Bruce Springsteen and Halloween Night (and Rochester wishlist)

With the news that the Rochester show has been postponed to Wednesday brings the first Halloween night show for Bruce since 1992.

History and past performances tell us that this is one of Bruce’s favorite holidays. Now that Halloween festivities at his house are no longer an annual event – a victim of “catastrophic success” and too many visitors in his neighborhood, as he wrote on his website a few years ago, here’s hoping he has something up his sleeve for the fans in Rochester instead.

Bruce has had four prior special performances for Halloween:
1. October 31, 1980 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

Bruce is carried on stage in a coffin and starts the show with a cover of “Jumpin'” Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House.” Youtube (audio) link is here. This performance was previously discussed on this site as one of Bruce’s best one-time-only covers. Lesser known about this show is that Bruce also did a special cover this night to start the show’s second set: the instrumental “Out of Limits” (a takeoff on the “Twilight Zone” theme), originally done by the Marketts in 1964.

2. October 31, 1984 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

The show starts with a skit about “midnight in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory,” and how “they were trying to awaken the monster. They tried all sorts of scientific methods, such as the mystery of electricity…then they tried to awaken his sexual perceptions…and then they performed an attack on his auditorial system (as “Louie Louie” is blasted)…but nothing seemed to work.”

“But then they tried Professor Frankenstein’s foolproof monster-wake-up, and then out of the darkness came a mystery man” – and Bruce is presented a guitar, leaps out of the coffin, and starts playing “High School Confidential.”

(A further description of the night’s proceedings can be found in Dave Marsh’s Glory Days).

3. October 31, 1992 – Target Center, Minneapolis

A special keyboard introduction by Roy leads into a rare “Spirit in the Night” opener.

Bonus – October 30, 2007 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

No special song this time, but back at the Sports Arena (this time, the night before Halloween), Bruce is again carried on stage in a coffin. Steve presents him a guitar and he asks “Is there anybody alive out there?” as he starts the standard “Radio Nowhere” opener. Video of these events was originally shown on Bruce’s website and can be found on Youtube here.

Note: there was also a Halloween show during the Born to Run tour in 1975 but there is no known tape and no known details about anything “special” for the holiday.

Special Songs for Rochester?

What might Bruce break out on Wednesday night? There are many possible choices, and not just the ones discussed above:

5. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”. Yes, it’s obvious. Yes, it’s cliched. But that didn’t stop Bruce from playing this rarity in Paris this past July 4, either.

4. Wages of Sin.” This Nebraska era-outtake may only have a tenuous connection to Halloween – one particular lyric about “the devil snapping at my heels” (a line that was also used in “My Father’s House”) – but the general mood of the song and the verse about the narrator trying to make it home through the woods before darkness falls are plenty spooky on their own. Never before performed live, this song resides on the famous Disc 2 of Tracks, well known to be a favorite of Steve Van Zandt. The past three tours have included the live premieres of “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own,” “Restless Nights,” and “Living on the Edge of the World,” all from that same Disc 2, so perhaps this one’s not totally out of the question.

3. “Monster Mash.” Novelty songs have their place, and that the crowd will know it certainly helps its chances. The band (in particular, the backup singers) should have no problem with this. A possibility for the encore, particularly if there’s a sign requesting it.

2. “Werewolves of London.” Part of what has made Hurricane Sandy so big of a storm is the high tides associated with the full moon. Technically, the full moon is today but that’s close enough for some howling on Wednesday night. Even without the connection to the storm, this classic by Bruce’s friend Warren Zevon would perfect for the occasion.

1. “A Night with the Jersey Devil.” Notable as the first time Bruce released original material on his website, this composition was made available on Halloween 2008 as an MP3 download with an accompanying video. Halloween night in Rochester seems as likely a time as any for the live debut of this composition, which gave writing credits to “Bruce Springsteen / Robert Jones / Gene Vincent.” Check out the official video here and keep your fingers crossed for Wednesday!

Wrecking Ball Fall 2012 Tour Preview (+ Obama Rallies Preview)

Wrecking Ball Fall Tour Preview

Obama Rallies

The tour officially starts up again on Friday on Ottawa but first there is the matter of Bruce’s two appearances in support of President Obama’s re-election campaign today. Some of the song choices are probably predictable – I’d put good money on “The Promised Land,” for example – but there also exists the chance for some material different than what was played when Bruce joined John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.

One clue, for example, lies in the message Bruce posted on his website today in support of the President: a quote from “Long Walk Home,” a song that would be quite topically appropriate.

In 2004, John Kerry was using “No Surrender” long before Bruce showed up and played the song at his rallies. “The Rising” was heard at plenty of Obama campaign stops in 2008 and again, Bruce played the song at rallies supporting the campaign. So will tomorrow feature the debut of an acoustic version “We Take Care of Our Own?” I’m looking forward to finding out. I give it a better shot than a version of “Shackled and Drawn” (dedicated to Mitt Romney).

Continuation of the “Wrecking Ball” Tour

As for the rest of the tour, I don’t think there will be lots of surprises in Ottawa on Friday night but once the tour moves along, I think there’s great potential for the show to evolve, particularly with it back indoors.

One obvious possibility is for Bruce to refocus on the “Wrecking Ball” album. No longer constrained to the short attention spans of stadium crowds, “Rocky Ground” may well return to the set on a more regular basis. “This Depression” was such a revelation in its performances at Wrigley and in New Jersey that I think it also stands a good chance of making more appearances. Additionally, with the exception of the Oakland and Anaheim shows, this leg of the tour will be visiting markets that haven’t had a show yet, and I think that increases the possibility that Bruce will want to give the crowd the opportunity to hear those new songs.

Hearing lots of songs from The Promise, Tunnel of Love, and Lucky Town may be a longshot wish oft-cited here but I am more optimistic that Bruce may finally see fit to include some of the “Magic” material in the show again. “Livin’ in the Future” and “Gypsy Biker” would be perfect additions to the set but I’d settle for the above-mentioned “Long Walk Home” and perhaps the occasional “Radio Nowhere.”

Other factors to consider:

-Sign requests were almost entirely eliminated by the end of the US stadium leg; not a single request was granted via sign at the three New Jersey shows. Hopefully this trend continues.

-Material from The Promise will probably remain elusive but it was encouraging that Bruce had “Ain’t Good Enough For You” on his planned setlist for the second night in Philadelphia. Combined with the fact that “Talk to Me” has gone over extremely well in each of its (rare) appearances this tour, perhaps Bruce will continue to at least consider this material more often than he does Tunnel or Human Touch songs.

-Soundchecks on the most recent leg of the tour revealed lots of songs that might not be perfect for stadiums, including “Nothing Man,” “TV Movie,” and “Give the Girl a Kiss.” Maybe these songs themselves don’t get played but hopefully they show a continued interest in digging around the dusty corners of the back catalog.

The “Stay Hard, Stay Hungry, Stay Alive” Fall Tour wishlist:

5. “Rocky Ground,” in the set every night.

4. “Swallowed Up (in the Belly of the Whale).” Just once. Even if it’s only in an acoustic version opening the encore.

3. “Ain’t Good Enough For You.” This could be the new crowd participation number.

2. Something new from the ’92 era. Yes, its understandable why Bruce is generally cool to the idea of playing these songs with E Street, but given the instrumentation on stage, it would be a tremendous missed opportunity to not try a song or two with this band. “Better Days;” a rocked-up version of “The Big Muddy;” a full-band “Real World” – the potential is overflowing here.

1. “I Wanna Be With You” – still #1 on my list of things I’ve never seen the band do in concert.