bandmembers smile and nod their heads, he then turns it around so we can see: "Incident on 57th Street." He rests it on the riser and says, "Bear with us while we figure this one out..." Bruce, Nils, and Steven have a little meeting, then they break to pull it off with aplomb. The camera zooms in on a woman in the front row who is crying tears of joyand I mean a river of tears.
The next sign is for "Pink Cadillac," and Bruce takes the time to point out the "collage" effect, which gets "20 extra points," and the glitter on the sign... again, the man is having a ball out there. "All that work,” he says, and he starts to play the intro before noticing his guitar tech standing next to him with a new guitar. ”Oh, kinda fucked that one up, didn't I? Well, if you're gonna fuck it up, might as well fuck it up at the start!" After changing his guitar and trying to get the intro right: "Shit, that’s Peter Gunn!... Okay, got it now!" he says before leading the crowd and band into a mass singalong. The sign set finishes with "Cover Me" as requested by 17-year-old Rebecca.This leads into “WAITING ON A SUNNY DAY” "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" ends with Bruce handing the mic to a little girl held up by her beaming father; Bruce speaks to her softly and gets her to sing back the chorus to him. A great moment when Bruce takes the kid's hat off and plants a kiss on her forehead.
On the home stretch as the main set comes to an end, "The Rising" sounds very strong, and "Radio Nowhere" has beefed up immensely; before we know it, “Born to Run” is finishing and 140 minutes have flown by. The band don’t leave the stage, instead they soak up the adulation, Bruce telling Scotland that he won't leave it so long the next time. Then we're into "Hard Times," another highlight for me. Bruce digs out a sign for "Thunder Road" and places it front and center, and a mass singalong follows. "American Land," with Evan Springsteen on guitar, has the crowd jigging away and Bruce changes some lyrics to include Scotland in it. After "Bobby Jean" and "Dancing," the crowd wants more, but Bruce hams it up: "Glasgow cant handle any more! Glasgow is done, you're finished! You don’t have it in you! You're spent!!" Hell no, of course, and Bruce leads the band in one more: a ten-minute "Twist and Shout" complete with a chorus of "La Bamba." Given the length of time we waited for this gig to happen, we can only hope that it wasn't a last hurrahBruce and the band are on fire right now, playing with such conviction and joy.
The building a house shtick echoed the previous night's, with some additional local references such as the presence of Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll in the crowd. Charlie was particularly noticeable tonight on "Seeds," with fantastic playing complementing Bruce's almost maniacal licks, showing great synergies between the players. "Youngstown" made a welcome return with Nils again in full exhilarating flight. "Darkness" filled out the recession set beautifully in the slowly fading light.
A very extended instrumental "Raise Your Hand" had Charlie again impressing, playing some lovely fills along side Steve's rolling runs. Bruce gathered a multitude of signs and opened the request section with a very funny "Spirit in the Night"there was a significant silence as he held the mic out for the crowd to take their line, and he had to comment "that's terrible!" The biggest singalong of the evening came during "Proud Mary," with poeple boogie-ing nicely, the RDS now illuminated by a gorgeous setting sun, sending fabulous colours across the sky. "Prove It all Night" was crisp and pure, a pinnacle; Steve sang brilliantly and for the guitar solo Bruce nodded to Nils and they engaged in a mezmerising duel. On "Trapped" the saxaphone cut through the night, clear and perfect.
During "Sunny Day" Bruce made a few false throws before finally hurling his guitar to Kevin, and when he finally did it was way offthere was no possible way for Kevin to catch it. "Sorry Kev!" laughed Bruce. That guitar will need some work!
The vast crowd began to try to set up a Mexican wave during the latter part of "The Promised Land." Maybe noticing this, Bruce regained full control of the stadium again by going straight into "Radio Nowhere," and Max was utterly astounding on this one. Then we were graced with a most unexpected "American Skin (41 Shots)," full on and magnificent.
"Jungleland" brought a hush of joy over this warm summer evening. Steve's solo was note-perfect, and Clarence just stunned the housethis is everything a Springsteen concert is about, those clear sax notes nailing the night to the stars, creating freedom love and joy below.
The encores ratcheted up the energy further, Bruce shouting, "I need the glory of Little Steven here," and they played a powerful, high-energy Rosalita. "Its time to go, there's a curfew!" "I don't want to go home," answered a clowning Steven; "But there's a curfew...well, what time is it?" Steven cries, "It's curfew-busting Boss time!" Then Steven started hitting Bruce over the head with a huge doll-shaped sign for Girls in their Summer Clothes, which was hilarious, and Bruce proceded to ignore him and play "Dancing." It was absolutely clear who was the Boss! On a final uplifting "Twist and Shout," a quite remarkable night ended after 3 hours and ten minutes with a few bars of "Louie Louie," and Bruce crying, "We've lost our minds!"
In "Working on a Dream," Bruce modified his house-building speech to great effect: "The mighty E Street Band has flown thousands of miles to be here tonight! We didn't come here just to eat fish and chips... although that would have been reason enough! We didn't come all this way just to sip Guinness in Long's Bar and O'Donoghue's... although that would have been reason enough! We didn't just come to look at all the beautiful Irish girls..." You get the picture! It was funny and locally relevant, and made the evening feel very participatory.
Despite the wicked weather the show seemed to go by in a flashthe crowd and the band were so into it. The crowd was loud, very loud, and there was a lot (I mean a lot) of alcohol consumed; definitely no sign of the recession in Dublin tonight. And yet one of the real highs, musically, was the recession triumvirate, which was scintillating: "Seeds" had rivetting guitar work from Bruce, highlighted in exquisite detail on the huge screen behond the band. "Johnny 99" completely rocked the house, and on "Ghost of Tom Joad" Nils played out of his skin, with a huge roar of appreciation as he finished. The sign requests brought a full-band "For You" and the tour premiere of "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)."
On "Because the Night," interestingly, Bruce traded guitar licks with Nils, as opposed to the usual arrangement where Nils takes the full whirling dervish solo. After this song, Bruce-the-Weather-God picked up an enormous, two-handled banner requesting "Sunny Day," and he and Steven pointed to the sky where a beautiful rainbow had just appeared. As they began the song, to my utter disbelief, the clouds scudded across the sky leaving a miraculous hole of blue sky over this diluvian scene. Our spirits rose as the rain departed with the racing clouds, the first let-up in a downpour that had lasted about six hours. And Bruce continued his long-running tradition of making absolutely any form of headgear look good on him as he goofballed around with a damp fedora with a ridiculous flower on his head. "The River" was a magnificent Irish sing-along, with the whole crowd singing it pretty much word perfect.
Family night in the encore: The Big Man's nephew Jake Clemons joined his uncle on sax for "Tenth Avenue," and next, Bruce's son Evan played guitar. "American Land" turned into one enormous Irish Ceili, and "Twist and Shout" would have brought the roof down, if there had been a roof! A 30-song show, and a great first night in Dublin.
July 8 / MHC Messecenter / Herning, DEN
On to the concert: After a little trouble with mics and sound for his accordion, Nils played "En yndig og frydefuld sommertid," a Danish traditional song about the pretty and wonderful summertime. After that, the band broke into "Badlands," as if they were trying to blow a hole in the dark clouds above. I can't remember if I have ever seen the band that "on" from the very first second. "No Surrender" was a beautiful tribute to Danny with the old pictures on the screen, and intense vocals from Bruce. A surprise "Candy's Room" was as energetic as ever.
After the "Financial Crisis" trilogywhich I particularly enjoyed as I haven't heard "Seeds" since '88, and which also included "Atlantic City"it was time for the requests. I have gotten tired "Hungry Heart" some tours ago, but it was followed by a welcome return of "Rendezvouz" as well as "Mony Mony."
A rare awkward moment came in the harmonica intro to "The Promised Land." It didn't sound rightand then Bruce figured out he had turned the harmonica upside down! It might have upset him 20 years ago, but this time he just laughed and played the intro again. For me it took some of the seriousness out of the song, but heyit's Bruce screwing up, you don't get to see that every day! Generally, the mood was very loose and fun on stage all night. Bruce seemed a little exhausted at this point in the show, and his voice seemed a bit strained, but then he calmed things down with "The River" and "I'm on Fire" played back to back, which gave him a chance to catch his breath again.
One of the signs Bruce collected was a very large one from a young kid, beautifully made, every letter painted with lots of colorsBruce rewarded it by playing the song, "Surprise Surprise," and giving his compliments. "A lot of time and effort must have gone in to making this one!" Another standout was a thermometer for "Burning Love"unfortunately unplayed.
After six encores (although you can hardly call it that, as once again they didn't leave the stage after "Born to Run"), including "Rosalita" and a never ending "Twist and Shout" with "La Bamba," just like in Buenos Aires in '88, it all ended after 2 hours and 50 minutes. In my humble opinion it was the best one of the 11 I have seen since '88, due to the "house party" mood and looseness of the show.
July 5 / Ernst Happel Stadion / Vienna, AUT
Speaking of the Danube, Nils opened with an accordion version of Johann Strauss' classic waltz "An der schoenen blauen Donau," before the band ripped into an unusual "Jackson Cage" kicking off the show, followed by "Badlands" and a relatively rare "Cover Me"not a bad start at all. During the sign collecting, the Big Man held up a sign of his own, asking for The Clash's "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," which Bruce unfortunately rejected. But who was complaining when we got "Growin' Up," "Rendezvous," and the tour premiere of "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"certainly one of the show's definitive highlightsinstead? Appearing later in the set, "Into The Fire" was another (very much unexpected) tour debut, and a truly fine performance at that.
Even the new material, in particular "Outlaw Pete," went over really well with the Viennese crowd, who are normally notorious for their somewhat reserved attitude at outdoor rock concerts, but not tonight. By the time the ladies and gentlemen of E Street had finished their stomping rendition of CCR's "Proud Mary" (another sign request), Springsteen pretty much owned the place. And come the encores, everybody up to the stadium's nosebleeds were off their butts, raising their hands and dancing in the dark.
The real "holy shit" moment of the evening, however, occurred during the band's pre-encore bows. The screen camera zoomed into the pit, and there was a young woman sitting on someone's shoulders, wearing an orange "Jersey Girl" logo t-shirt. It appears that Bruce motioned the camera operator to keep the focus on her, and eventually, the shirt came off (she was wearing a bra underneath). Bruce had the shirt handed over to him onstage, showed it to the crowd and said, "Well, I guess we'll have to play that one now, right?" The whole place went totally ape, and then followed what was one of the most awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing moments I have ever witnessed at a Springsteen show: What else but an absolutely beautiful rendition of "Jersey Girl," performed for the first time ever outside the U.S.
Previous show reports had already suggested that these guys are seriously on fire on this European leg of the tour, and after witnessing tonight's concert, I can only confirm that. They just keep getting better and better and are continuously raising the bar, it seems. Another unforgettable night even the most casual Austrian concert-goer most certainly will remember for a long, long time.
July 3 / Commerzbank-Arena / Frankfurt, GER
The images displayed on the screens are terrific, with the cameras letting us watch the fretwork in fascinating detail. The huge screen behind the stage is dramatic in its effect, and the images displayed underpin the songs; with deep red hues, and images of prison bars, nothing was left to doubt as to the content of the songs such as "Johnny 99."
