Bruce Springsteen’s 2012-2013 Wrecking Ball Tour: Tour Statistics Part 2

Today is Part 2 of 4: Album breakdown, opening and closing songs, and the full song list and more.  Part 1 can be found here.

Number of Songs Played From Each Album:
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle: 7 of 7
Born to Run: 8 of 8
Darkness on the Edge of Town: 10 of 10
Born in the USA: 12 of 12
Wrecking Ball: 12 of 13
The River: 17 of 20
Nebraska: 8 of 10
Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ: 7 of 9
Lucky Town: 6 of 10
Magic: 6 of 12
The Rising: 7 of 15
Human Touch: 5 of 14
Working on a Dream: 4 of 13
Tunnel of Love: 2 of 12
The Ghost of Tom Joad: 2 of 12
Devils and Dust: 2 of 12

Tracks: 23 of 58*
The Promise: 10 of 22

*Tracks has 66 songs, 58 of which are “exclusive” to that collection.

Percentage of Songs Played by Album:
The most represented album was Wrecking Ball, with songs from that album performed 766 times.

The least represented album was Devils and Dust, with only 6 performances of songs from that album.

The songs played from Tunnel of Love, Human Touch, Lucky Town, Devils and Dust, Magic, Working on a Dream and The Promise combined represented only 3% of the performances on the tour.

On the 2012-13 Wrecking Ball tour, new material made up 20.71% of the songs played.

On the 2009 Working on a Dream tour, new material made up 10.35% of the songs played; on the 2007-08 Magic tour, 27.76%; on the 2002-03 Rising tour, 39.34%.


Full-Album Shows
Born in the USA: 7 shows
Born to Run: 6 shows
Darkness on the Edge of Town: 3 shows

5 Longest-Missing Springsteen Songs Resurrected During This Tour:

1. Bishop Danced, played May 2, 2012 in Newark.
Last played March 2, 1973 (39 years, 2 months)

2. Man at the Top, played July 28, 2013 in Kilkenny.
Last played August 5, 1985 (27 years, 11 months, 23 days)

3. Secret Garden, played July 24, 2013 in Leeds.
Last played June 22, 2000 (13 years, 1 month, 2 days)

4. Lion’s Den, played April 6, 2012 in New York.
Last played February 28, 2000 (12 years, 1 month, 6 days)

5. Take ‘Em As They Come, played July 14, 2012 in London.
Last played June 14, 2003 (9 years, 1 month)

Songs Never Played Live Before This Tour:
High Hopes
Just Like Fire Would
Living on the Edge of the World
Monster Mash
My Kind of Town
Sociedade Alternativa
Spanish Eyes
TV Movie
Wages of Sin
When I Leave Berlin

Crowd-Surfing Songs
634-5789 from the “Apollo Medley”
Hungry Heart
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
Out in the Street
Spirit in the Night

Show-Opening Songs
44 different songs were used to open shows.  26 were used one time only in that spot. The most common were:
1. We Take Care of Our Own     27
2. Badlands     19
3. This Little Light of Mine    7
4. Shackled and Drawn    6
4. Land of Hope and Dreams    6
4. The Promised Land    6

Main Set-Closing Songs
7 different songs were used to close the main set.  2 were used one time only in that spot.  The most common were:
1. Land of Hope and Dreams     68
2. Thunder Road    37
3. Badlands    17
4. Light of Day    7
5. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)    2

Encore-Opening Songs
39 different songs were used to open the encore.  26 were used one time only in that spot.  The most common were:
1. Rocky Ground    28
1. We Are Alive    28
3. Born in the USA    14
4. Thunder Road    10
5. Jungleland    7

Show-Closing Songs
14 different songs were used to close the show.   8 were used one time only in that spot.  The most common were:
1. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out    60
2. Twist and Shout    28
3. Thunder Road    15
4. American Land    14
5. This Hard Land    5

Songs Used as Both Show-Opener and Show-Closer:
American Land
Rockin’ All Over the World
This Hard Land
This Little Light of Mine
Thunder Road
Twist and Shout
Who’ll Stop the Rain

Thunder Road is the only song that was used in all four spots (a show opener, main set closer, encore opener and show closer) on the tour.

Of the 225 different songs played on the tour:
77 songs were played only once.

23 songs were played only twice.

Only 15 songs were played at more than half the shows.

162 of the songs played were written/co-written by Bruce Springsteen.

63 were covers.

