What happened to Bruce’s handwritten setlists?

One of the best features of the official Springsteen website over the past few years was that copies of Bruce’s handwritten setlist would be posted, in PDF format, for anyone to see after a show. In an age where Bruce’s website was never going to be able to break news ahead of other sites, this was important, unique content. Yes, it appealed primarily (if not exclusively) to hardcore fans, but it certainly drove traffic to Bruce’s website while also recognizing those hardcore fans by offering them an additional insight into the show they just saw: What songs did Bruce intend to play? What were the changes in the running order? Where were the “audibles?” What might he play tomorrow?

A handwritten setlist was posted for every show on the 2007-08 Magic tour and the 2009 Working on a Dream tour,* and at the beginning of the 2012 tour, Bruce’s official twitter account was readily advertising the handwritten setlists. They were posted for the Apollo and South by Southwest shows, and for Atlanta and Greensboro, the first two shows of the tour. Since then: nothing. Another 16 shows and six weeks into the tour and still no sign of them.

So what happened?

One theory that has been bandied about the internet is that the handwritten setlists are no longer being posted online in an effort to prevent eBay sales of setlists. This is easily debunked, however, by a perfunctory search of eBay’s listings, which indicates that the few setlists being offered are the versions that have a typed list of songs (rather than the ones in Bruce’s handwriting), and that auctions are most likely being conducted by members of the local crew.

From a pure value standpoint, a photocopied piece of paper (and that’s what these are) has no real value when anyone can get their own off the internet. The one setlist that is actually written by Bruce is not available to the public. At each show, it is, by all accounts, kept in a file for Bruce’s reference. That piece of paper is then photocopied (often multiple times) and then scanned into PDF format for posting on the internet. If it’s available for anyone to get (for free), the values on eBay are going to be minimized.

In fact, by creating scarcity, it only increases the chance that the few handwritten setlists that do make it out of the arena could be auctioned off for profit.

An alternate explanation is that updating Bruce’s official website is not a priority and posting the handwritten setlists was jettisoned for efficiency purposes. Given that the website manages to add the list of songs played in each show, though, this also seems implausible.

One final possibility is that Bruce simply is — for whatever reason (artistic, personal preference or otherwise) — not interested in sharing his planned setlist with the public. The relative ease by which the “typed” setlists have been available after shows on this tour suggests that this may also be untrue.

Sadly, no matter what the reason, the execution here by Bruce, Inc. leaves fans wanting. I also feel badly for Bruce’s crew, who are going to be pestered by fans again looking for that unique concert souvenir that they used to be able to get easily online.


* There was one setlist that never got posted from 2007-09. Conspiracy theorists may take note it was the May 14, 2009 show in Albany, the first time that Jay Weinberg played an entire show on drums with E Street.

Springsteen breaks $100 ticket ceiling in US

Very quietly, ticket prices on this tour have been steadily cracking the $100 (US) mark — when adjusting for exchange rates. The most expensive tickets on the 2012 E Street Band tour have been in countries outside the US: in Canada, where the top ticket prices was $116 (115 Canadian Dollars*); in Ireland, where tickets reached $129.38 (96 Euros); or in Switzerland, where tickets were $199.60 ($183.70 Swiss Francs).

Yet in the United States, where the Springsteen plays the majority of his shows, prices for regular tour (non-charity benefit) shows have always been very carefully held under $100, until today.

Tickets were priced this tour at $98.00, which represented no increase from the final leg of the 2009 Working on a Dream Tour. Note that this $98.00 is the “Springsteen” portion of the ticket. Most arenas or stadiums add a “facility” fee to the ticket, ranging from $2 to $5 per ticket, which is frequently hidden into the “face value” price. (A ticket for Madison Square Garden may ostensibly show a face value of “$103.00″ but only because that facility charge has been added in).