After this one, Bruce paused and called, "Give me an F harp, Kev." As he slowly began to strum, he said, "Now I'm gonna count the band ineasy..." and they played a very unexpected "Factory," a new arrival to the Recession Pack. With such a setlist so far, this was turning in to a real "Night 2." "Factory was followed by a sublime "Something in the Night," played only once before on this tour. A wonderful array of songs followed in the request section, starting with a very uplifting "I'm Goin' Down." After this Steve pointed to a request on the floorBruce seemed to hesitate, but Steve was absolutely insistent, pointing and saying "that one, that one!" The resulting "Ramrod" was a real treat, and Bruce played it while wearing a green inflatable floating ring with the words "Quarter to Three" written on it, struggling to reach the mic as the ring shifted up around his neckvery funny, and a little surreal!
The roar of appreciation for Nils' solo after "Because the Night" was the loudest of the evening. If that weren't enough, the boundless beauty of "Point Blank" seeped gloriously into the night air, revealing all the brilliance of the man who wrote it, as Bruce sang this song as if he meant and felt every word of it.
Again, after the bows following "Born to Run," the band stayed on stage to go straight into the encores. Bruce unfurled a rolled sign that read, "Play Jungleland - many concerts, never Jungleland." Bruce smiled, rolled the request back up and then the beauty began again, and Clarence's solo pierced into the night, awesomely perfect, uniting 50,000 folk as time seemd to temporarily stand still.
Guitars were flayed and seared during an incendiary "Johnny 99," with Steve and Bruce just ripping at the strings in a frenzied mutual attack on their guitars. At the end of the instrumental "Raise your Hand" for the sign collection section, Bruce went to the mic and "played" the squeaking of a green squeezy plastic toy he had picked up in the crowd. It was hilarious, he threw it away, and then went bang! into an extended "Seven Nights to Rock." The Birthday Boy was instructed to "Play it Royonly 60 keys!"
Then taking a random choice from a series of numbered requests, Bruce opened number 3 to find the words "This Hard Land," called for a G harp, and they just nailed it. It was really turning into the Professor's night, with Roy excelling on this one, and then most of the band taking solos, from Soozie to a sax closer from Clarence.
But the true high of the evening was yet to come. Bruce picked up a massive sign, and as he held it forward he said "We don't know this song, but this is an example of a great sign." He read from the sign the words "Ooh Pretty Woman So sexy for Roy," and laughed: 'I think they mean you, Roy!" There was a picture of a beautiful woman on the sign, and Bruce said that "íf Roy had this woman, he'd never have another birthday!" Then taking on the request: "Dare we, dare we? We don't know this one... what about the bridge,is there a C in there?" Then they began to play "Pretty Woman," and it was utterly fantastic, such a spontaneous, wonderful moment of creation by the whole E Street Band. As they finished, Bruce yelled, "We did it! I´m keeping this sign forever!" and absolute pandemonium broke out as the crowd cheered.
A glorious, tinkling, crystal bell passage from Roy introduced a spellbinding "Because the Night" with a stadium-stunning solo from Nils, exhibiting his utter mastery. "Kingdom of Days" made a very welcome return after another perfect "River."
After two-and-a-quarter hours the band took their bows, but never left the stage, rolling into the encores to make it really a single set just shy of three hours. The "Detroit Medley" had the whole place dancing like loons. As Bruce thanked us for coming, he looked over the vast swathes of poeple, and said, "A beautiful night, a perfect night to play. It's great to stand up here on a night like thisyou're feeling really lucky. You're a fabulous audience, thank you so much, Munich." I can only agree, and say that those of us there were very lucky indeedthis was a standout show.
The reaction to "Outlaw Pete" was surprisingly the strongest of the early tunes, with a lot of participation and pure pleasure in the cowboy hat shtick. "Out in the Street" seemed to falter somewhat, with Bruce struggling to hit the highest notes and Clarence having a tough time with the sax solo. The Big Man, however, redeemed himself throughout the evening, and seemed at the end to be stronger than ever.
A mesmerizing, extended version of "Atlantic City," a tour premiere, was a perfect addition to the "hardship trio" of songs. "Hungry Heart" was fun, and I must say from where I was the Swiss did not remember the first verse so well, but the chorus was no problem! The band was loose for the requested "I Fought the Law," the Bobby Fuller Four hit and clearly another tribute to Joe Strummer. During the middle Bruce exclaimed that he thought there's a solo part somewhere, and then nailed itfun and frenzied. Like "Atlantic City," the rare "Downbound Train" was haunting and perfect for the mood and the times we're in. Then "Because the Night" as the sun descended on Bern, bringing some much needed cooler winds, perhaps generated by Nils whirling around the stage. There was a very artistic sign for "The River" that Bruce had pulled out to quite a few cheers earlier, and he brought the sign back out to play it later on. According to a Swiss radio report the morning after, "The River" was the highlight for many in attendance.
A few songs later and we’re already to the set closer "Born to Run" (lights up), but the band doesn't leave, and the stage lights go dark. A spontaneous "Thunder Road" emerges like magic in the night, Bruce playing the classic song to the yearning of the crowd in all its sincerity and passion. By the end of the evening, the notoriously reserved Swiss were eating off the palms of the band's sweaty hands, hopping fervently during "American Land" and dancing happily in the dark (with some cues from Steve).
Finally, in a surprise extra song for those who've been following the tour, it was John Fogerty's "Rockin' All Over the World" to close, its second performance of the tour prompted by a long sign that said something like, "Hey Marissa, go see if Bruce is still Rockin' all Over the World." Well, as everyone bore witness in Bern last night, indeed he isand thank God for that!
June 28 / Hard Rock Calling - Hyde Park / London, UK
Gaslight Anthem Notes: A taste of what was to come later in the evening came when Bruce joined The Gaslight Anthem on stage for one of their songs, as he did the previous night at Glastonbury. I've never seen this band before, but will definitely be picking up some of their stuff. They put on a real show for their 30 minute set, and of Bruce's "warm-up acts" (Beauvoir, James Morrison and the Dave Matthews Band) they received the best reaction from the crowd. Lead singer Brian Fallon introduced their guest by telling the crowd that there were a lot of great bands here today... they in turn responded "Broooooce!" in unison. "Ask and ye shall receive" said Fallon, as the Boss made his way on for "The '59 Sound."
Notes: Neil Lockwood sets the scene: "On the hottest day of the year so far, Bruce and the band rolled into a packed Hyde Park for the Hard Rock Calling Festival. Having endured the searing sunshine (for England!) and some 'interesting' support bands, the time came for what else but 'London Calling,' again Bruce's tribute to Joe Strummer to open the E Street Band's set. This immediately had the crowd jumping and forgetting all the ills of standing for what was 9 hours in my case."
"A smartif potentially riskymove to start with 'London Calling,'" writes Jonathan Phillips. "Sometimes British audiences can be a little protective and parochial over such iconic tunes, but with a full lawn brimming with enthusiasm this worked brilliantly. The crowd's vocals on 'and I... I live by the river' raised the E Streeters' eyebrows with its fervor and volume. 'Badlands' then made its suitably powerful presence well felt. This was a strong start to the show with 'Night' coming over neatly; likewise, the power of 'Outlaw Pete' and a well-engaged crowd singalong of 'Working on a Dream' kept things ticking along fine, although running down to the crowd for the first time brought a nasty shocka huge staircase back up to the stage!"
The stage was a full story above the crowd, Bruce hamming it up "as he stumbled up the flight of stairs," Dave Jones tells us, "and got up shaken but not stirred. To Steve, who came to his aid: 'I'm 60 years old, for god's sake, get me a fuckin' elevator! I want a fucking elevator!' This was greeted with a huge cheeror gasp of relief!"
As at Glasto, the Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon was back out for "No Surrender" in the request set. Reaching back out to the crowd for "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," Bruce just about got a shy little boy on his dad's shoulders to sing. "Just a little louder..." encouraged Bruce, and the crowd ate it up.
Glastonbury-goer Mark Warham writes: "A much more varied pace than the previous night, Bruce taking the time to work in some quieter/slower numbers for a more Bruce-focused crowdespecially stretching out slowly on 'Racing in the Street' and 'Jungleland.' The crowd was a good deal more middle-aged than at Glasto, as you'd expect, but was making plenty of noise and boogieing hard at the end."
"'Radio Nowhere,' 'Lonesome Day' and 'The Rising' took us to the pinnacle" continues Lockwood, "but could he take us higher? You bet! Those damn steps wiped him out on 'Born to Run,' as Bruce lay on his back flat out, needing Steve to help him up before he could end the song. But you had to know at least some shtick was involved, as Bruce skipped the encore break and blew right through 'Rosalita' and 'Hard Times.' They never left the stage, and it was clear he was really enjoying himself now!"
Jonathan Russell: "Towards the end, Steve frantically waved for one final sign, which was duly delivered and held aloft by both Boss and lead guitar slinger. It was an apt sign-off from a group that I would have to say were once again surpassing the top of their game. In true postcard style the sign simply read, 'Greetings From Hyde Park.' Many a prayer and twitter answered with a high energy opening of 'London Calling'... Stevie as engaged as I have seen him in many a year... some 'curfew-busting boss time'... a crowd off the Richter scale (well, for an English audience)... glorious weather.... A lot of folk who did not make it will surely have wished they were here."
Guesting with The Gaslight Anthem:
This was one of Joe Strummer's homes-away-from-home, and with Strummer partially credited for getting Bruce to show, Springsteen had the late, great Clashman in mind. Emerging with Clarence for an acoustic opener, he offered up the Mescaleros' "Coma Girl," perfect for the occasion, and as the E Street Band kicked in, Bruce sent out "Badlands" to Strummer for good measure. The crowd erupted, and from there, it was non-stop, as Warham writes: "A very high-velocity, high-energy show. Bruce stormed through it as if racing against a tight curfew (which he was). No space for any slow numbers."
Joe Richardson tells us: "Bruce followed Kasabian, who are a pretty heavy (dirty) rock band, very similar to Oasis who play lots of big songs which make little lyrical sense but get a certain crowd going.... and it was an intense, crushing pit. It was impossible for most Kasabian fans to get out without pulled out by security, so they all decided to stay. Despite not really wanting to be there, most of these young, non-Bruce fans wound up completely focused on Springsteen during the set and in awe of him by the end."
After collecting signs during "Raise Your Hand," Bruce granted requests for "Because the Night" and "No Surrender." The latter brought a special guest to the stage, Brian Fallon from the band The Gaslight Anthem. Earlier, Springsteen had joined his fellow New Jerseyans during their set on "The '59 Sound," and Fallon looked thrilled to be returning the favor.
With the BBC broadcasting, both on radio and TV, this will be the best documented show of the tour so far, preserving the night's most memorable visual. Richardson describes it: "An amazing moment came during "The River," when Bruce was actually smokingsteam rising off his bodywhich showed the crowd how much effort he was putting in. That moment sealed the performance for most of those around me."
Giving no quarter despite a ticking clock, Bruce played a five-song encore, closing with the huge crowd-pleasers "Glory Days" and "Dancing in the Dark." ("Land of Hope and Dreams" was not played as we originally reported.) The Daily Mirror reports that Bruce and the E Streeters broke "the 12.30 a.m curfew by nine minutes. [Glastonburg organizer Michael] Eavis will be fined £3,000, but he said it's worth it. 'The last nine minutes were spectacular. It was probably the best show of his life.'"
Guesting with The Gaslight Anthem:
June 14 / Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival / Manchester, TN
One thing we like about Phish: they offer high quality, unedited soundboard recordings for many shows online. Preview and download individual tracks21 minutes of Bruce and Phish, all toldat livephish.com.