The Full List:
Born to Run    133
Dancing in the Dark    133
Death to My Hometown    133
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out    132
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day    132
Wrecking Ball    128
Badlands    125
We Take Care of Our Own    114
Shackled and Drawn    113
The Rising    107
My City of Ruins    95
Land of Hope and Dreams    85
Thunder Road    85
Spirit in the Night    82
Hungry Heart    70
Jack of All Trades 65
Born in the USA    64
We Are Alive    62
Darlington County    57
Out in the Street    57
The Promised Land    57
The River    53
Because the Night    52
She’s the One 52
Working on the Highway    52
Prove It All Night    42
Twist and Shout    42
Rocky Ground    40
Bobby Jean    39
No Surrender    38
Lonesome Day    36
Johnny 99    35
The E Street Shuffle    34
Glory Days    34
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)    32
“Apollo Medley”    31
Atlantic City    28
American Land    25
My Love Will Not Let You Down     25
The Ties That Bind    25
Pay Me My Money Down    24
Seven Nights to Rock    24
Murder Incorporated    23
Candy’s Room    23
Downbound Train    21
Radio Nowhere    21
The Ghost of Tom Joad    20
Trapped    20
Backstreets    19
Cover Me    18
Easy Money    18
Shout    18
Youngstown    18
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?    17
Jungleland    17
Open All Night    17
Racing in the Street    17
Raise Your Hand    17
Darkness on the Edge of Town    16
Night 16
Something in the Night    16
Adam Raised a Cain    15
Two Hearts    15
American Skin (41 Shots)    14
I’m Goin’ Down    14
I’m on Fire    14
This Little Light of Mine    14
Cadillac Ranch    12
Light of Day    11
My Hometown    11
Incident on 57th Street    10
Jackson Cage    10
Long Walk Home    10
This Hard Land    9
Lost in the Flood    9
Ramrod    9
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town    9
Who’ll Stop the Rain    9
Drive All Night    8
I’m a Rocker    8
It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City    8
Seeds    8
Sherry Darling    8
Streets of Fire    8
Growin’ Up    7
Meeting Across the River    7
The Promise    7
This Depression    7
Thundercrack    7
Frankie    6
High Hopes    6
If I Should Fall Behind    6
Loose Ends    6
Seaside Bar Song    6
Talk to Me    6
Tougher Than the Rest    6
Better Days    5
Detroit Medley    5
Factory    5
For You    5
Human Touch    5
Kitty’s Back    5
Point Blank     5
Save My Love     5
Summertime Blues    5
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)    5
Be True     4
My Lucky Day     4
Reason to Believe     4
Rockin’ All Over the World     4
Roulette     4
Ain’t Good Enough For You     3
Blinded By the Light     3
Boom Boom    3
Brilliant Disguise     3
Devils & Dust    3
Fire    3
Janey Don’t You Lose Heart    3
Jersey Girl    3
Jole Blon    3
Leap of Faith    3
Long Time Coming    3
Red Headed Woman    3
Savin’ Up    3
Stand on It    3
Back in Your Arms    2
Bishop Danced    2
Cynthia    2
Don’t Look Back    2
Drift Away    2
Empty Sky    2
Follow that Dream    2
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)    2
From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)    2
Girls in Their Summer Clothes    2
Lion’s Den    2
Lucky Town    2
Man’s Job    2
Mary’s Place    2
Mountain of Love    2
Pink Cadillac    2
Quarter to Three    2
Queen of the Supermarket    2
Rendezvous    2
So Young and in Love    2
Sociedade Alternativa    2
Streets of Philadelphia    2
This Little Girl    2
Across the Borderline    1
Ain’t Too Proud to Beg    1
Bad Luck    1
Bad Moon Rising    1
Burning Love    1
California Sun    1
Dirty Water    1
Fade Away    1
Get Out of Denver    1
Give the Girl a Kiss    1
Good Rockin’ Tonight    11
Gotta Get That Feeling    1
Held Up Without a Gun    1
Higher and Higher    1
Highway Patrolman    1
How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?    1
I Don’t Want to Go Home    1
I Fought the Law    1
I Saw Her Standing There    1
I Wish I Were Blind    1
I’ll Work For Your Love    1
In the Midnight Hour    1
Independence Day    1
Into the Fire    1
Jailhouse Rock    1
Just Like Fire Would    1
Kansas City    1
Knock on Wood    1
Last to Die    1
Living on the Edge of the World    1
Local Hero    1
Long Tall Sally    1
Lucille    1
Manifesto    1
Mansion on the Hill    1
Man at the Top    1
Monster Mash    1
My Beautiful Reward    1
My Kind of Town    1
Nebraska    1
New York City Serenade    1
A Night With the Jersey Devil    1
96 Tears    1
None But the Brave    1
Oh Mary Don’t You Weep    1
One Way Street    1
Pretty Flamingo    1
The Price You Pay    1
Proud Mary    1
Real World    1
Roll of the Dice    1
Secret Garden    1
Shake    1
Shake, Rattle & Roll    1
Something You Got    1
Spanish Eyes    1
State Trooper    1
Stolen Car    1
Surprise, Surprise    1
Sweet Soul Music    1
Take ‘Em As They Come    1
Terry’s Song    1
Travelin’ Band    1
TV Movie    1
Wages of Sin    1
We Gotta Get Out of This Place    1
The Weight    1
When I Leave Berlin    1
When the Saints Go Marching In    1
When You Walk in the Room    1
Where the Bands Are    1
Wild Billy’s Circus Story    1
Wild Thing    1
Working on a Dream    1
You Can’t Sit Down    1
You Never Can Tell    1
You’ve Got It    1

Pre-Set Statistics
Growin’ Up    6
For You    4
This Hard Land    4
I’ll Work For Your Love    2
All That Heaven Will Allow    1
Blinded By the Light    1
Burning Love    1
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?    1
The Fever    1
Girls in their Summer Clothes    1
Hearts of Stone    1
In Dreams    1
Leap of Faith    1
Maria’s Bed    1
No Surrender    1
The Promised Land    1
Real World    1
Surprise, Surprise    1

Tour Statistics FAQs

1. Where is “This Land is Your Land?”  Why is the Apollo Medley counted as one song instead of two?

I used Brucebase standards.  No partial songs (This Land is Your Land, Not Fade Away, etc.)  Just like the “Detroit Medley,” the “Apollo-Medley” is counted as one song.  Brucebase didn’t count “Green Onions,” which was played by the band when Springsteen collected signs on September 2, 2012 in Philadelphia.  I might personally disagree on that song but it was easiest to stick to one standard.

2. Where did the numbers come from for show attendance?

Billboard Magazine’s “Boxscore” attendance reports.  Note that not all festival attendances were reported.  The top 3 spots (Roskilde, Rio de Janeiro and Lisbon) are estimates only.  They were almost certainly the largest crowds of the tour but exact figures are not available as they were for the other shows.