It is clear that Springsteen has deliberately avoided cracking the $100 ceiling on his tickets going back several tours. Springsteen reunited the E Street Band in 1999 — long after the Eagles had their first reunion tour — and could have easily charged $100 at that point for tickets. Rather, prices were held to $67.50 for the best seats. The price went up to $75 for the 2002-03 Rising Tour and to $85 for the solo-acoustic Devils & Dust tour in 2005. In 2007, when the E Street Band returned for the Magic Tour, tickets were $95, and have held in that area, just under $100, ever since.

So where and how did this first $100+ US Springsteen ticket come about? Very quietly, it seems, in Foxborough, MA.

Foxboro Prices

Yes, that’s right, the top ticket price is now $125 (plus that hidden $3 “facility fee”) for the lower level and club level seats. Strangely, the field seats are still $98.

Want one ticket? Be prepared (after Ticketmaster has their way with you) to pay a whopping $140 for a seat that’s not very good:

Foxboro 3

In fairness to Bruce, $100 is a reasonable and fair price to pay for a top-tier artist in concert.
A sudden 25% increase (for seats in a stadium) is a strange move, though.

One is left to wonder: could this just be a product of Gillette Stadium pricing — the stadium that charges $40 to park (in a suburban setting) — or is this a sign of things to come for the rest of the tour?

* US Prices for foreign shows were calculated based on exchange rates in effect at the time tickets were initially put on sale.

New York, Madison Square Garden, Night 2, April 9, 2012

IMG_0904

Monday’s show had a very uneven first half of the set and was coming very close to veering off into “disappointing” territory before Bruce called the audibles for “Backstreets” and then “Land of Hope and Dreams,” giving a big boost to the end of main set.  Add in a very energetic encore and things were improved markedly by the end of the show.

I was surprised that Bruce would use the exact same opening six songs for both Friday and Monday’s shows.  It’s not that they didn’t work well, but it was odd that he wouldn’t see fit to change anything up in that run of songs.  Keeping the houselights up for the introduction and Badlands is of course effective for immediate energy at the start of the show but repeating Out in the Street was perhaps not the best choice.  Obviously Bruce can’t be expected to pull out five tour premieres every night but I think “The Ties That Bind” (the alternate on the setlist) would’ve been a superior choice.  Things didn’t go so well with the performance either as this was the first of several times when Bruce and the band were not on the same page.

In fact, I was struck that the band seemed to have trouble following Bruce tonight when he went off script, including the outro of “Easy Money,” the sudden stops in “Sprit in the Night,” and when he decided to chug a second beer during “634-5789.”  This hasn’t been a frequent problem so far this tour but nonetheless is a bit disturbing to see repeatedly during a particular show.  Also adding to the “not the greatest” performance list were a couple of Jake’s solos, with “Trapped” and “Spirit” not quite being on the mark.  I think he’s generally trying quite hard and has a tough task but it would be disingenuous to pretend that he only has good nights.  I still believe it would be appropriate for the sax solos to be split more evenly as this could help prevent the occasional “off” night.  It struck me that “Spirit” would’ve been a good song to give the solo to Ed.

Also unfortunate was the choice of “Thundercrack” so early in the set.  I’m sure the person with the sign was very happy but that spot in the setlist was not the right place for a 10-minute song that really lost the crowd (the same thing happened in Philadelphia).  I generally applaud Bruce’s willingness to try anything in a stadium or arena but I think the “Thundercrack” in the arenas experiment was played out after 2007 with good reason.

Of course, things clearly picked up towards the end of the show, and putting “Land of Hope and Dreams” as the main set closer was a very good idea.  I think it would still do fine in the encores but if Bruce feels compelled to keep that spot open for the likes of “Rosalita” and “Kitty’s Back,” then putting Land of Hope and Dreams at the end of the main set is an acceptable substitute.  I also note there were still some standout performances in the first part of the show: “We Take Care of Our Own” was quite good, as was “She’s the One.”

The encore was nothing groundbreaking but it was full of energy and got the crowd up and moving.  Rosalita worked very well with the crowd.  As an occasional visitor, “Rosie” remains quite welcome; it only tends to become problematic when it shows up night after night.  Tonight’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” was probably the best of the tour so far, a tight performance with excellent crowd participation.