June 13 / Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival / Manchester, TN
Springsteen and the band came out with an energy most of this crowd didn't seem to anticipate. And they maintained it for the entire 28-song show, despite Bruce's repeated snot rockets making it clear he was illing. At first I thought he, too, might be camping and feeling sick after three days of port-a-potties, communal showers, and meals of warm beer and Pop Tarts; the cause was most likely the 48-degree weather for their last show in Norway.
Max Weinberg was back for the first time since starting his Tonight Show duties; he and son Jay essentially split the show. Jay took over for "Radio Nowhere" and stayed behind the drum kit for the rest of the nighthis presence further energized both the band and crowd. The video director clearly reveled in being able to broadcast a performer who was even younger than most of the audience, as Jay had almost as much screen time as Bruce.
And not to belabor a point that's gotten a lot of attention on this site, but Jay is amazing. If you're a long-time fan who with the recession and lack of new material on the tour needs a reason to buy a ticket, Jay is it.
Jay was not the only member of the second-generation to take the stageEvan Springsteen joined in on accoustic guitar for "American Land," standing next to Patti but focusing on his father for most of the song.
Some other Bonnaroo highlights:
While I was amazed at how many people knew the lyrics to "Thunder Road," and how the audience exploded at the opening riff to "Rosalita," I wondered if this performance would convert any of the other attendees, most of whom are outside of the demographic you'll usually see at a Springsteen show (that is, they were young, dirty and stoned).
At 1 a.m., while waiting for Ben Harper to begin, I struck up a conversation with the 37-year-old Phish fan next to me. This weekend was his fifth time at Bonnaroo, but it was his first Springsteen show. While he thought Springsteen's voice might have been off, he was blown away by the energy and happy that he'd finally gotten to see him in concert.
Would he go again? I don't know. Before I could ask him, he lit up a bowl, took a few puffs, and passed out for the entirety of Harper's set.
June 10 / Bergenhus Festning - Koengen / Bergen, NOR
"The Ghost of Tom Joad" made a return to the set list, having not been played since the first Stockholm showas usual, Nils delivered an out-of-this-world guitar solo. For sign collection time, "Rasie Your Hand" was in its entirety as opposed to the aborted version yesterday. But from here on, the show seemed to lose track. Bruce took a long time to make up his mind about which requests to play, and the audience was not quite as "in concert" with the proceedings as they were yesterday. As tickets were easier to obtain for this second show, one could speculate that this audience consisted more of the causal fans. In any case, the version of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom"taking us back to the Tunnel of Love tourwas somewhat rough, while "Cover Me" and "Two Hearts" have sounded better on earlier occasions. "Thunder Road" was played as the last request, Bruce simply saying, "I saw a sign for this somewhere." "Thunder Road” is clearly more effective as an encore than in the middle of a show.
During the intro of "The River," Steve's 12-string had no sound, leaving Bruce alone to play some ad hoc harmonica. The false start simply killed off the emotional impact this song usually has, which was a pity. Bruce then turned directly to "Lonesome Day" (skipping the setlisted "Radio Nowhere"/"Kingdom of Days"), maybe in an attempt to get things back on track as quickly as possible. "Lonesome Day" has never sounded better than on this tour, and it did a fine job of getting the audience back into the show.
Following "Born to Run," a strange thing happened: The band did not leave the stage, as Bruce said "It’s too coldif we stop, we'll freeze!" Right up came a fun and rocking "Rosalita," just when we needed her the most. Skipping the setlisted "Jungleland," "Land of Hope and Dreams" followed, and it struck me that this one will stand as a landmark song for the reunited modern day E Street Band. It was a great performace, delivered with determination and intensity. After an inspired “Dancing in the Dark," "Twist and Shout" finally showed up (having been skipped yesterday despite being set listed) to end a somewhat abbreviated show on a high note.
A funny thing happened right after the show. Koengen has apartment buildings on each side of the stage, and while the biggest of these had their residents standing on the balconies during the show, one was used as a "backstage" area. Just as I was passing by, a window on the second floor opened, and there was Bruce waving to the crowd. He obviously received a big cheer from us all, and he then made a toast (Bourbon, I suppose) to send us home with a smile on our face.
June 9 / Bergenhus Festning - Koengen / Bergen, NOR
As in Stockholm, Nils had the honor of opening the show solo on accordion, this time playing an old Norwegian folk song: "Du skal ikkje sova bort sumarnatta" (Don't sleep away the summer night). Inspired versions of "Badlands," "No Surrender" (again with the old E Street photos on the screen) and "My Lucky Day" quickly followed, before "Outlaw Pete" again was a standout during the first section of the show. "She's the One" returned to the set after dropping out for all of Stockhom, and the Big Man appeared to continue where he left off in Sweden with a rousing, note-perfect sax solo.
The "Raise Your Hand" intro was played during the sign-collecting sequence, but having picked a huge number of signs, Bruce seemed to change his mind and kicked right into "Hungry Heart" instead of playing "Raise Your Hand" all the way through. Next followed the highlight of the evening: a very soulful rendition of "Back in Your Arms," complete with the "down on your knees and beg" intro, first used as an introduction to "Fade Away" in Stockholm. It was a masterful performance, much longer than rare outings on previous tours.
From there on, Bruce seemed determined to make this a house party for a relatively small house (22,000 people), with a crowd-pleasing "Because the Night," a sing-along "Darlington County" and a rocking "Cadillac Ranch." "The River" showed up in the "Wrestler" slot, played for a young girl who had this particular request written on her face. At the end of the song, Bruce gave the harmonica to her. During the now-standard closing section from "Radio Nowhere" to "Born to Run," "Lonesome Day" was a standout, sounding better than ever, with Jay Weinberg adding some extra fills and finesse.
"Hard Times" returned to the encore, and the Seeger Sessions feeling of this song got a huge response from the crowd, Norway being the country where the We Shall Overcome album has sold most per capita. "Land of Hope and Dreams" again proved to be a song with strong staying power; the slightly shorter version played on this tour is in my view the best-sounding version from the last couple of tours. Following "American Land," the crowd-pleasers "Glory Days" and "Dancing in the Dark" rounded off an evening which seemed to be more about fun than pleasing the hardcore setlist watchers. "Twist and Shout" was listed as an alternative on the hand-written set list, but not played. Let's hope this one shows up tomorrow, for the second of two back-to-back.
Then it was time for some serious set list changes. A fine redention of "The River" was a nice welcome new choice in the usual "Ghost"/"Youngstown" spot, and got a huge response frpm the crowd. Both "Raise Your Hand" and “Good Lovin'" dropped out, replaced by a drum backbeat for the sign collection (like on the last leg of the Magic tour) and leaving more room for requestsand there were some stunning ones tonight.
First request was a wild “Mony Mony,” played for the third time ever. This was followed by a majestic version of “Trapped” with Big Man nailing the solo and a powerful vocal delivery by Bruce. And then Bruce told us that he now was going to play "the best song I ever wrote, according to Steve." Steve and Bruce laughed and we got the first band version of "Fade Away" since the River tour. A soulful, exceptional performance including a long intro with Bruce actually getting down onto his knees:
If this wasn't enough, a superb "Surprise, Surprise" (requested via a gift-wrapped apckage) rounded off the request section. This song, which had been soundchecked earlier, saw Bruce on his 12-string Fender electric and gave Cindy and Curtis a chance to really shine. Let’s just hope this performance was not a one-off. "Working on the Highway" came out in "The Wrestler" spot before we got what must be this tour's best renditions of "Radio Nowhere" and the usual set closers "Lonesome," "Rising” and "Born to Run"it seemed like Bruce and the band really wanted to prove a point tonight by putting some extra energy into every note they played.
"Thunder Road" kicked off the encores. This is really where the song belongs, much more appropriate than in the request section at the previous show. A sign for "Jungleland" appeared and we got a Big Man tour de force performance. An emotional "Land of Hope and Dreams" followed, which was really nice with all members smiling broadly during the whole song, Garry and Steve exchanging looks like, "this is really something." An amazing performance. After "American Land" featuring Amy Weinberg again, we got both "Ramrod" ("Come on Steven, shake the Swedish booty!") and a hard rocking "Dancing" before a sign appeared saying simply, “Stadium Breaker." The sign had on the back: "Break stadiums, not asses." referring to Bruce's mishap on the first night. No need to explain to any Swedish concertgoer what this means: once again we got "Twist and Shout" which closed phenomenal show, clocking in at 3 hours and 5 minutes. "Thanks for three great nights here in Stockholm," said Bruce, "We'll see you again!"
June 5 / Stockholm Stadion / Stockholm, SWE
"My Lucky Day" remained on the setlist and it sounded great, let’s hope it stays a while. Steve obviously loves this oneand speaking of Steve, he seems to be playing more guiatr than usual, clearly enjoying himself with solos on "My Lucky Day" and "Outlaw Pete." In between was "Candy’s Room," and Jay Weinberg showed that he is on the top of his game. (Nils revealed in a Swedish newspaper that Jay will play all shows in Sweden and Norway.)
"Good Lovin'" replaced “Raise Your Hand" as the sign collecting songa fantastic performance. The whole band shone on this one, and personally I clearly prefer this to "Raise Your Hand." Interesting signs in the audiences included quite a few for ABBA songs, as well as one asking, "How is your ass?" (after Bruce "broke" it the night before, slipping during "American Land"). Bruce laughed and assured the crowd his ass was fine. Bruce picked an “E Street Shuffle” sign but put it down againthere seemed to be some question of whether Jay knew it (and he was already being tested plenty tonight, with his first time through "Downbound Train," "Darlington County," and others).
The final sign request was the world premiere of "Queen of the Supermarket": A masterful performance. It was dedicated to the seven-year-old Laura, who we first saw in Oslo last year (then singing "Hungry Heart," and yesterday singing "Sunny Day"). The sign for "Queen" was made up like a crown and Bruce gave the crown to Laura after the song, seen by all on the video screen. A great moment. After a crowd-pleasing "Sunny Day” we got a particularily emotional “Promised Land": I don’t know what it was, but this song, which sometimes feels like it needs a rest, really got to me tonight.
Then followed possibly the best performance of the night: the tour premiere of an intense "Lost in the Flood" with Jay Weinberg not only impressing everybody in the audience, but the whole E Street Band, too. Jay remained in the spotlight on "Radio Nowhere," played in a hell-raising tempo, much faster than usual. Bruce laughed it off and gave an ovation at the end for "the phenomenal Jay Weinberg on drums."
Changes continued In the encore, as we got "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out" instead of "Bobby Jean." In "Glory Days," as the moon was finally just rising: "Is it quittin' time? My fingers are freezing!" "Detroit Medley" by request substituted for "Twist and Shout," with "Land of 1,000 Dances" added for good measure before "Dancing in the Dark" sent us home with big smiles on our faces. It's now time for one day’s rest before we’re back on Sunday for more.
Bo Persson writes, "An incredible show, from start to finish. The weather was pretty awful with (more or less) constant raining. I'm sure Bruce and the band felt they had to do something extra, and this 29-song blast was just what the doctor ordered." "My Lucky Day" came back to the set after a long absence, and "The Wrestler" was back, too. Four songs in the request set: "I'm Goin' Down" (on the 25th anniversary of Born in the U.S.A.'s release), "Cadillac Ranch," ""Because the Night" (giving Nils an extra spotlight solo after "Joad), and "Wild Thing." And "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" was a big sing-along, rarely more appropriate. At one point Bruce held up a sign from the audience asking him never to play outdoors here again except in midsummer.