3. What about the show lengths?

The proper methodology for timing of shows was previously discussed in this article.  Show length ranking was based off timing done at the show and was subject to confirmation with show recordings.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Victor Beyer for error-checking the numbers.

Wrapping up the 2012-2013 Wrecking Ball Tour: Tour Statistics Part 1

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s 2012-2013 “Wrecking Ball” tour lasted 133 shows, from March 18, 2012 in Atlanta to September 21, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.

As 2013 draws to its close, take a look back at Bruce’s longest tour since Born in the U.S.A. This will be the first of four parts:

Part 1 (Statistics) (below) – The basic numbers, show length, attendance, cities and locales.
Part 2 (Statistics) – Album breakdown, opening and closing songs, and the full song list and more.
Part 3 (“Top 5s”) – Best solo performances, covers, one-time only performances and more.
Part 4 (“Top 5s”) – Best new songs, biggest surprises, best tributes to Clarence Clemons and more.

Wrecking Ball Tour – The Basic Numbers:
Shows: 133
Cities: 98
Countries: 23
Continents: 4
2012 shows: 96
2013 shows: 37
Different Songs Played: 225

Shows Per Continent

Show Length

Fewest Songs Played: 23, 5 times

Most Songs Played: 34, Nijmegen, June 22, 2013

Average Number of Songs Played: 27.81

Songs Per Show

10 Longest Shows (by total time)
1. Helsinki, July 31, 2012
2. Madrid, June 17, 2012
3. East Rutherford, September 19, 2012
4. Philadelphia, September 2, 2012
5. Gothenburg, July 27, 2012
6. Vienna, July 12, 2012
7. Milan, June 7, 2012
8. Oslo, July 21, 2012
9. Toronto, August 24, 2012
10. Paris, July 5, 2012

10 Largest Crowds
1 Roskilde, July 7, 2012: ~100,000
2. Rio de Janeiro, September 21, 2013: ~95,000
3. Lisbon, June 3, 2012: ~90,000
4. London (Hyde Park), July 14, 2012: 76,656
5. London (Wembley Stadium), June 15, 2013: 70,425
6/7. Gothenburg, July 27-28, 2012: 65,803
8. Nijmegen, June 22, 2013: 64,900
9. Paris, June 29, 2013: 61,867
10. Werchter, July 13, 2013: 60,193

Note: Attendance estimates for festival crowds (numbers 1-3)

10 Smallest Crowds
1. Santiago, September 12, 2013: 5,256
2. Sao Paulo, September 18, 2013: 5,359
3. Buenos Aires, September 14, 2013: 7,095
4. Mexico City, December 10, 2012: 7,690
5/6. Turku, May 7-8, 2013: 9,279
7. Charlottesville, October 23, 2012: 9,931
8. Omaha, November 15, 2012: 10,269
9. Rochester, October 31, 2012: 10,405
10. Leeds, July 24, 2013: 11,367

Note: Turku and Leeds shows were “sell-outs”

Most Different Songs in a Multi-Night Stand

1. East Rutherford, NJ (September 19, 21 and 22, 2012): 62 songs
2. Stockholm, Sweden (May 3, 4 and 11, 2013): 54 songs
3. Sydney, Australia (March 18, 20 and 22, 2013): 51 songs
4. (tie) Kilkenny, Ireland (July 27-28, 2013): 50 songs each
Melbourne, Australia (March 24, 26-27, 2013)
Gothenburg, Sweden (July 27-28, 2012)

Locales the E Street Band Had Never Played In (before this tour)
Cork, Ireland
Coventry, UK
Geneva, Switzerland
Hanging Rock, Australia
Hanover, Germany
Isle of Wight, UK
Kilkenny, Ireland
Las Palmas, Spain
Limerick, Ireland
Lisbon, Portugal*
Mexico City, Mexico
Mönchengladbach, Germany
Moncton, Canada
Naples, Italy*
Newark, NJ, USA*
Nijmegen, Netherlands
Padua, Italy
Prague, Czech Republic*
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Roskilde, Denmark
Santiago, Chile
Sunderland, UK
Trieste, Italy
Turku, Finland
Vernon, NY, USA
Werchter, Belgium

*previously played by Bruce, sans-E Street

Shows with Acoustic Pre-Sets:

Los Angeles, April 27, 2012 (1 song)
Helsinki, July 31, 2012 (5 songs)
East Rutherford, September 19, 2012 (2 songs)
Oslo, April 29, 2013 (4 songs)
Naples, May 23, 2013 (2 songs)
Padua, May 31, 2013 (2 songs)
Paris, June 29, 2013 (3 songs)
Limerick, July 16, 2013 (3 songs)
Cork, July 18, 2013 (3 songs)
Belfast, July 20, 2013 (4 songs)

Acknowledgement: thanks to Jessica Letkemann of definitive Pearl Jam site Two Feet Thick for the inspiration/assistance on the charts and graphs.

Bruce Springsteen at Stand Up for Heroes: Three Songs and Two Dirty Jokes

Tonight is the seventh annual “Stand Up for Heroes” benefit for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, with Bruce once again performing, as he has each of the past six years.

The event continues to grow in size and after three years each at Town Hall and the Beacon Theatre, is now taking place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden (the venue formerly known as the “Felt Forum”). Surprisingly, this will be Bruce’s first ever performance at this venue; an E Street Band show was planned for this venue in 1975 but cancelled.

