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.