Jay Weinberg was on the drums all night, with some extra E Street family on stage too: Clarence's son was there to hold up the sign for "Goin' Down, and Amy Weinberg made for an accordion trio on "American Land"
Persson continues: "'American Land' felt a bit dry (pardon the pun), but halfway through it just grew and kept on growing: the end of the song was magical. After 'Glory Days' (which everybody thought was the last song, judging from its performance), the man brings out the Swedish classic, 'Twist and Shout.' After that, the audience really were down on their knees, wet from the rain and totally exhausted. And then, 'Dancing in the Dark,' in a much heavier version than usual. Something about Bruce and Sweden...."
As Colin Kavanagh puts it, "A goddamn wet night, but the band won out. Not jam packed but 90% full. Bruce did really well to keep the crowd here on such a wet night. And they were rewarded."
June 2 / Ratinan Stadion / Tampere, FIN
And then there were the requests: following "Raise Your Hand," it was "Cover Me," "Because the Night," and "Thunder Road." No covers? Well, Bruce kept one up his sleeve, pulling out another sign song after "The Promised Land," as he took the band through "The Dark End of the Street," the sign even helpfully noting the song's original performer, James Carr.
May 30 / Pinkpop Festival / Landgraaf, NED
As you might have guessed, the European crowd seemed to be very appreciative of Springsteen's new material, with the whole place singing along with "Outlaw Pete" and very into it. But this 24-song set was the first of the tour without "Hard Times," and "Kingdom of Days" dropped out, too, though it was on the handwritten setlist. Our friend Alex Verhoeff notes: "As he had announced through the Dutch press, the show wasn’t your typical Working on a Dream show. Jan Smeets, the festival's organizer for 40 years, explained that Springsteen feared a standard set would be too long for a group of kids who essentially came for the festival, not necessarily the Boss."
The Killers' set earlier in the day really woke up the Pinkpop crowd and energized them, and they were happy to see the band's singer, Brandon Flowers, join Bruce for "Thunder Road." It was a true guest appearance with Flowers taking two verses himself and harmonizing with Bruce on other parts, sharing the mic, and the crowd ate it up. (Previously, during the Killers' own set, Bruce was briefly seen watching them from the wings and seemingly enjoying himself.)
Annabel Nanninga writes in: "The Dutch press was all over it: The 40th anniversary edition of the Netherlands' most beloved festival would feature that other music critic's darling: Bruce Springsteen. Every newspaper and magazine featured a profile of the Boss, mentioning his significance in American pop culture and his strong opposition against Bush, his working class heroism and his message of hope, like that other American hero: Barack Obama. Had the Dutch been allowed to vote, he would have won with 90% of the popular vote.
"So, hope we had, hope and high expectations for Pinkpop, when the E Street Band took the main stage in the setting sun. 'Badlands' opened, of course. All throughout the field, 60,000 spectators were immediately swept up in the actionPinkpop was referred to by a critic as 'Bosspop' the next day because the magic started to happen right away.
"Jay Weinberg was stepping in for his dad, and Bruce coached him a lot, pushing him, counting, nodding and producing a huge grin when the apprentice was one step ahead of him by getting it right straight away. Bruce gave him a hard time, but when it was time to say goodbye Jay got hugs and kisses from a proud Boss.
"After 'American Land,' which left the crowd completely ecstatic and begging for no, demanding more, the occasional listener/Pinkpop visitor got two of the big hits: 'Glory Days' and 'Dancing in the Dark.' A fan named Liselot held up a sign referring to the music video of 'Dancing in the Dark', it read: 'The Dutch Couretney Cox'. She was pulled onstage during the encore, and dancing in the dark they did!
"Then the music stopped, but the unbelievable energy created in the synthesis of Bruce, the E Street Band, and the crowd resonated over the field. Bruce the Preacher, who had vowed during 'Working on a Dream' to build a House of Love, Hope, Faith, Joy and Sexual Healing with us, had done exactly that."
May 23 / Izod Center / East Rutherford, NJ
"Spirit in the Night" came out early, but the first real shocker was "Something in the Night"an audible, no lessin slot four. Sort of a strange transition from there into "Out in the Street," but let's not nitpick, "Something" was just a classic performance, passionately delivered. As for covers, "Good Lovin'" subbed back in for "Raise Your Hand" as the sign collection song, but Bruce again steered the requests themselves straight down E Street. "E Street Shuffle" was Wild & Innocent cut number one. "Cover Me," a perfect fit with themes Bruce has been bringing to the fore in the past couple months, finally got its tour premiere, and "Thunder Road" closed out the requests.
Following "Promised Land," it was W&I number 2, another tour premiere: "Incident on 57th Street." Just a stunner. It started a little fast, but led to outstanding intrumental work at the end, Bruce's guitar solo outro and Roy's piano coda lighting the place up. Several showgoers remarked that, at a certain point during the show, the whole thing just went into the stratosphere for the second halfevery band member on it, the current flowing. You might pinpoint that moment right here.
By the encore, that current was flowing through the entire crowd, tooeveryone up for "Born to Run," all hands in the air for "Land of Hope and Dreams." W&I number three was an incredible "Kitty's Back," the best in recent memory, with spotlight again on Bruce and Roy, each with extended solos. Tonight really seemed to be about going the extra milelook to "Johnny 99" as well, which was extended as Bruce and Steve took their time milking the crowd.
Bruce thanked "all our friends and neighbors for their longtime support of the E Street Band," and during the intros we got a "Max is back!" holler, the elder Weinberg having played the whole show, and Clarence got a "Theme from Shaft" vamp from the band. The legendary E Street Band? "That's fucking right!" But of course, there was no way this sucker was ending with "American Land" tonight. "Are you trying to test me?" Springsteen asked the roaring crowd. "The turnpike is closednobody goes home!" And from there into a one-two punch, "Glory Days" and a "Mony Mony" that had the whole place going nuts. And just before calling it a night, Bruce again mentioned the wrecking ball coming for Giants Stadiumbut not before the E Street Band takes a few more whacks at it. "We'll see you in the fall!"
May 21 / Izod Center / East Rutherford, NJ
According to a subsequent press release, they'll be "the final major musical act to play Giants Stadium on September 30, October 2, and October 3. Tickets go on sale June 1 at 10 a.m. Eastern. Springsteen holds the record as the number one selling artist at the Meadowlands (which includes Giants Stadium) in New Jersey, having sold out 56 concerts to date with the E Street Band."
As Springsteen put it, "before they bring the wrecking ball, the wrecking crew is coming back." If you happened to miss his announcement, you still couldn't have missed the news, plastered everywhere from Route 3 to postcards to the side of Giants Stadium itself, with a huge banner hung as the show progressed inside the arena, spotlights sweeping it as the crowd left the complex.
Tonight's show, the first of two Meadowlands arena concerts to close out the leg, featured Jay on drums all night, and Patti was back as well. No covers in the request set following "Raise Your Hand"; they kept it pure E Street with "Growin' Up" (no story, alas), "I'm Goin' Down" and "Prove It All Night." "Lost in the Flood" and "I'm on Fire" were alternates on the setlist, not played. One more after "Amercian Land" was "Rosalita": "Is this New Jersey? We can't go home until we've played this one!"
May 19 / Mellon Arena / Pittsburgh, PA
The big change: "Raise Your Hand" dropped out, replaced by "Good Lovin'" as the sign-collecton song. And then, the E Street Band's first-ever performance of the first Bob Dylan song Bruce ever heard. As he told it when inducting Dylan into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, "I was in the car with my mother listening to WMCA and on came that snare shot that sounded like somebody'd kicked open the door to your mind." Yep, it was "Like a Rolling Stone," previously requested last week in Albany, and Pittsburgh got the premiere tonight. Says one show-goer: "It was off the hook." A particularly strong "Darkness on the Edge of Town" followed.
"I'm on Fire" took the place of "The Wrestler," leaving just three WOAD tunes, including "Kingdom of Days" again dedicated to the absent Patti ("With three teenagers at home, we need maximum security"). With "Radio Nowhere" dropping out as well, there was nothing at all from Magic. But a surprise fourth cover, "Mony Mony," was a killer show-closer, after Joe Grushecky and his son Johnny's guest turn on "Glory Days."
May 18 / Verizon Center / Washington, DC
The first request sign of the evening yielded “Out in the Street,” played for a nine-year-old girl who made it to the front of the stage to sit with Bruce during part of the song. This was followed by the first truly notable song of the night for the setlist watchers: a fast and loose tour premiere of “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” Bruce had spotted a long sign for “Hava Nagila,” and Roy lead the band through a minute or so of this Jewish celebratory song as a fun and completely out-of-left -field instrumental intro to another tour debut, “Blinded by the Light.”
This was, of course, the E Street Band’s first performance in Washington since the election. And while politics is not a key element of the new album or the current tour, compared to some of Bruce’s recent outings, there were plenty of nods to the location and occasion, from the a triumphant “No Surrender” that was audibled early in the set, to Roy’s brief “Hail to the Chief” intro to “Rosalita.” That showstopping number was prompted by a request sign reading: “Obama called, he wants Rosie.” While the Commander in Chief himself did not appear to be in house, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was sitting (mostly standing, in fact) in the section right next to the stage, and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
Washington often gets a heavier-themed show, but this time it was mostly just about skipping some school and having fun.
Bruce was shaking things up a little earlier than usual with the stadium staple “Twist and Shout," played for a girl who "promised to burn her Hannah Montana CDs” if he played it. Filling the sixth spot in the set, “Twist and Shout” absolutely rocked the Park and sent the crowd into an early frenzy. A second tour premiere was the apt sign-requested "Give the Girl a Kiss," for a Hershey's Kiss-shaped placard, which gave Clarence a nice turn at the mic. "Trapped" followed in the sign set as well.
While much of the set was standard for the first leg of the tour, both the Band and the crowd were on their game tonight. The three song stretch of “Seeds,” Johnny 99,” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” continues to impress.
It's probably no coincidence that the setlist brought few stretches. A two-song sign set consisted of "Thunder Road" followed by "Mony Mony," the latter reprised from Chicago, and the crowd again ate it up. (The reverse of the "Mony Mony" sign got some hopes up, calling for "Like a Rolling Stone"no such luck, not yet.) "Backstreets" followed "The Promised Land" as another request, and in the encore, Jay was put to the test as a kittycat sign called for the return of you-know-who. And "Kitty's Back" was hot.
Patti's still absent, though that didn't stop someone from holding up a sign for "Each Other's Medicine." And the Nils fretcam was again in effect on "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a spellbinding display that one fan called "the best thing about the show."
With Max behind the kit from the start, "Trapped" killed as the first sign songlots of power behind it, and the crowd was all over it. The intensity continued with "Candy's Room," also by request. And then the true roof-raiser: "In keeping with our recent tradition, we'll try to play something we've never played before," said Bruce, and out came Tommy James & the Shondells' "Mony Mony." This one took some figuring in advance ("Doesn't this have a weird bridge or something?... Maybe it's just a weird part in the middle?"), but once it got going... mass pandemonium. (Pandemoni-monium?)
Jay Weinberg stepped in for "Sunny Day," taking over on drums for the remainder of the night, through his first "Dancing in the Dark" and "Rosalita" to close the show. Also in the encore was a reeeeal nice "Jungleland," with Bruce flashing us back to the old days as he saluted "Clarence Clemons! Roy Bittan! Steve Van Zandt!," all of whom turned in fine performances on this one.