Three Songs

Most of Bruce’s performances have been solo acoustic, with the songs varying from year to year; he’s never done any song more than twice. Choices have included the usual catalog staples such as “Thunder Road,” “The Promised Land” and “Born to Run” but also contemporary material such as “Devil’s Arcade” in 2007 and “We Take Care of Our Own” last year. Patti Scialfa has joined in at three of the events, including a duet with Bruce on “Tougher Than the Rest” last year. Most of his performances at the past shows have consisted of three songs.

A real wild-card prediction: it wouldn’t be totally out of the question for Bruce to break out a new song. At this time of year in 2008, Bruce performed “Working on a Dream” for the very first time in a solo acoustic arrangement at the last of a series of rallies in support of President Obama’s campaign. With rumors swirling about a new Springsteen album coming out in early 2014, Bruce just might try something out for the first time tomorrow.

Two Dirty Jokes

“Stand Up for Heroes” is a part of the New York Comedy Festival, and Bruce has gamely tried to fit in on a bill that contains mostly comedians. In his first appearance in 2007, noting that “the flyer said ‘night of laughs,’” he came equipped with a few jokes that he admitted he got from his children and were described as “not knee-slapping funny, piss-your-pants funny, they’re sort of mildly amusing.”

Of course, Bruce’s sense of humor tends towards the ribald (e.g. “Red Headed Woman;” “Pilgrim in the Temple of Love”). In 2009, he blamed this on his years on the road – “problem is, problem with my jokes is, I’m on the road with the band, so they’re all kinda bad, they’re bad jokes.” By 2012, it was a running gag: “Now, besides singing a few songs, I also come out and tell bad jokes every year.”

What follows is the comedy stylings of Bruce Springsteen from the past “Stand up for Heroes” performances. Be forewarned: some of these are not family-friendly.

  • “Knock knock.” (Who’s there?) “The interrupting cow.” (The interrupting cow who?)—”Moo!”
  • An Irish guy and Italian guy are sitting at the bar. Irish guy says “Italians are the dumbest people on the face of the planet.” Italian guy says “what do you mean?” Irish guy says “I bet you don’t even know what Easter is.” So they make a bet. Italian guy gets up on the bar and he says “Easter is when Jesus Christ rolls away the stone, steps out into the sun, and if he sees his shadow…”
  • Guy goes into his doctor’s office, for his yearly checkup. Doctor says “You gotta stop masturbating, my friend.” Guy says “How come?” “I’m trying to examine you.”
  • A man and woman had a dog that they really liked. But the dog was getting kinda old, and when it sleeps with them in the bedroom, the dog snores in the middle of the night and wakes everybody up. So the husband says “why don’t you go down to the vet to see if there’s anything we can do for the dog to keep the dog from snoring.” So she goes to the vet, and the vet says “Uh, lady, there’s one thing that’s fail-safe, but it’s going to sound a little strange.” She says “well, ok, what is it?” He says “When the dog starts snoring in the middle of the night, you just get a ribbon, and you tie a ribbon around his penis. I guarantee the dog is going to stop snoring.” So, night comes, and they’re all in bed, and the dog is there, starts snoring, snoring. She says “what do I have to lose?” She finds a little blue ribbon, she comes out, ties it around the dog’s penis, he stops snoring. Two hours later, her husband starts snoring. She thinks, “I don’t know.” Finds a little red ribbon, ties it around his penis, the husband stops snoring. So morning comes, the husband wakes up, and looks down at himself, looks down at the dog. He says “I don’t know where we were last night, but I know that we came in first and second.”
  • I picked up the newspaper today: Pepsi has created a soft drink that has Viagra in it. First of all, guys, that’s good news. You’re actually going to have people who are going to go the supermarket and can pour yourself a stiff one. Problem is, they won’t be able to call it a soft drink anymore. They even came up with a good name. They’re going to call it ‘mount and do.’
  • Mailman dies, he’s in this little town, and they send the body over to the funeral home. And they’re undressing the body, getting the body ready for the wake. And the assistant says to the manager, “come here, you’ve got to see this. You’ve just got to see this. Look at the size of this guy’s penis, will you?” And this was of Smithsonian proportions. And the manager says, “well, that is something, man. We can’t put this in the box. In the interests of science, we’ve got to keep this thing preserved.” And ok, get the hacksaw, they get the hacksaw, and uh, got it. End of the day, he doesn’t know what to do with it, puts it in his briefcase. He thinks, “I’ve got to take this thing home and show the wife.” (Bruce: And so, uh, aw, I fucked up the joke already! Did I mention that the mailman’s name is Mr. Smith? That’s why I’m a musician.”) So he takes it home, and uh, long story short, pops the briefcase, and his wife says “Oh my God, Smith’s dead!”
  • A man’s playing golf. He’s in the rough. Swinging, swinging, swinging at this little stand of buttercups. Swinging, swinging. Buttercups are flying. Big voice comes out of the sky: “This is Mother Nature. You’re killing my buttercups. You’re never going to taste butter again.” Guy goes “Fuck!” Goes home. The next morning he wakes up. Butters the toast. Nothing. Next morning, he makes the pancakes, butters the panckaes. Oh, no. He goes to the movies. Puts the butter on the popcorn. Nothing. He goes “Jesus, Christ.” He’s out with his buddy the next week. They’re golfing. His buddy goes over the rise. Guy goes “Hey Mikey, where are you?” “My ball’s lost over here in the pussywillows! “Don’t swing!”
  • So a guy’s out on the golf course, he’s with a friend of his. And the guy swings with everything he’s got, and the ball slices, and he hits his pal right in the crotch. So the guy, boom! Drops over. And ohhh, writhing on the ground in agony. He says “quick, quick, quick! Get me to the doctor, get me to the doctor!” They get him over and down to the doctor, he says “Doc, how bad is it? How bad is it? You don’t understand, I’m going to be married next week. We saved ourselves for each other. She’s a virgin, this has got to work. This has just got to work!” So the doctor says, “Well, you know, I could put it in a splint. That’ll, heal it, and it’ll keep it straight, and you know, next week, should be ok.” So the doctor takes out four of the tongue depressors and makes a nice little four-sided bandage, and he wires it all together. Looks pretty good! So the guy gets married, doesn’t mention anything to his girlfriend. They get off the plane, they’re in Hawaii, it’s the honeymoon night, everything is perfect. And boom, she rips open her blouse, she has this gorgeous set of breasts, and this was the first time he had seen them. She says “you’ll be the first one who’s ever touched these breasts.” So he sits there and he thinks, and he whips down his pants and says “look at this! It’s still in the crate!”
  • There’s a middle-aged woman who had a heart attack, and she was taken to the hospital. And while she was on the operating table, she had a near-death experience. She saw the white light in the tunnel, and she got up to God, and she said “God, God, is my time up?” He said, “No, no, no, no, no, you’ve got, you’ve got like 40 years left.” “40 years?” “You’ve got 40 years left, says that right here in the book.” So upon hearing this, the light faded away and she kind of woke up, and said “40 years left? Hmm. I’m in the hospital, maybe I’ll get a little facelift, and some liposuction and a tummy tuck while I’m here. Alright, get ready for the rest, you know? Just change your hair color…” So a few days later, she got out, well, she was feeling great, right? She was crossing the street on the way back home, got hit by a car and killed. And she went back up to God, and said “I thought you said I had 40 years left!” And he says, “I didn’t recognize you!”