Miscellaneous notes and thoughts:
“Spirit,” “Thundercrack,” “Trapped” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” were not on the setlist, but “Candy’s Room” and “Thunder Road” were (as was “Ties,” as an alternate for “Out in the Street”).  “Because the Night” was originally in the spot after “City of Ruins,” and “Backstreets” was originally in the spot after “634-5789.”

At times, this was not the best crowd.  I blame, in large part, the excessive holds of seats for VIPs and guests.  When Bruce had to tell the crowd to get off their asses (only 6 songs in!) it was not the people in the cheap seats or those behind the stage; it was the people in the prime lowers.  Additionally, it was disappointing to see to many prime lower level seats go unoccupied.  It would be appropriate to give those on the guestlist the choice of pit or seats but not both.

If Bruce won’t give up on playing “The Promised Land,” maybe he could see fit to move it around the set.  I can think of at least four different places it could go so that we could avoid pairing it with “Sunny Day” night after night.  1. As an occasional opening song; 2. After Wrecking Ball; 3. Instead of “The Rising” and 4. In the encore, after “Rocky Ground.”

New York, Madison Square Garden, Night 1, April 6, 2012

Tonight’s show featured a very good performance and a great crowd but perhaps didn’t quite reach the heights of DC or the second show at the Meadowlands.  Still, at only ten shows into the tour, getting a show like this now (rather than twenty or thirty shows in) is a very good omen both for Europe and the second US leg.  With solid performances and an evolving setlist (still waiting for some more Promise material) things are shaping up quite nicely.

The introduction music was Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” with the band entering with the houselights up and staying up for “Badlands” which of course worked to great effect (the “Star Time” introduction got the ax, however).  I get the impression that Bruce has struggled with where to fit “Badlands” in the set over the past few tours: it closed the set in 2007; it opened the set in 2009, and again, as it did tonight, it works quite well as an opener, although that’s not exactly breaking new ground.  The third spot also worked fine but clearly Bruce wants to use that spot (as he usually does) as a “wild card” in the show.  Tonight was fun, but I’ll bet Badlands gets moved around some more this tour as the opening song is another traditonal “wild card” slot in the show.  I suppose Bruce could fit “Badlands” in the “Sunny Day” slot if he felt so included.

Bruce brought out his usual New York-New Jersey shtick (yes, that same one from “Light of Day” on the reunion tour) again before “My City of Ruins.”  Note to Bruce: the Statute of Liberty is actually in New York). I didn’t care much for this pandering to the crowd; it took a little away from the power of the rest of Bruce’s introductions and exhortations during “My City of Ruins”

“Murder Incorporated” worked well and featured extensive soloing from Bruce and Steve at the end of the song.  I was surprised that more of the crowd didn’t react strongly to the song so perhaps Bruce was right to bump this out of the opening slot, where it was originally placed (what a statement that would’ve been, however!)

The audibles in the middle of the show were quite welcome, first with “Shackled and Drawn” back in the show, and then the totally unexpected “Lion’s Den” (which was moved up from its original spot after “The Promised Land.”)  “Lion’s Den” was obviously rehearsed and serves as a welcome sign that Bruce is continuing to consider different things on which to use the horns.  If he’s comfortable breaking this out, surely The Promise material can’t be far behind.  My fingers remain (optimistically) crossed that we’ll eventually get long-shots “Protection” or “Lying in a Bed of Fire” with those horns before the tour is out.

My frustrations with “Sunny Day” and “The Promised Land” are well documented but in some ways “Lonesome Day” is even more of a disappointment.  I am fully on board with Bruce’s desire to play his “newer” material but the set does not need a fourth Rising song.  What it needs — badly — is more material from Magic, a record that was underplayed on the last tour and apparently has gone missing entirely this tour, save a single appearance of “Radio Nowhere” in Tampa.  The songs fit thematically.  They fit with the band (some horns on “Livin’ in the Future” or “You’ll Be Coming Down” would be nice).  Maybe “Gypsy Biker” was played out but “Long Walk Home” certainly wasn’t.