Also noteworthy: the fretcam on Nils' guitar for the "Joad" solo, aimed right down the neck of his guitar, for a closeup on that astounding fingerworkquite a visual display. No Patti, still "recuperating." And demonstrating that Bruce is shaking things up on the fly, a good number of songs setlisted but not played: from more usual suspects like "Thunder Road" and "Glory Days," to "I'm on Fire" (a "Wrestler" alternate), "Jackson Cage," "Reason to Believe" (MIA since the Magic tour) and "Good Lovin'" (debuted last night in St. Paul). Sign songs making their way onto the setlist? Let's hope it's a trend; so many of theselike "Mony Mony" tonightare too good to be one-and-done.
May 11 / Xcel Energy Center / St. Paul, MN
Things shake up a bit in the sign request section, of course. First up is the big rarity of the night, as Springsteen takes a sign asking for "Twist & Shout" or "Good Lovin'" and opts for the road less traveled. "We've never played this before, ever," said Bruce, as the band took a moment to work out the arrangement. ("Charlie's got the solo.") This one had to make Stevie happy, having inducted the Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 (getting "discovered" for the role of Silvio Dante in the process), and played with the band's Dino Danelli and Felix Cavaliere in his own Disciples of Soul. It certainly made the crowd happy, too -- the place went nuts.
Requests for "Prove It All Night" and "The E Street Shuffle" followed, the latter a more pop-inflected version than the bluesy performances previously on this tour (and a bit messy, too). Several kids got a chance to sing on "Sunny Day," Bruce quipping, "This is child abuse!" After "The Promised Land," an audible, with "The Wrestler" replaced by a sultry "I'm on Fire." Bruce's "moment" with a woman in the crowd clearly sends her to the moon, and captured on the big screen, it gives the whole place a good laugh.
In the encore, they follow "American Land" with "Bobby Jean" and one more sign request, "Rosalita," to dance the night away.
May 8 / Bryce Jordan Center / University Park, PA
Big news for everyone wondering where the new album went: the State College stop brought the tour premiere of "This Life," in the spot usually reserved for "Kingdom of Days." It translated well to a live setting (even if it appeared to go mostly unappreciated by the sold-out crowd), featuring practically the entire band harmonizing at the end, but without the vocal instruction for the crowd that took a bit of the air out of the song during the Asbury Park rehearsals. Thumbs up.
The mid-set sign request slots brought the tour premiere of "Ramrod"with the always enjoyable Bruce and Stevie shtickfollowed by a truly on-the-spot cover of The Who's "My Generation." Bruce, Steve and Nils held an extended conference to work out the proper key and chord changes, and the p-p-p-performance featured several impressive solos from a smiling Garry, who seemed to relish the chance to take on John Entwistle's classic bass line.
Finally, the encore sent the entire crowd home happyand Penn State students off into their summer vacation on a high notewith a frat-party inducing, roof-raising set of closers after "American Land" led off by the tour premiere of "Bobby Jean," which was followed by on-stage, unsetlisted audibles of "Detroit Medley" and "Wooly Bully."
"Racing in the Street" was a back-half highlight, showgoer Eric noting that "after 'Promised Land,' Bruce collected a sign that was originally over half way back on the floor. It was a drawing of a car with two lights that lit up for headlights, and it read 'Racing in the Street.' It finally made its way to the stage, and Bruce must have been impressed as he played that intead of the setlisted "I'm on Fire.'" Michale Gallo adds that "the number drawn for the pit was #396. And in 'Racing in the Street, when Bruce sang 'I got a '69 Chevy with a 396,' everyone in the pit went insane because it was 396 that got them there!"
"This had to be the most energenic crowd for Toronto," writes Eric, "they are usually a little reseved. Basically nobody ever sat down, except during 'Kingdom,' and Bruce and the E Streeters fed off that." The night closed with a one-two punch of "Rosalita" into "Glory Days." No Patti, no Jaylike Nassau Coliseum on Monday, a rare night with Mighty Max keeping the beat from start to finish.
May 5 / John Paul Jones Arena / Charlottesville, VA
Soon it was sign time, again a clear highlight for both the band and the audience. First up was the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," a slice of perfection, and the result of, as Bruce called it, "100 years of collective bar band experience." "Spirit in the Night" included a serenade to an enraptured young woman in the pit. And then another tour premiere by request: "Gypsy Biker," a very welcome reprise from the Magic tour, with that haunting harmonica and Bruce and Steve trading wailing guitar leads. The pair consulted beforehand, working it out, Bruce asking, "What's the bridge?".... he later admitted of the sign requests, "The toughest one was our own song!"
After getting singalong help from a kid on "Sunny Day," Bruce decides, "You're hired! Stevie, you're fired!" More personnel changes: Jay Weinberg takes over the kit from his dad for "The Promised Land," to play the entire second half of the show from here to the end. Patti's absent tonight, Bruce telling the crowd she's still recovering from her spill and dedicating "Kingdom of Days" to her.
Jay shines on "Land of Hope and Dreams," and plays his heart out on the post-"American Land" "Detroit Medley," hitting so hard he loses a drumstick. He's rewarded with "we're not worthies" from the band, and in the final bows down front, Max gets on his knees to pay homage to his son. It was a hell of a "Medley," energy high onstage and throughout the building, and a great way to send the crowd out into a chilly, drizzly night.
May 4 / Nassau Coliseum / Uniondale, NY
The 2009 edition of Nassau also ran long, as it turned out, clocking it at 2:50 and 27 songs, with the spontaneous addition of "Rosalita" to close a motivated six-song encore.
An earlyish 8:15 start had fans scurrying to their seats after bad weather and annoying venue logistics slowed entry. It was a bang-bang launch with "Badlands" into "No Surrender," and the Weinberg du jour was all Max, all nighthe seemed to relish taking over the drum stool for an entire set again. Perhaps watching Jay the last few nights dialed up the intensity, as he hit harder and filled with freshness.
Nils was on too, leading a potent "Seeds," sliding through "Johnny 99," and wailing a la Morello on "The Ghost of Tom Joad."
Then it was time to "Raise Your Hand," and as Bruce collected signs he was instantly delighted with one in particular (he even started sashaying side to side as he showed it to Steve): the Gamble and Huff classic "Expressway to Your Heart," which was a hit for the Soul Survivors in 1967. Clearly soundchecked earlier that day (said Bruce after, "I knew someone was going to request that one"), "Expressway" was absolutely delightful and, cliché as this phrase is becoming, it sounded like they have been playing it every night. A fantastic cover and very appropriate choice for the venue and surrounding interstates.
Next up was a rock-solid and crowd-pleasing "For You" with fine work by the Big Man and Roy Bittan. When it came time for audible number three, Bruce showed the crowd a trio of signs: the first, "Great Balls of Fire," he called, "too easy... everybody knows that one"; "Night" was next, but Bruce (rightly) acknowledged the band does that one a lot; instead it would be "Rendezvous" in its tour debut, with fine thumping from Max and lots of Patti vocals (yes, she was back and recovered from her fall, though oddly not there for the final songs of the encore).
Out of "Rendezvous" and right into a bonusthe aforementioned "Night," which Bruce had whispered to Clarence was coming next a few minutes earlier ("Be ready!"). Good stuff. From there it was a bit of the familiar: "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" (featuring not-quite-in-tune vocals from a little boy in the pit wearing a LeBron James jersey); another elegiac and gorgeous rendition of "The Wrestler"; a very committed "Kingdom of Days"; a slightly shambolic "Radio Nowhere"; and a fine set wrap with "Lonesome Day," "The Rising," and "Born to Run."
The consensus after the show was that this might have been the best encore yet on the tour. An inspired (perhaps by the previous night's Pete Seeger tribute) "Hard Times" set the table for a particularly striking and majestic "Jungleland," with Clarence blowing beautifully, Soozie doing a perfect Suki Lahav intro, and Bruce himself giving in to the song's drama. Max seemed to truly peak during "Land of Hope and Dreams," and who doesn't love the look on his face (captured on the big screen every night) as he pounds out the toms to start "American Land."
As if that weren't enough, the recently setlisted but unplayed "Dancing in the Dark" returned with some fine arrangement details and lots of fun from the entire band. As they played, a green, day-glo sign started moving around the pit asking for "Rosalita," and damn if Bruce didn't shift out of a long "Dancing" right into it, blowing the 11:00 pm curfew and making a lot of fans extremely happy. Those ol' dumps do seem to bring out the best in him.
May 3 / New York, NY / Madison Square Garden
And then came Bruce. As the last artist of the night, Springsteen had the lengthiest remarks, with a speech that was an appreciation of Pete's place in history and of Pete as a repository of American history in himself. Bruce spoke of the folk legend's "stubborn, nasty, defiant optimism," and of Seeger as "the stealth dagger through the heart of our country's illusions about itself." Springsteen talked about his own youth, growing up in a town that endured race riots, and how times have changed: "Pete, you outlasted the bastards, man." He spoke about "We Shall Overcome," which he said Seeger moved from an anthem of the labor movement to one of the civil rights movement, and he described preparing for their duet on "This Land is Your Land" at the Inauguration, when Pete said: "I know I want to sing all the versesall the ones that Woody wrote, even the two that usually get left out." Bruce summed up: "He sings all the verses, all the timeespecially the ones we'd like to leave out of our history as a people."
"Pete's gonna come out," Bruce added, "He's gonna look like your granddadif your granddad could kick your ass." But first, a performance from the Boss. Tom Morello joined him for "The Ghost of Tom Joad," on acoustics this time, trading verses and harmonizing on the chorus. It was a very energetic performance, clearly benefiting from their recent collaborations on the song with the E Street Band. After that, the stage filled with the night's artists for a grand finale. Seeger returned to the stage, and Patti Scialfa came out, too, for "This Land is Your Land." Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, Pete's grandson, led the throng through "Well May the World Go." Bruce was on guitar for "This Little Light of Mine," and joined in at the mic for the show-closing "Goodnight Irene." John Seeger, Pete's older brother, had one last birthday wish: "If I'm 95"and he isPete's gonna live to be 100!
Things didn't begin so promisingly. Cool to get Jay Weinberg opening the show, playing from "Badlands" to "Raise Your Hand," but otherwise a slow start. Lots of air hankies from the Boss, suggesting he might have been under the weather, and he seemed to be working hard to get things in gear. After the sign collection, though, we achieved liftoff with the first request, an out-of-left field cover of Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son," a 1965 hit for Johnny Rivers. "I don't know where some of this stuff comes from!" Bruce laughed, paying special attention to the kid who had requested it via a small sign from way off on the side. "Is it hard?" he asked, conferring with Steve, "It is. Steve says it's hard." But they pulled it off, the backup singers walking out on the wire with the rest of the band, and followed it with a raucous "Hang on Sloopy," house lights up and the whole place going nuts. Encore-level nuts, mid-show. A "bar band special," Bruce called this one: "People come here asking for things they think we can't play... this is easy stuff!"
"Growin' Up" was followed by a third sign request, "Flew from NYC to hear 'I'm on Fire' with my Dad." Real nice, particularly Bruce's haunting, high-register vocals at the end as the crowd was bathed in red light. A few songs later, Springsteen finally remembered some records he made in the early '90s, giving "Human Touch" the rare E Street treatment. "We haven't played this one in a long time.... We'll see if we can get through it for you, we used to know it!" We can only hope songs like this, "Better Days," "Living Proof" and others from the era get more play, because it was a breath of fresh air tonight: a blistering lead from Bruce, lovely backing vocals from Soozie (alas, no Patti tonight), building to monster intensity at the end. More, please. (Hell, while we're at it, "The Long Goodbye"! "All or Nothing at All"!)
