There are plenty of shows where it can be said that the “setlist doesn’t tell the whole story.” That principle doesn’t apply as much here. Tonight, it was all about variation. Seventeen different songs changed from night one, a world premiere of a Bruce-written song and several additional rarities as well made for some outstanding choices.
“Living on the Edge of the World” featured Bruce on harmonica and without a guitar – he was clearly intending to go out on the stage extension – but was waylaid by the lack of the teleprompter there. A lyric sheet had been laid down but I think Bruce just wound up losing his way. A great moment but as Bruce himself admitted, it would have been even better if they hadn’t screwed it up.
Still, this choice set the anything-goes tone for the night to great effect. Admittedly, the grab-bag setlist shows don’t always flow so well but that was not a problem here. Going from the Gary “US” Bonds material to “From Small Things” to “Talk to Me” (finally some Promise material) actually held the crowd’s attention pretty well. I quite enjoy looking around and spotting those who know the rarities at times like these and seeing their reactions – whether jumping up and down in excitement or shouting the words in unison with Bruce.
The one quibble I have with the Bonds appearance is the surprising lack of “Quarter to Three” in the show, and the missed opportunity to break out the topically appropriate “Out of Work.” (Or perhaps those are planned for the final show!)
Special mention is due for Ed Manion’s performance tonight, not only for solos (“Talk to Me,” “This Little Girl, “Mary’s Place”) but also calling out horn arrangements on the fly to the other members of the section during “From Small Things”). Unfortunately, there were a couple of technical problems when with the right instruments not being turned up/amplified correctly in time for the solos.
“Mary’s Place” remains a crowd favorite and now blessedly shortened – without a mid-song rap or the “are you ready?” introduction – it’s a fantastic choice for the show, particularly with the horns and singers. In fact, I was almost expecting that it would replace “Sunny Day” in the show (alas, not to be).
The transition (and surprise) associated with the “Incident”/”Rosalita” gets all the attention but also quite notable was Bruce’s excellent guitar solo at the end of “Incident,” finding a melodic pattern to repeat as the band builds to crescendo behind him. Up there with (not coincidentally) the MSG 2009 show as one of the best performances of “Incident.”
Notwithstanding all of the other rarities, my two personal favorite moments in this show were “This Depression” and “Rocky Ground.” On the former, the band’s performance was tremendous, with the singers and Nils’ solo both outstanding. Given how well it kept the crowd engaged (versus what happens at times during “Jack of All Trades”) it is surprising that it hasn’t made the set more often.
As for “Rocky Ground” — I will have faith in Bruce that this one comes back full-time once the show goes back indoors. It just *needs* to be there.