There is apparently some reason for hope that either “Sunny Day” or “The Promised Land” will get the boot from time to time.  In addition to the audible of “The Promise” in Washington, one setlist that made the rounds from that show showed the comment “might skip” after Sunny Day, and “This Hard Land” was on the setlist at the second Meadowlands show in the spot where “The Promised Land” got played.

“Kitty’s Back” worked quite well in the encore and surprisingly captured the crowd better than it did in Philadelphia a week earlier.  I wasn’t enamored with Jake’s performance on the song but will note that overall, I thought he had a very good night, with his solos on “Promised Land” and “Thunder Road” in particular his best efforts yet.  Eddie Manion got a solo on “Lion’s Den” and I remain hopeful that there will be a bit more of an even split in solos as the tour progresses.  I think Jake is doing a great job but remain fearful at times that the crowd embraces him too much for his name and less for his playing.  Charlie Giordano has fit into this band quite well because of the latter; I want the same thing for Jake.

Meadowlands, Night 2, April 4, 2012

It is really quite encouraging to see the shows continue to improve as the tour picks up steam.  Obviously the setlist changes from night to night are welcome, both for the surprise factor (if one sees only one or two shows) and to keep things fresh for those multi-show attendees and the band as well.  But performance wise, it is quite rewarding that the band is showing little signs of early-tour rust.

Bruce remarked several times how nice it was to be “home” and I imagine that played into the setlist choices tonight, which were very clearly tailored away from any of his big hits; it felt in many ways like a Reunion tour set (plus the Wrecking Ball songs), with all of the River and Darkness songs in the show.  “The Ties That Bind” seemed to work well in the third slot but “Jackson Cage” didn’t quite capture the crowd.

Bruce finally has taken to introducing each of the members of the horn section and “E Street choir” by name — including Everett!  I’m glad to see him do this.  The audience deserves to know who these people on stage are as much as they deserve the recognition.

“Johnny 99″ was a feature piece for the horns, with an extended outro and Bruce egging them on to solo and improvise as a section.  Initially, the horn players didn’t seem to realize Bruce’s cue was for them to come down off the riser and to the front of the stage, where they finished off the song with Bruce, who noted “we’d been waiting” to bring the song out.  I just wish Bruce would drop the infernal “woo-woos” that were being sung over the horn part.  It seems that at times, Bruce feels compelled to give everyone in the band something to do on every song.  It’s simply not necessary.  The horn players sit out the occasional song.  It’s fine for the singers to do the same, and if they had, it would have made things substantially tighter.

The performance highlight of the evening was of course “Racing in the Street,” audibled after “The Promised Land.”  My guess is that it was on the setlist but moved into that particular spot in the set.  Roy again turned in a stunning solo on a song that continues to feel remarkably fresh among Bruce’s “classics.”  Certainly it helps that the song remains a true rarity (never being played frequently on any of the Reunion-era tours) but there is something about the way the it demonstrates the band’s chops that seems to capture the audience every time it gets played.

I still think Bruce doesn’t quite have the encores working as well as they could.  “Trapped” was a crowd favorite but seemed disjointed when followed with “Rocky Ground.”  I also do not understand the need to be dropping “Land of Hope and Dreams.”  “Ramrod” was great and deserves to be rotated in the spot where “Dancing in the Dark” is seemingly permanently ensconced.

Unfortunately, the wrecking ball was taken to the wrong venue at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.  The arena has never been a great place to see a show but tonight reaffirmed its reputation as a total dump that has not aged well at all.  Combined with a usual uneven Jersey crowd — the talkers, the beer drinkers, the idiots who only want to hear “Glory Days” and “Born to Run” — and things could have been bad.  (Bruce’s exhortation to “get those lazy asses out of the seats” at the beginning of the show was telling).