Bruce and E Street: back on tour in 2014!

The news that Bruce and the E Street Band are touring again in 2014 is certainly received as a surprise here. It was my belief and expectation that 2014 would be a “down year,” with Bruce having just completed his longest tour in the Reunion era.

There are essentially two scenarios for next year’s tour of Australia:

One: Bruce is playing these shows as an “extra” tour and going back to Australia (and nowhere else) because it’s a good financial deal for him (with tickets priced at nearly $200 US), he had fun playing there in 2013, he wants to enjoy Summer weather in February, or some such similar reason.

If this is the case, one could expect a healthy dose of Bruce’s hits, familiar live songs, and probably some of the “album” shows that he played in Europe in 2013.

Two: these shows will be the first of a new world tour, in support of a new Springsteen album. The assumption here is that this is the more likely scenario.

E Street Band circa 2014

With the news (admittedly, with Australian tour promoter Michael Gudinski as the sole source) that Tom Morello will be on the Australian tour, it again appears that the E Street band will be getting even larger.

An argument – indeed, a compelling argument – can be made that there is no need for the band to be quite so large. Even in 1999, there wasn’t really enough for Nils and Steve to do at times, and adding extra singers, percussion and guitar has only compounded the issue. Additionally, it is my belief that the sheer size of the band has contributed to the problems of inadequate sound quality that Bruce’s audience have experienced in recent years.

Since the Reunion tour, no person invited to join the E Street Band on tour (save replacement dummer Jay Weinberg) has ever left the band, with Bruce showing no interest whatsoever in downsizing.

Assuming Bruce has no interest in changing that policy, well, why not invite Morello too? If he does join the tour, hopefully his talents are extended to more than just nightly versions of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

Has Bruce learned from the mistakes of 2009?

The Magic tour lasted 100 shows, from October 2007 to August 2008. Almost immediately, plans were made for Bruce to release a new album (Working on a Dream in January 2009) and return to the road (the tour started April 1, 2009 in San Jose).

There were two big problems with this plan: one, the new songs weren’t good; and two, the band didn’t rehearse nearly enough. Having recently ended a long tour, Bruce clearly didn’t think the band needed much rehearsal time and indeed, he didn’t think he needed much either. Bruce didn’t even attend several of the rehearsal sessions, which were used only to familiarize Jay Weinberg with the band.

Admittedly, there were some new elements added to the show: an adaptation of the “Morello” arrangement of “The Ghost of Tom Joad;” the return of “Seeds,” and the Stephen Foster cover, “Hard Times Come Again No More.”

Yet without much of the new material, and a surprising lack of material from the recent “Magic” album, the shows lacked focus in a manner that was completely uncharacteristic for Bruce. Bruce hadn’t put in enough effort to create a “new show,” and accordingly, he had to resort to gimmicks such as “stump the band” and the full-album shows. Sure, the shows were enjoyable, but there was no challenge to the audience.

So: has he learned from those mistakes? We’ll have to wait and see.

New tour – new setlist?

In the first part of Bruce’s career, it took four tours (Born to Run, Darkness, The River, Born in the U.S.A.) of largely similar setlists before Bruce finally made a change with the Tunnel of Love tour and brought out a radically different set.

In the reunion era, there’s now been another four tours in support of new material where the setlists have remained similar: The Rising, Magic, Working on a Dream and now Wrecking Ball.

On each tour, a core group of new songs was played, but those new songs mostly failed to carry over from tour to tour. A few things from The Rising have remained in regular rotation, but nothing from Magic has seen any significant time since that tour ended. The Promise remains completely ignored. One is left to wonder if Bruce will have any interest in the Wrecking Ball material in 2014, or if it will be relegated to the same fate.

Assuming a new album comes out in 2014, it would be expected that a healthy portion of the new songs make the setlist on a nightly basis. The big hope here is that Bruce finally moves away from the same core group of back-catalog material he has been using to fill out the balance of the set since 2002.