"Cadillac Ranch" was a surprise set-closer after "Born to Run," Bruce grabbing a cowboy hat from the crowd and singing about the "woods of Caroline" and driving "through the Carolina night." House lights up, the roof practically came off the place. It's no exaggeration to say that folks were swooning; by "Tenth Avenue" in the encore, Bruce had to bring some water down front, and Steven helped get a gal out of the pit who was clearly in danger of passing out. Good to see the Session Band's "Cousin" Frank Bruno, Jr. back in the fold for "American Land," sharing the mic with Soozie once again and not having forgotten a lick of it. And then the high-watt "Glory Days," Steve calling for "Steensboro Boss Time," with its "Louie, Louie" finale as the icing on the cake.
"I don't want to be sacrilegious," said an out-of-towner after the show, "But that crowd was better than Philly." And shucks, right here in Backstreets' backyard. Color us proud. Color us impressed. Color us all the moreso after such a middling start. An inspired turnaround, an inspiring show.
April 29 / Philadelphia, PA / Wachovia Spectrum
But tonight was less about history. The Clash's "London Calling" (hell yeah!) continued the band's recent run of punk covers, played for a sign in the crowd. (Actually inspired by a sign in last night's crowd, after which Bruce and the band worked it up at today's soundcheck and then found the sign again tonight.) Nobody nodding out on this one, with Bruce and Steve sharing a mic and the Boss taking a killer solo at the end.
With a recovered Patti Scialfa returning to the stage for the first time her horseiding accident, a duet on "Red Headed Woman" welcomed her backa country-swingish duet, and a fun, goofy show of affection from a laughing Bruce.
"Hungry Heart," in place of "Sunny Day," featured the vocal stylings of Adele Springsteen, a sweet moment as Bruce held out the mic to his mom, stage-side. The crowd ate this one up from start to finish, singing along en masse. "Streets of Philadelphia" (which Bruce and Patti performed together just a couple of nights ago at the Tom Hanks tribute) filled in for Bruce's other Golden Globe winner, "The Wrestler." Jay Weinberg came out next to take over the drums from there on, "Kingdom of Days" to the very end of the encorehis longest stretch yet. In the band intros, Jay was "the percussionista prodigy!"
No "Incident," and surprisingly little reflection here at Bruce's final scheduled Spectrum stopnot too much chat at all, though he repeated his affection for this kind of venue and gave a quick nod to the special connection he's long had with the Philly audience. And he dedicated "Thunder Road" to Harry Kalas, the Phillies announcer who passed away two weeks ago, as the crowd heard a recording of Harry the K calling an E Street Band play-by-play and "a grand slam for Bruce Springsteen!" over the P.A. And after "American Land" there was "One more for the Spectrum!" It was one more from the early days, a fifth tour premiere, a rocking "Kitty's Back" that ended the night on a true highthey got right, they got tight, they got down.
"Fire" was the first sign, and what a sign it wasbehind Charlie, seven fans holding placards spelling out F-I-R-E, with flames on either side. The Spectrum got this one more than 30 years ago, on the third and fourth nights of the Darkness tour, 5/26 and 5/27/78. "That's a good sign, we're gonna get to that one," Bruce said, and after "Raise Your Hand" he entreated, "Put the lights on them!... We got a million dollars worth of shit up here, and they can't get the fuckin' lights on 'em!"
Next up: "The Fever." Long associated with this town due to the late, great DJ Ed Sciaky's championing of this then-unreleased tune, Bruce played it as a "Philadelphia special" at the Spectrum later on the Darkness tour, 8/18 and 8/19/78. Bruce also notably broke out "The Fever" at the now legendary "birthday show" in '99, the one-off night at the Spectrum on the day after he turned 50. Tonight it was the centerpiece of the show (and Judy Sciaky, Ed's widow, was in the crowd to hear it). Another sign request to follow: "Mountain of Love," most recently played in St. Louis last year, but clearly evoking the E Street Band's classic 1975 performances at the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA and, later that year, Philadelphia's Tower Theater.
History lesson seemingly over, Jay Weinberg came out to play the rest of the main set, from "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" through "Born to Run"eight songs in a row. But Bruce wasn't quite done with the Philly specials. "Who had the Dovells sign out there?" he called after "Hard Times." The sign for "You Can't Sit Down" made its way to the stage, and the band gave it a go, loose and fun. The song was a hit in '63 for local group The Dovells (who Steve Van Zandt actually played with for about a year in the early '70s), and it's gotten the E Street Band treatment on this stage a few time since, Bruce closing both of those May '78 Darkness shows with it, and adding it to the "Detroit Medley" at the Spectrum in '81.
"Somebody told me this is the 31st time we've played this arena," Bruce told the Philadelphia faithful, "and this is the first arena we ever played." Namechecking the L.A. Sports Arena as well, he reflected, "They don't make arenas like this anymore. And they end up being ideal for rock shows, without the luxury boxes." One more night to enjoy it... #32, coming right up!
April 27 / New York, NY / Alice Tully Hall
Bruce wasn't done with the signs yeta few songs later, after "The Wrestler," he started looking through the crowd for one he'd seen earlier. And there it was: "Alanta's STEENagers deserve Jungleland." They got it, too, after Bruce talked a bit about meeting some young'uns in Freehold who said they had never seen the E Street Band, leading to their current mission. Speaking of teenagers, Jay Weinberg got another one under his belt tonight, not only revisiting the songs he played Friday night in Hartford, but also pounding away on "Land of Hope and Dreams" for the first timea fabulous job on this one.
Still no PattiBruce dedicated "Kingdom of Days" to her once again, and he also gave a shout-out to producer Brendan O'Brien, whose home base is here and who was in the crowd. Bruce was feeling good, feeding off the loud, boisterous crowd, who'd been into it all night, and he had one more treat for them after "American Land." "It ain't over!" And then came that fifth and final cover, the tour's first "Detroit Medley," with Professor Roy Bittan going nuts on the piano, driving the crowd wild and closing the Atlanta show in style.
Jay Weinberg came out early this time, "Radio Nowhere" moved to the post-"Working on a Dream" slot to give him a famiiar warm-up, and then his first public stab at the recession arc of "Seeds," "Johnny 99," and "Joad." And of course he kicked ass.
Max was back for the request portion, again a high point of the show, with the Unstoppable, Unstumpable E Street Band tackling three covers in a row: "Raise Your Hand" followed by "Wild Thing," an E Street first, and John Fogerty's "Rocking All Over the World." Max was all over the Troggs tune, which was, yes, wild... and Bruce was spot-on with the vocals, milking the pauses for all they were worth. The Fogerty classic is familiar from tours past, but quite a surprise to get it here in the main set. And the requests weren't done yet, with Bruce leading the band through a groovy, bluesy, guitar-oriented "E Street Shuffle" to cap it off. A brilliant stretch.
Following that, "Waitin' on a Sunny Day" and "The Promised Land" still proved to be a drag on the show. But not much dragged down the Hartford crowd. The tour premiere of "Jackson Cage" in slot three, a welcome deep reach into The River, didn't do much for the room in general, but for everything after that the Hartford crowd was on its feet, really into it through the end. "Cadillac Ranch" was one reward, following "Born to Run" to close the main set, with a hilarious guitar dance at the edge of the stage, Bruce, Steve and Nils working to get in sync.
In the encore, "Land of Hope and Dreams" retains its power, with an excellent drum solo from Max, and a goofy, raucous "Rosie" closed it all out, Bruce mugging for the camera, planting kisses on Steve's mug, doing the Three Stooges face rub, the whole deal.
(A tangent worth taking, here's Steven on the Ramones and the art of the DJ: "If to a punky consciousness the Ramones are sugar and the Ronettes are broccoli, you play the Ramones into the Ronettes and, because Joey learned to sing from Ronnie and you can hear it, the Ramones become hollandaise and it works.")
While the Ramones were represented in cover form, some Dropkick Murphys were there in the flesh. For anyone expecting Peter Wolf, the torch has been passed to a new generation of Bostonians. A unique start to their guest spot had guitarist Tim Brennan onstage, down on bended knee, proposing to his girlfriend Diane. She said yes -- credit Nils with getting her answer on mic -- and Springsteen told the crowd, "This is gonna be their wedding song." The tour premiere of "So Young and in Love," not a bad engagement gift! Congratulations, lovebirds. Afterward, Bruce called out, "We've got some more Dropkick Murphys, come on!" Tim was joined by two of his bandmates for a brillant match of guest and song, amping up the Celtic punk in "American Land." And the crowd goes wild.
A great performance all around, energy and fun quotients high. There was also the Greetings double-shot of "Spirit in the Night" into "For You," both by requestthe latter actually by popular demand: four signs, which Bruce revealed one at a time. "Jungleland," nailed by both Bruce and Clarence. (That one replaced "The Wrestler," as this tour's namesake album takes yet another hit. And then there were three!) "Hard Times" went out once again to Evan and Jessie; Patti's still recuperating. Jay Weinberg drummed on the final four songs of the main set, as well as on "American Land" and "Glory Days" in the encore while his dad manned the tambourine. And an additional post-"A.L." bonus followed "Glory Days," bringing the song count to 27. It was the first "Seven Nights to Rock" since "guinea pig" night in Asbury Park, clearly a reward for a fantastic Boston crowd. "You guys never disappoint. You still stoke the fire in our belly when we get here."
Now how about the Clash next?
April 21 / Boston, MA / TD Banknorth Garden
Otherwise, a setlist very similar to night one in L.A. Also played by request were the directionally contradictory "I'm Goin' Down" and "Growin' Up." The sign for the latter included an addendum: "...and a story to tell." But no such luck. It was the guitar that talked tonight, Bruce playing searing leads on "Adam Raised a Cain," "Seeds," and "The Ghost of Tom Joad"Nils smoked on that one, too. And speaking of smoke: the Superbowl LCD screens were gone, with some new smoke-machine action providing a different effect in their place.
Patti was again absent, not "home with the kids" as with last week's L.A. shows, but this time because of an accident: she "took a spill" while horse riding on Saturday, Bruce told the crowd. "She wasn't riding with Madonnait wasn't a Madonna-like spill," he joked, but the spill itself sounds like no fun at all. Springsteen described multiple contusions and bruised ribs, "and whiplash, from me driving her to the hospital." He said she'd be back after a few shows, and in the meantime, "she asked me to play this for you," going into "Kingdom of Days."
Jay Weinberg was behind the kit for the final four songs of the main set, "Radio Nowhere" through "Born to Run." And more offspring were in the house as "Hard Times" was sent out "to my handsome son Evan and my lovely daughter Jessie." Patti, hope you're feeling better soon.
What Bruce seems to have figured out is that there are some factors that can help insure such moments arrive, regardless of stools on stage, hips replaced and a new album that was met with uncharacteristic indifference by some. The setting, for instance: Among many names, Bruce referred to the Sports Arena as "the dump that jumps"and a dump it is, with failing infrastructure in pretty much every category. But it is also the site of some of the most triumphant performances the band ever gave (i.e. the August 1981 run), not to mention its cozy confines are free from separators like modern luxury boxes or delivered drink service, pushing the audience into a more direct relationship to the stage. Hot, stinky, uncomfortableyup, that's where you want to put on a rock concert.