Yet it was a testament to the power of the performance tonight that things went so well.  Look out Madison Square Garden.

Washington, Verizon Center, April 1, 2012

I quite enjoy that Bruce continues to change up his introduction at the beginning of the show.  Tonight’s included the adding of “Working on a Dream” (yes, really) to the “he brought you such hits as…” line.  Also new was the gem “45 years of playing experience, 30 years of psychiatric treatment.”

Bruce repeated the story from Philadelphia about having his first drink at a bar in Manasquan, NJ where he saw Bo Diddley play, but this time added some Bo Diddley-style riffs on his guitar as he reminisced about taking tequila shots, and then asking “where is that tequila now?”  I enjoyed seeing Garry come up to sing the “Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley’s at the seaside bar” line.

It is a shame that Bruce’s official site has stopped (hopefully just temporarily) posting the handwritten setlists after each show.  The content was unique to their site, insightful and may also have had the benefit of causing people to stop pestering the crew for copies.    Unfortunately this also means that determining which songs were audibles again requires close observation.  Tonight, it appeared the songs that were likely not on the setlist were “Adam Raised a Cain, “The Promise, “Because the Night” and “Out in the Street.”  For “Adam,” the green lights for “Easy Money” had already come up before the song started.  There was no sign acknowledged but Bruce did say Because the Night was “by request.”

“The Promise” was completely unexpected, particularly in the spot reserved for “The Promised Land.”  It had made the setlist in Philadelphia but after going unplayed there, it seemed unlikely to reappear before New York.  Needless to say it was a treat to hear.  Bruce introduced it as “something I wrote for the Darkness on the Edge of Town album but didn’t make it on the record.”  The full-band version was essentially the same as had been performed at the Carousel House show in December 2010, again omitting the “when the Promise was broken/I was faraway from home/sleeping in the backseat of a borrowed car” line.  Performances from Roy and Soozie were very solid.  The audience reaction may have been indifference from a sizable portion of the crowd but it appeared to be at least respectful indifference and wasn’t a massive beer-run moment – with the disclaimer that my focus was entirely on the band for this one.

The veterans from Walter Reed at the show got a special welcome and “thank you” from Bruce at the start of the encore.  “Rocky Ground” was dedicated to Bobby Muller.

“Out in the Street” was played after Bruce directed a sign be passed up to the stage.  A true audible, Bruce noted they had not rehearsed it in “two and a half years” but “the E Street Band knows their shit.”  This may not need to be an every-night number but works quite well as an encore choice.  The horn section showed off their skills here by joining in to good effect.  I think I also heard Curt Ramm add a trumpet lick to “Dancing in the Dark,” doubling the usual “whoa-oh-oh” countermelody that is sometimes sung by the audience.

There was no “meet me out in the street” call-and-response between Bruce and the band members.  Bruce sang it once or twice but then just moved on to the “whoa-oh” part.  It occurred to me that Bruce hadn’t yet considered what to do with Clarence’s spotlight vocal part — (I would give it to Garry, personally) — and skipped it as a result, rather than trying to figure it out on the fly.

Bruce was very enamored with the audience tonight — including paying special attention to those behind the stage, even on songs he usually is just at his microphone for (eg. “Thunder Road”).  When he got to the second verse of “Out in the Street,” he made an initial move towards the front lip of the stage but then headed straight for the back for one more trip there.  He also made an additional foray out into the audience, to the platform at the back of the pit for “Dancing in the Dark.”

It was very encouraging to see Bruce make the last-minute decision to add “Land of Hope and Dreams” back into the show after presumably skipping it in favor of “Out in the Street” three songs earlier.  Dropping a key “new” song so early in the tour would have been very discouraging (particularly with “Shackled and Drawn” still missing in action).  After the houselights had been up for “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark,” they were brought back down as the band started the song, and came back up for the “let me see your hands” exhortation at the end.  It seems clear that the encore would have worked better had the songs been swapped but that was seemingly just a byproduct of Bruce’s “loose” attitude towards the setlist he had written for this show.