There’s a reason “Born to Run,” “Badlands,” “The Promised Land,” and “The Rising” get played every (or almost every) night, and I would hardly begrudge Bruce playing what he feels are the most important songs of his career. Yet he also needs to draw a distinction between the songs he absolutely must play, and those which could get some well deserved rest.

It would be a disappointment if those remaining spaces in the setlist get the same songs once again (Dancing in the Dark, Waiting on a Sunny Day, Out in the Street, She’s the One, Thunder Road, Rosalita, Darlington County, No Surrender, Lonesome Day, Because the Night, Prove it All Night, The River, Spirit in the Night). Of course any one of those songs is going to be someone’s favorite (here, it’s “Thunder Road”) but at this point in his career, Bruce is simply disregarding too much of his recorded output in favor of a limited group of songs. While it is true that Bruce played 225 songs on his most recent tour, a full half of them (113) were played three times or fewer.

The original incarnation of the E Street Band lasted from 1973 to 1988 (fifteen years) and it was only at the very end of that time that Bruce challenged himself and his audience with an entirely new setlist. The current, reunion-era incarnation has now been together for almost as long. Here’s hoping Bruce isn’t content to keep doing the same thing, and he works to find a new E Street Band show for 2014.

The Kilkenny Finale

Originally published on

After 127 shows, the 2012-13 Wrecking Ball tour reached its final European stop this past weekend. The last shows would be played in Kilkenny, Ireland, 80 miles southwest of Dublin and the smallest town the tour would play in. In most large cities in Europe, a Bruce Springsteen concert is likely to be but one of many major events on any given night. In Kilkenny, it was everything. Every hotel in a twenty-mile radius was sold out, and one couldn’t walk three feet down the street without seeing a restaurant or bar or shop with a Bruce-themed poster in the window. The giant inflatable replica of Bruce’s Fender Esquire guitar atop one of the local pubs was particularly impressive.

A rare pairing of shows on consecutive nights in the same city (dubbed the “Wrecking Ball Weekender”), the shows were for many the final opportunity to see the band after a year and half of touring, and expectations were high. Bruce had seemed to move into “anything goes” territory when it came to his setlists, no corner of his song catalog was untouchable, and he had started to make references in recent shows to the tour coming to an end.

Of course, the T-shirts on sale at the merchandise stand listed that September date in Rio de Janeiro, and additional South American shows were literally being announced contemporaneously with the arrival of the fans in Kilkenny. No one doubts Bruce’s shows in South America will be spectacular, but playing to a new market and to many fans who hadn’t had the chance to see him before, much like Mexico City in 2012, was clearly being treated as a separate outing, with Bruce wanting to first close the loop on what he’d been doing since March of 2012.

These two nights in Kilkenny would be treated as the grand farewell: for the regular fans down front, whom Bruce really seemed to enjoy seeing on a nightly basis; for Ireland, where the band had played five different shows in four cities (a far cry from even ten years ago, when a Springsteen tour of Ireland consisted of a single night at the RDS in Dublin); and for Europe, where Bruce had played 66 shows, comprising more than half of this tour’s dates.

On night one, Bruce elected to not stray far from his standard European show, complete with a full-album performance of Born in the U.S.A. It wasn’t the adventurous set that many were expecting, but it was certainly summational. “Jack of all Trades” returned to the show, and Bruce took one last opportunity to pull signs from the crowd seeking obscure covers from the E Street Band’s past. It was, after all, a European show in 2008 where that particular feature began.

Speaking about the 1985 show at Slane Castle, which Bruce called a “huge day in [his] memory,” it was striking to think about how many people in that stadium — from casual to die-hard — first became fans due to the Born in the U.S.A. album. Nobody just starts out as a connoisseur bringing signs to shows looking to hear obscure songs from Tracks; one first has to have a first exposure to Springsteen music, and for the majority of fans, that was what the Born in the U.S.A. album did.

Back for night two, it was quickly clear that if night one was the inclusive show, the final show would be the one for the die-hards. Even “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” took a seat, the first time it had left the setlist since April of 2009. Playing the hits on Saturday freed Bruce to do what he wanted on Sunday, even if it resulted in a song sequences that likely left large swaths of the crowd befuddled.

Noting that he had “debts to pay,” Bruce granted three very specific requests for obscurities. Unlike “Shake” or “Sweet Soul Music,” from Saturday’s show, which could best described as well-intentioned messes, the requests granted on Sunday had all been carefully rehearsed and planned. Tellingly, none of the songs had been practiced at soundcheck — Bruce realizing that the element of surprise would be missing if those in the pit queue heard the songs while waiting to enter the stadium.

As in Rome, with “New York City Serenade,” and in Cork with “The Price You Pay,” and in Turku with “Wages of Sin,” the E Street Band had rehearsed in secret and away from public view, so that when that one song finally did come out, it wouldn’t just be played well — it would completely blow everyone away. The affirmation of faith for those fans who would just not give up could not have been exemplified better than the “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” sign, with Bruce reading a long list of cities the sign had been to, admitting that “in many of these other shows, I have taken this man’s sign, and I have not played the song — and he makes the same exact sign every single time!”

For both “When You Walk in the Room” and “Wild Billy’s Circus Story,” the attention to detail was inspiring, from Charlie and Roy’s keyboard parts and Bruce’s rare use of a 12-string electric guitar on the former, to Clark’s tuba playing and the small touches added by Steve on mandolin and Everett on percussion on the latter.

