The tour may not officially open until a week from Sunday in Atlanta but tonight is the first proper show of the 2012 incarnation of the E Street Band.
Kicking things off at a closed show is unusual, but not unprecedented; tonight may be most comparable to the “dress-rehearsal” performance before the 1992 tour began. The selection of the venue and the live broadcast certainly are great publicity tools and make good sense given that Bruce’s new songs aren’t going to get any substantial radio play anywhere else. Hopefully lessons were learned after the debacle that was the Sirius broadcast of the July 4, 2008 show and this show is broadcast in full, without “commentary” or interruption.
That the show is essentially a private party on behalf of a for-profit corporation is a bit stranger. While Sirius did announce that they will “make a contribution” to WhyHunger, that announcement is merely tangential to the existence of the show itself. It seems fundraising opportunities may well have been passed up here.
The various contests run to win tickets to the show will account for approximately 25% of the house and it’s my hope that will increase the chances of having a good show. It may not be an audience of die-hards at Convention Hall, but it’s better than nothing.
We may never know exactly why Bruce and his management kept changing their minds about whether or not to do public rehearsal shows but there are some questions that I do hope are answered tonight:
- Is the band as well-rehearsed as we hope they are?
It would be fair to note that the first shows of the past few tours were notably sub-par. Given that they were billed as “rehearsals,” this was certainly more than acceptable, if not expected. On a live broadcast, the stakes are a bit different.
- What, if anything gets played from “The Promise?”
Stevie may have mentioned in an interview that they really have “two new albums” but, all due respect to him, he doesn’t make the setlist. The presence of the horn section seems to cry out for “Talk to Me” or “Gotta Get That Feeling.” I think Save My Love is a likely candidate to be in the set most nights.
- Does Bruce have some new ideas about how to use his back catalog among the new songs?
In some ways, this is the most exciting part of the revealing of the new set. I fully expect “Born to Run” and “Badlands” to be present but with this new tour there’s a lot of potential to find new and interesting things to play.
The great hope here is that Bruce sees fit to avoid things that have become tired and played out — most notably “American Land” and “Waiting on a Sunny Day” — but also remembers he has a bunch of good songs from albums other than Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town.
With the gospel influences in the new music and having Curtis and Cindy in the band again, some the Human Touch and Lucky Town material could fit well — think “Roll of the Dice,” “Leap of Faith,” or even a full band “Real World.”
The Rising and Magic material, with the exception of two or three songs, has been underplayed over the past few tours. I think “Living in the Future” could work again and would fit topically (perhaps without the rap). “Mary’s Place” seems a perfect choice for the horns and would also work well, if that infernal “building a house” monologue is dropped and the song played straight.
“Reason to Believe” was an inspired choice of a back-catalog song to become a regular in the setlist two tours ago; “Seeds” was in the same spot on the last tour. Perhaps “This Hard Land” would fit in that spot for 2012, for a shot of measured optimism to accompany the themes of salvation and redemption on Side B of Wrecking Ball.