The second (or last, if a multi-show stand) night in Philadelphia is an obvious choice if one looks at a tour itinerary trying to find a special show. In many ways, last night didn’t disappoint, with a packed house and a setlist with plenty of changes from the previous night, including tour debuts and rarities.
Unfortunately, Thursday’s show still came out somewhat disjoined and at times seemed as if the audience and Bruce weren’t operating on the same plane, most noticeably during “Thundercrack,” which proved to be a poor choice for the sixth spot in the setlist. With Bruce obviously wanting to indulge the requestor (a girl whose father was in Iraq), he would have been better served waiting until the encore, or perhaps after “The Promised Land.”
This is not to say there weren’t plenty of high points in the show. “Trapped,” in particular was fantastic and really captured the crowd after “Jack of all Trades.” The middle portion of the show, from “Jack of All Trades” through “Darkness” was a great example of how Bruce managed to weave his old and new material together. Now, if he can just find a way to start putting things from The Promise in the set, things will really start cooking.
“Streets of Philadelphia” is a personal favorite of mine and it was a solid performance, one that begs the question – why won’t Bruce play this anywhere else? City references notwithstanding, this was a big hit nationwide.
Kitty’s Back featured extended solos from each of the horn players that had seemingly been rehearsed or at least thought out in advance, to good effect. Bruce also gave Roy an extended solo which the crowd ate up.
I was disappointed that “Shackled and Drawn” was not back in the set; together with the skipping of “Land of Hope and Dreams,” new material disappearing from the set is a disturbing trend. That “You’ve Got It” was soundchecked somewhat ameliorates this concern, and I doubt Kitty’s Back will take that spot in the encores every time.
So far, “We Are Alive” appears to be the only weak link out of the new songs, and I think that is in part due to the audience’s perception that once Bruce brings out the acoustic guitar, they can sit down for a moment. Bruce changed up the guitar strumming during the beginning of the song, and also encouraged the crowd to cheer at the “rebel voices all around me” line, both in an effort to everyone engaged. Obviously, the crowd gets back up once the band kicks in but so far it has been a struggle to keep band and crowd “in concert” for this number.
That complaint aside, the new material has by and large been very successful in this show, and perhaps in Washington, D.C., “Shackled and Drawn” will return to its rightful place in the show. Really, if Bruce feels he needs to add more of his material to the show, he can just make the show longer!