And for “Man at the Top,” the arrangement was simply stunning. Not only was the E Street choir brought to the front of stage left, but the entire horn section came down to gather around Nils’ microphone. It was a palpably genuine moment of camaraderie among the musicians on stage, each adding a small contribution to a special performance.

The Sunday encores started straight with a reprise of hits from Born in the U.S.A., perhaps the one big disappointment of the show, as Bruce missed a final chance to address the Wrecking Ball album with either “We Are Alive” or “Rocky Ground,” his usual choices to start the encore this tour. But the reprise of “Bobby Jean” certainly worked thematically, and the encore pressed on from a horn-highlighted “Seven Nights to Rock” to “Dancing in the Dark.”

As the song started, the horn players started to retreat back to their riser but were stopped by Bruce. For this last show, he wanted them down front, performing their hilariously choreographed dance routine. No longer hidden behind Charlie and Max, at this final show, they were brought front and center for everyone to see. The singers quickly joined them on the opposite side of the stage, showing off their own set of moves as well. Just as Bruce had acknowledged the “core” E Street Band after finishing the Born to Run album performance earlier in the evening, this was his way of giving special recognition to the new faces in the band.

All that was left, as revealed during “Shout,” was for the fans to get their special recognition, in a bit that was as touching as it was ingenious: the reading of a famed t-shirt worn in many lines this tour, saluting the “ticket-seeking… hotel-booking… queue-forming… feet-throbbing… burger-eating… E Street Fans!”

With “Thunder Road” having already been played, the final song of the evening was set to be a surprise, but not before Bruce addressed the crowd one last time, thanking the band and the crew, but also briefly reflecting on how he had been “losing so many people that were so close to us.” He didn’t need to mention them; everyone knew he was talking about those in the band – Clarence and Danny – and also those from the crew who had accompanied him and supported him as he toured the world but were now gone. With each tour, someone else was missing, and with Bruce choking up during “This Hard Land,” it wasn’t hard to see him considering that when he next returns to the stage, someone else may be gone as well. And so, with the final shouts of “if you can’t make it, stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive” and Bruce’s last words of “be good to yourselves,” he bid his fans farewell, “till we meet again.”

“The older you get, the more it means” – Wrecking Ball Tour Finale, Kilkenny Night 2, July 28, 2013

Man at the Top

Bruce seemed particularly focused at the start of the show, saying very little to the crowd as he ran through the first eight songs. It would be very interesting to see the planned setlist as Bruce was calling off each of the songs to the band. They may not have all been audibles per se, but perhaps were the planned songs shifted around in order. “My Love Will Not Let You Down” into “Badlands” worked extremely well and provided an early demonstration to Bruce that he had a great crowd down front for the finale.

We Take Care of Our Own was restored to its rightful place at the beginning of the show as Bruce brought things full circle by bringing back this key new song at the end of the tour.

“Adam Raised a Cain” signaled that tonight wouldn’t be a “Darkness show,” and also that Bruce wasn’t planning on leaving anything behind on stage, as he turned in a couple of ferocious solos, and even started adding extra guitar licks between lines near the end of the song.

“American Skin (41 Shots)” was as powerful now as it was when it debuted this tour in Tampa, with Bruce’s solo only overshadowed by the song’s coda, with Nils soloing on guitar, Jake on saxophone, Bruce singing the “you can get killed just for living in” line, and the crowd singing the “41 shots” refrain.

Bruce’s first introduction of a song was when he called for “Wrecking Ball,” noting that “we gotta do this one, it’s what the tour’s all about.” He was significantly more chatty during “Spirit in the Night,” asking everyone “are you ready for the last dance?” before turning a bit more philosophical, saying “there is a weight, a cumulative weight that every night you play, at the end of the tour, weighs upon you, and I see so many of you who have been at so many shows — and I know there is a cumulative weight from just watching this motherfucker so many times, but it’s a good weight.  And I want to thank you for carrying us on so many nights.”

When Bruce started “The River,” he mumbled something about “having debts to pay with the next four songs” and it wasn’t quite clear what he was referring to at the time, as Bruce made a dedication before song, but with no additional explication.

But then, when he came down to the front platform to retrieve the “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” sign, it was understood that he chose the final show of the tour to reward his regulars with the songs that they had been requesting all tour.

The Wild Billy sign had been to twenty-seven different cities, and Bruce had great fun reading them all. He remembered that he had taken the sign several times before without playing it, and somehow the sign kept coming back. Clark played the tuba part, Roy on accordion, Steve on mandolin, and Bruce and Nils on acoustic guitars. Everett even had the crash cymbal part covered after “the 95…96…97!” lyric.

The theme continued with Bruce retrieving a “Man at the Top” sign, this time noting all the tape holding the sign together as a reference point for all the shows it had been to. The arrangement on this song was nothing short of brilliant, with Bruce finding new ways to use the band. The singers – Curtis, Cindy, Michelle and Everett – lined up stage left but then Bruce also had the entire horn section gathered around Nils stage right to add vocals as well.

The third tour premiere was “When You Walk in the Room,” with Bruce playing the twelve-string electric guitar and Charlie shining on the keyboard part. The three premieres were the only “requests” granted all night, and each were obviously well rehearsed and planned; Bruce really was “all paid up” at this point.

The Born to Run album performance was dedicated to Jimmy Iovine, in attendance at the show, with Bruce recalling a “skinny Italian kid” at the recording studio and being unsure if Iovine “really knew what he was doing.” My preference was that Bruce would have avoided a full-album performance at the last show, but it was good to see the full-band version of “Thunder Road” make one final appearance on tour, and with “Tenth Avenue” and “Born to Run” going to make the setlist regardless of the album choice, there wasn’t too much unnecessary redundancy from recent shows.