The other factor is the element of surprise. Longtime followers know that Bruce has tended to start tours with more (though not total) setlist rigidity before eventually loosening up towards the end of road. LA2, the first second night of the tour, appears to have officially moved us to "loose" status after Denver and LA1 started down the path. Potent readings of "Candy's Room" and "Adam Raised a Cain" popped into the first six, and the grit continued with the reinsertion of "Youngstown," which ended with all the wailing, spinning and hip-surgery testing you could want out of Nils Lofgren.
Now it was time for the signsbut wait a minute, before he could even start to gather, Bruce went straight into the previous night's audible, "Raise Your Hand." Not only were all the kinks worked out 24 hours later, but Bruce commanded the song, marching away from the mic stand (no need for the 'prompter here) to entreat his audience to participate (they did) and from that point forward the show was on a completely different plane.
Stump the Band kicked off with "Proud Mary," with Steve, Nils and Bruce shouting keys out and landing so solidly on the song you'd think they had been playing it since Convention Hall. The arrangement from 2004's Vote for Change (where they backed Fogerty) was clearly still in the synapses, and they killed it. Smiles all around. A very young boy was the author of Sign No. 2 which said on one side "Radio Nowhere," and on the other "Growin' Up." Given his age, Bruce made the only appropriate choice and even returned to the boy to let him sing a bit in the final chorus.
Sign No. 3 was "Hungry Heart," and tired as that song once was, it was fresh tonight, with the crowd in full voice like it was 1980 or 1981 all over again. The next highlight was "Backstreets" dedicated to "Tommy" in Arena 29. We know him as Tom Hanks, who was way into the show all night, joined by his wife Rita Wilson as well as Trudy Styler and her husband Sting. "Backstreets" rang straight and true and the crowd up front was enraptured.
The main set closed in truly inspired fashion as Bruce brought out Social Distortion leader and longtime pal Mike Ness for "Bad Luck," from Social D's Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell. Ness wailed on his low-slung Les Paul, and the band (who had clearly soundchecked the song that day) gave the song its due.
As "Bad Luck" ended, there was a "blink and you'd miss it" moment at the drum stool. The familiar face of Max Weinberg had been replaced by someone who looked just a bit like, as DH put it, "a young Vini Lopez." Jay Weinberg took over for "Lonesome Day" and "The Rising" (the latter with Ness rejoining), and damn if it didn't make those songs more compelling than they had been in some time. There's no doubt Jay plays like his dad (especially his fills), but he's a heavier hitter and to see him pounding away up there with long hair a-flying was not unlike watching Dave Grohl fill the stool. For anyone with trepidation about his pinch-hitting duties in Europe, on the contrary, it is going to be fun. Watching Jay sing along to the set-closing "Born to Run" as he played had to make the old man proud, and when the band came to the front of the stage as it ended, Max was giving big thumbs up to his son.
Bruce was giving so much that his voice started to go just a little bit, but that didn't put a damper in a strong encore, aided by the insertions of "Thunder Road" and a "Glory Days" closer. "We'll be seein' ya," Bruce added just before leaving the stage, and after a truly glorious night, that's exactly what we wanted to hear.
Our man in the field reports: "This show totally rocked. As weak as San Jose was, that's how good this was. What an improvement. Best E Street Band show I've experienced since the Rising tour, and as good as many 1999-2000 shows. The band was really on it tonight. Powerful and organized, which San Jose was not. There were no uncomfortable gapsthey kept the momentum level very high for the whole night." And while some previous L.A. crowds have tended to be aloof, tonight's matched the band's energy level, engaged for the duration.
Patti Scialfa was absent tonight, her first missed show this tour. Bruce sent "Kingdom of Days" out to her and the kids. But we got a special guest on a couple songs to bring the head count back up: guitarist extraordinaire Tom Morello was back, working his magic again on "The Ghost of Tom Joad" as he did last year in Anaheim. From there things went "from the sublime to the ridiculous," says Bruce, with a loose and fun "I'm Goin' Down." A tour premiere had come early, with "Darkness" in the second slot, but the new songs mid-set were the real grabbers. After "I'm Goin' Down," it was "time to stump the band -- who remembers the key?" A rousing "Raise Your Hand" came out for a sign request, the Eddie Floyd cover last performed a year ago at the Count Basie, and that went into "Spirit in the Night," a rollicking performance with Bruce all over the stage and getting backup vocal help from a kid in the crowd.
A magnificent showing from the Professor on "Racing in the Street," and of course big cheers for the "L.A." reference. Morello was back in the encore for a great bluesy lead on "Hard Times," and Springsteen called an audible for "Rosalita" to close the show: "It ain't over 'til it's over!" And it ain't over yet -- that's just the first of a two-night stand at the Sports Arena.
Brendan Flynn writes: "Tonight, Springsteen and the band blew the doors off the Pepsi Center and left the mile high crowd gasping for more. Bruce has clearly begun to hit his stride on this tour, dusting off no less than four tour premieres for the lucky Denver fans. Bumping 'Outlaw Pete' to slot three for the first time, 'The Ties That Bind' had its first appearance since Antwerp, June 2008. After 'Youngstown,' with Nils spinning like a Whirling Dervish possessed by Jimi Hendrix on a blistering solo, came a poignant 'Tougher Than the Rest,' paring Bruce and Patti center stage.
"Bruce collected signs during 'Darlington County' and had to dig way back for the first request: 'Time to stump the band,' he declared with a grin as he revealed the sign with 'E Street Shuffle' scrawled on it. The band fell into the song with a few early hiccups but pulled it off faithfully. Max nailed the solo during the song's climax with particular gusto. Another sign request for 'Prove It All Night' kept the crowd into the show, and the fourth tour premiere, 'Racing in the Street,' was yet another request with Roy turning in a stirring performance.
"'You're fabulous,' Bruce told the crowd as the encore began, reminiscing, 'We've been coming to Denver for a long time,' and even mentioning 'that rainy night at Red Rocks' in 1981. A bonus 'Glory Days rounded out a six-song encore during which Steve pronounced it was "Mile High Boss Time!" Springsteen worked in a few bars of 'Louie Louie' to close out what was arguably the best show of the tour thus far. Bravo, Bruce!"
"Radio Nowhere" came back to the set, while "My Lucky Day" stayed out, keeping the number of WOAD songs to four. But it wasn't really a night for setlist watchers; it was a night to appreciate an entire band deep in a groove and playing with a great deal of confidence. "The Wrestler" was particularly smoldering and intense. "Hard Times" was beautifully done. The other premiere-by-sign was "Cadillac Ranch," namechecking the roadside attraction outside of Amarillo, and which opened the show when Bruce was last here at the Toyota Center a year ago. A great solo from Clarence, who sounded better on "The Promised Land" tonight, too. "Seeds," played nightly on the tour so far, of course brought a huge cheer for "Houston town."
As in Austin, Bruce told the crowd that he's been coming here since 1974, naming Liberty Hall and talking about taking the train down. "We didn't know who was going to come and listen to four or five guys from New Jersey," he recalled, "So we charged a dollar the fist night, and five dollars the second night."
The price may have gone up, but Houstonians are still getting their money's worth. The E Street Band's rigorous schedule -- with this one immediately following the Tulsa show, they've been on stage five out of the last eight nights -- finds them not worn out, but thriving. As one showgoer said at the end of the night, "This band does know how to rock and roll."
The weird thing in Tulsa was not the relative brevity of the show, but the steadily declining number of songs from Working on a Dream. The tally's down to just four tonight, with "My Lucky Day" dropping out -- meaning that they played as many songs from Born in the U.S.A. as from the new album. Three in a row, in fact, with the tour premieres of "I'm on Fire" and the sign-requested "I'm Goin' Down" sandwiching "Working on the Highway." But maybe there's a good reason for that, as Bruce greeted the crowd: "So glad to be in Oklahoma! The last time we played here..." He left it hanging as the crowd cheered, the clear implication being, have we ever played Oklahoma? Well, yeah, but not since the 1978 Darkness on the Edge of Town tour in Norman. So in a way, Springsteen gave 'em the Born in the U.S.A. show they never got.
Also dropped from the set was "Radio Nowhere"; and a missed opportunity to play "The Ghost of Tom Joad" here in Okie territory, as "Youngstown" got the post-"Johnny 99" nod instead. But Bruce added a couple audibles in the encore: "Rosalita" for a request sign, and "Dancing in the Dark" to close.
Add another one to that list with this loose show at the Frank Erwin Center, stretching out to a whopping 28 songs only three shows into the tour. Tour premieres outnumbered songs from the new album tonight, seven to five, starting with "Prove It All Night." Turning up in the Recession Arc was "Youngstown," with that killer solo from Nils. "Sherry Darling" was requested via sign -- via gum wrappers, actually -- and took the place of the setlisted "I'm on Fire." "She's the One" rocked, with Max in a mighty groove. An epic in the encore, the premiere of "Jungleland," and a couple songs later it was the very rare "I'm a Rocker" -- which, like "Sherry," was on the ragged side, but injected some real fun into the show. Finally, "Glory Days" closed the show post-"American Land," a major crowd-pleaser this night.
In the crowd: Charlie Sexton, Alejandro Escovedo and his bandmates David Pulkingham and Hector Munoz.
Jim Knapp writes: "Bruce related his own Arizona stories from the mid-'70s that included references to playing on 'that rotating stage' (at Celebrity Theater, still in operation) in 1974 -- and it seemed all 16,000 in attendance in 2009 laid claim to being there (even though the venue only seats 1800). It was also here in 1978 (at the now dormant Coliseum) that Bruce's first "music video," was shot: the legendary take on 'Rosalita,' complete with hysterical young women rushing him on stage, that introduced the world to his frenetic live shows. So when he launched into 'Rosie' by request in the encore, the Jobing.com arena was sent hurtling through a time-music-space continuum that drove everyone -- and I mean everyone -- into hardcore Bruce delirium.
"And that was after delivering a sharp two-and-a-half hour mix of chestnuts ('Night') and new classics ('Outlaw Pete''s epic story and musical arc alone was worth the price of admission) that reinforced how important Bruce is as a rock 'n' roll and Americana music preservationist... and futurist. Early tour rustiness? Not here. Not last night. If Backstreeters think Jersey and NYC bring out the best in Bruce, they've never seen him dancin' in the desert."
The "hard times" arc of the show -- the fantastic Recession Trilogy of "Seeds," "Johnny 99" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad," into the "Good Eye" blues -- was followed by a surprise mid-set cover: "Good Rockin' Tonight." It served as an antidote to those blues, and an invitation -- "Baby, bring my rockin' shoes / 'Cause tonight I'm gonna rock away all my blues / Have you heard the news, there's good rockin' tonight" -- and a smart transition into the back half of the show.
And the signs are back! Just a few songs later, "Growin' Up" was played by request, and in the encore, "Thunder Road" was an audible after someone in the audience gave Bruce a small poster from the Robert Mitchum movie.
Still a lighter focus on the new album than we'd expect at the beginning of a tour. The sixth and final Working on a Dream track was "Kingdom of Days" toward the end of the main set, one showgoer describing it as "gorgeous, with Patti singing at a mic next to Bruce, and Bruce clearly focusing attention on her to highlight her role in his life. This to me was the show that did not happen, the personal show, because the times just don't call for it."
