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.”