It should also be noted that band’s playing on the album segment was excellent, including, particularly on “Backstreets” and “Meeting Across the River.” And yes, during “Jungleland,” a soft summer rain did indeed start falling, ending shortly after the song ended.

Earlier in the tour, I had heard a third-hand report that Bruce was not a particular fan of “Ain’t Good Enough For You,” as possible explanation as to why it was played so infrequently, despite being requested so often. Tonight could be some corroboration of that theory, because if there was ever a show to play the song, it would presumably be the show where Mr. Iovine is actually in the house.

It has been stated here multiple times that “Ain’t Good Enough For You” would be a worthy alternate for “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” in the Wrecking Ball tour shows. It never happened, but at least for this final show, Bruce actually dropped “Sunny Day” from the set. In some ways, this was perhaps the biggest surprise of the night.

At the start of the encore, Bruce took the unusual step of gathering the entire band in a huddle at the center of the stage, which I suppose let to expectations of something out of the ordinary, rather than several of the hits from Born in the U.S.A. Tonight, “Dancing in the Dark” was particularly notable, as Bruce brought all of the horns and singers down to the front of the stage. The horn players were already there, having come up for “Seven Nights to Rock,” and Bruce stopped them from returning to the riser at the back of the stage after “Dancing” started. Up at the front, along with the singers, they got to show off their self-choreographed dance moves for the entire crowd one last time. Watching the two sections at the back of the stage is always great fun, and I found it quite meaningful that Bruce wanted to show off that fun aspect of his band one last time as well.

“After a and a half, and 130 shows….you know you make me wanna Shout!” was the introduction to the Isley Brothers number that has worked so well as a finale song this tour. Bruce started his usual introduction of the band – “earth shocking, booty-quaking, history-making” which was itself quite amusing, as so many of the fans can now do the same introduction along with Bruce simply by memory. Yet after finishing, Bruce continued – we want to salute, the “ticket-seeking, hotel-booking, money-juggling, plane-taking, train-riding, queue-forming, tramp-meeting, feet-throbbing, back-breaking, burger-eating, rain-enduring, music-loving, Boss-following…E Street Fans!, as all of the band members went up to the microphones to shout the last line. The list Bruce read was from one of the truly great fan-made t-shirts and it was quite touching that he chose to incorporate it with the band introduction.

Bruce retrieved an acoustic guitar from Kevin to start “This Little Light of Mine” but either in the guitar transfer or the start of his strumming, he appeared to tear a fingernail, which he then finished ripping off with his teeth and kept going, despite the blood now dripping from his finger.

As the band exited the stage, it was clear that Bruce was going to do an acoustic performance to close the show, despite his injury. Coming to the microphone he seemed at a genuine loss for words, noting “I don’t know what to say. I’ve been doing this – next July, for 50 years. Feel like I just started! I’ve got another 50 in me! “

He continued: “The older you get, the more it means. I’ve enjoyed this tour, I think – even losing so many people that were so close to us – this tour has just been really wonderful to us. He thanked the E Street Band, the crew, Jon Landau and Barbara Carr and repeated his thought again: “the older you get, the more it means.”

It should come as no surprise to readers here that I heartily endorsed Bruce’s choice of “This Hard Land” as the final song of the night. Bruce was getting visibly choked up during the third verse. In the final verse – the one Bruce has identified as one of his favorites, and the one that gives title to this site – Bruce slowed down, and stopped strumming has he allowed the crowd to shout back to him: “stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive!”

His final words, finishing the song: “Until we meet again!” and then, before he left the stage: “be good to yourselves.”

Kilkenny, Night 1, July 27, 2013


Given how the Wrecking Ball tour has progressed, it was certainly very surprising to see the Born in the U.S.A. album get played again.  I would hardly presume to compare an arena show such as Leeds – or even a small stadium show such as Cardiff – to a Kilkenny stadium show.  Comparing Limerick, Cork or Belfast certainly seems fair, however, and tonight’s setlist compares quite unfavorably to any of those shows.

As stated here before, setting aside any general dislike of the gimmick that is full-album shows, there’s not anything specifically wrong with Born in the U.S.A.; from top to bottom, it’s certainly one of Bruce’s most consistent records, and if no doubt serves as the crowd-pleaser.  What remains frustrating about the shows where this album is featured is that Bruce takes such a strange approach to the setlist surrounding it.  It’s as if he goes on auto-pilot and can’t realize that when playing the album full of hits, he can and should use the balance of the set for more challenging material.

Of course “Badlands” and “Out in the Street” is a great way to open a show.  But if the set is already guaranteed to contain a run of hits in the middle, it would be appropriate to try something less familiar at the top of the show, when Bruce has the audience’s attention simply because it’s the very beginning of the show and everyone’s excited.

The covers granted by sign request were great fun.  Yes, the performance might have been a little sloppy, but it hardly detracted from them.  They’re both personal favorites and I was thrilled that Bruce played “Shake” and “Sweet Soul Music.”  Looking at them objectively, though, it is obvious that they were misplaced in the show.  Those songs are exactly the sort of thing that should be saved for the encore, particularly when the Born in the U.S.A. hit singles are being played in the main set.  There was no reason Bruce couldn’t simply have taken the signs and deferred playing them until the encore; he’s certainly done that numerous times before.

if anything, tonight’s show simply sets hopes higher for Sunday.  It would be a fair expectation that Bruce keeps the repeated songs to the absolute minimum (Wrecking Ball songs, “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue,” “Badlands,” and “Dancing in the Dark”) and sends the tour off with a worthy finale.