Overall a solid opener, clocking in at 2:40, with a few minor hiccups, but not nearly as many performance kinks as past Night Ones and a quick pace -- Bruce and the band, in mid-tour shape, played continuously without a break from the opening until 90 minutes into the show. What we'll be watching for as we move to Night Two, Night Three, and beyond is a show that feels new, and reconciles the new material with the times.
A sharp review from Shay Quillen the San Jose Mercury News, calling the show "decidedly subpar," points to the challenge Bruce confronts right now: "As Don Rumsfeld might say, you don't go on tour with the album you wish you had, you go on tour with the album you've got. So Springsteen faces the tough task of hyping a new romantic pop record while simultaneously offering hope and support to a wounded nation not an easy task."
But it doesn't yet feel like a new show. Of the nine songs not played the night before, the majority were straight from the past decade's comfort zone: very familiar versions of "Darlington County," "Waitin' on a Sunny Day," "The Promised Land," "Dancing in the Dark," and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out." It's hard to deny the power of the perfomance -- but at this point that's generally a known quantity. In this equation, we're still solving for the Working on a Dream show. "We come to these shows and we find our current selves," Springsteen said as he thanked the crowd for being part of the tour prep, significantly adding, "We try to do something different each tour." So it's on his mind -- what's still unclear is whether he thinks he's got it, or whether he's letting us know that he's working toward it.
Working toward it tonight were some successful setlist tweaks: moving "Badlands" to the opening slot seemed to wipe the dust off that one. It was a powerful standing start that got fists pumping (and Bruce windmilling) immediately, and it effectively set up "Outlaw Pete." Also seeing a significant placement shift was "Born to Run," getting an unusual main-set appearance to close. "Mary's Place" was out. Shake-ups good. Add a new one to Jay Weinberg's repertoire, as he nailed "Lonesome Day," then helped closed out the set on "Radio Nowhere" and "Born to Run." The crowd loves Jay, for good reason, and it was again a moving moment as his dad joined him for the bows, sharing a hug and lifting the grinning kid's hand into the air.
"Seeds" was a huge moment for those of us who have been waiting for its full-band return since the Tunnel tour in '88. A great dirty groove, and the line "The banker man said, 'Sorry, son, it's all gone'." That was followed tonight by "Johnny 99" and the fiery, electric "The Ghost of Tom Joad" in the most potent arc of the show. "Land of Hope and Dreams" turned up in the encore, its first E Street outing since 2004, and it felt good: a message more immediate and relevant at this moment than, say, "American Land" (which closed the show), and an effective bridge between the "hard times" theme and the hopefulness of the new material.
"Working on a Dream" keeps getting better, and what better way to have a whistle solo go over than to have Clarence to be the one to do it? Cheers for the Big Man. The premiere of "Kingdom of Days" was beautfiully played, displaying once again how well the new material translates live. Too bad it couldn't have joined "This Life" instead of taking its place; dropping "This Life" as well as "I Ain't Got No Home" drastically reduced the Curtis & Cindy quotient, and the set is still surprisingly light on WOAD tunes. Historically speaking, the beginning of a tour is when the new stuff gets a real workout.
Ah, but it's not even the beginning of a tour yet. While the "something different" Bruce is looking for may still be indistinct, tonight surely served as a confidence booster for him and the band at the very least, considering the form they displayed and the response it generated, and a chance to feel the connection with the audience, that crackle in the air. Now it's a matter of taking us somewhere we haven't been before.
As Springsteen said later in the night, "These shows are really important to us. They allow us to get our wheels underneath us and touch base here at home... it does help us a lot. You can practice a lot in isolation... I tell myself everything sounds great! But when we come out and play [for you], we hear it through your ears, hear what works and what doesn't. So as we construct the show, it's very helpful to us."
So what worked? 12 players on stage, that worked. In addition to the full E Street Band (with Patti Scialfa present and accounted for, Soozie Tyrell and Charlie Giordano also returning), we've got two more faces up there. In between Garry Tallent (now positioned on Max's right -- shades of '88!) and Charlie are two backup singers, "the fabulous Curtis King and Cindy Mizelle from the Sessions Band." And if you thought the E Street Band had a full sound before, wait til you hear this. It's an expansion of their sonic palette on the level of Soozie's addition to the band on the Rising tour. Any question of how the pop sound of Working on a Dream might translate to the stage is answered by the presence of Curtis and Cindy. (Makes me wish they'd been there for "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" last time around.) They're still learning the E Street ropes, but especially with a full Springsteen tour under their belts already, look for them to make this tour shine in short order.
The message worked. The most clearly thematic song choices made for the most compelling performances of the night. And it wouldn't take a genius to guess what might be on Bruce's mind this time around. "A lot of folks struggling out there, a lot of hard times," he said, introducing a muscular, guitar-heavy "Johnny 99" with the Big Man on baritone sax, melding the late-'03 and Sessions Band arrangements. Another inspired song choice was "I Ain't Got No Home," originally released on Folkways: A Vision Shared. In this live version, the vocalists came down front for an a cappella intro, simply massive harmonies that recurred on the chorus throughout. (And a nice twist of the lyric at the end: "The banking man is rich, and the working man is poor.") Kicking off the encore was a reinvention of Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," akin to what he and the Sessions Band did with "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?"
The pacing worked, in a sense. Not that Bruce has yet figured out the structure or the flow; clearly that's still to come. But the relentless drive of the Magic tour is gone, and right now that feels like a good thing, letting these songs breathe a bit.
Jay Weinberg worked -- and worked hard. In the middle of the set, Bruce brought him out for a five-song stretch: "Just a little magic -- I can actually make Max 40 years younger!" Jay's big beat powered "Good Eye" first, Bruce with the bullet mic, of course, and the backup vox getting wild, callling out "Ride that train!" This was cooool. From there into "Radio Nowhere" they really put Jay through his paces, with the huge drum breakdown at the end of that song leading right into the stamina-fest of "Candy's Room." His hair flying, even breaking a freakin' drumstick, Jay came through the gauntlet with a big grin, Bruce going back for a high five. "Jay is 18!" Bruce laughed, and the implication was clear -- he's that good already?
Nils' new hips -- they worked! "Because the Night," with Jay still behind the kit, featured Lofgren's signature solo, complete with lunges and spins. Looks like the PT paid off.
Working on a Dream songs are getting up on their feet pretty nicely, though there weren't as many in the set as we might have expected. ("Kingdom of Days," for one, was on the setlist but not played.) "My Lucky Day" in particular had a good, classic E Street feel; stripped of some of the busy-ness of the album version, it was a straightahead, high-energy rocker that brought Bruce and Steve face to face at the mic and really got things going. After Charlie's swirling keyboard intro, a beautiful airing of "The Wrestler" was driven largely by Bruce and his acoustic, but it gradually built with subtle accompaniment from Charlie and Roy, Soozie's fiddle, and finally Max coming in to give it a climactic beat. "This Life" was a complexly arranged vocal showcase, with majestic, sunny harmonies -- unabashed pop, and while some hearts of stone may not dig it, it was glorious to these ears.
What didn't work? Well, teaching some of those "This Life" parts to the crowd was awkward. This half do this... now this half do that. ("Two-sevenths, five-sevenths," Steve Martin would add.) The transition from "Surprise, Surprise" into "Badlands." Structure? What structure? "Mustang Sally," played by request with guest John Eddie, was a bit of a mess, though Bruce and the band held it together, and getting a classic cover in the encore is always a good direction.
But the real issue was the retread factor. The Magic tour may have ended not very long ago at all, but the feeling among fans seems to be that we're ready and hoping for something new, not simply picking up where we left off. Maybe Bruce felt he and the band needed a few safe places to land, but while the night was surprisingly light on Magic material, too many moments felt like holdovers. A lengthy "Mary's Place," complete with "Are you ready?" intro and mid-song rap, feels more tired than ever. At this point the song feels like an AC/DC stage prop: built for touring, why leave it in storage when you can keep taking it on the road? And shouldn't that house down by the river be built by now? We can only hope Springsteen finds a new centerpiece for the show, and soon. Compulsory takes of songs like "Badlands" and "No Surrender" as the night wore on, and "American Land" at the end, just served as a reminder of the vast swaths of Springsteen's songbook he has visited all too rarely -- or in the case of Devils & Dust and a good deal of his '90s material, not at all with the E Street Band.
But all things in good time. Here in the preparation phase, getting to watch Springsteen develop a show is compelling in and of itself -- as long as you're not looking for one fully grown at birth. And with surprisingly few miscues tonight, even the goofs were fun. Like when Bruce stopped "Johnny 99" dead for a moment: "Waitaminute! We almost... We almost had it! A one-two-three!..."
"This is a run-through," he reminded us at the encore break. "We'll see what flies. Next time you see us we'll be a well-oiled machine. We're sort of a well-oiled machine tonight." At that, Steve shook his head. But "sort of well-oiled" feels about right for night one.
And then there were the horns, seen rarely (unless it's 1988, 2006, or a holiday show), and a choir, seen even more rarely (unless it's the Lincoln Memorial... or a holiday show). But other than these bells and whistles (and fireworks), maybe the most remarkable thing about Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's remarkable Super Bowl halftime show was how much it felt like a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show -- compressed into twelve minutes.
You had exhortations ("Put the chicken fingers down!"), knee-slides (and a surprised camera operator, we'll bet), Bruce and Steve at the mic, a Big Man sax solo (5-1 odds, are you crazy?!), a corny costume moment (not a bear, a ghoul, or a Republican, but a ref), the return of the Esquire, and "Boss Time." A few lyric changes reminded us where we were -- "Scooter and the Big Man bust the Super Bowl in half"... "I had a friend, was a big football player" -- but really, this was a Bruce show in microcosm, and successfully so. For regular fans, of course, it felt like a great show intro -- right outta the gate, bam bam bam (boom!), and we're ready for Bruce to address the crowd -- "Hello Tampa!"-- before bringing on the rest of the 2:48.
But really, a lot of the fun was trying to watch through the eyes of those unfamiliar with the drill, as this was Bruce and the band's biggest world stage by far. And we've gotta think those uninitiated were left wanting more, as the old showbiz saying suggests, just as we were -- a good thing, except for the impact it may be having on ticket sales this morning. (Not to mention BTX traffic -- we're working on that one.)
For a show that had to be micro, necessitating cut verses and a bit of a rush, Bruce succeeded in packing in the fun and the feel of "the real thing," and the transitions were as smooth as Charlie's pate. A non-stop house party from beginning (the iconic silhouette of Bruce and Clarence, recalling the Born to Run cover) to end (for the record, Bruce did work up a sweat in just 12 minutes -- there were beads on his forehead by the end).
Says Steve, "Yeah, baby!" Says Bruce: "I'm going to Disneyland!" Says Costas after the commercial break: "We're still buzzing about Bruce Springsteen at halftime." And for all the reasons cited why Springsteen decided to do the Super Bowl, "mercenary" and otherwise, there was clearly one more: to show 'em how it's done.
January 18 / Washington, DC / Lincoln Memorial
Reader John Corrigan was moved to write in soon after: "Bruce and Pete sing Woody’s most radical lyric: 'the sign said private property / and on the other side, it didn’t say nothing / That side was made for you and me.' The blacklisted artist is front and center as we get ready to inaugurate a black man as president. Is this a great country, or what?"
Following the "This Land is Your Land," Bruce was up there once more, as Beyonce closed the show with "America the Beautiful" and all the participants came out to sing along. Catch an encore presentation tonight at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT on HBO, or watch it now on HBO.com.
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