My report from this show can be found at Backstreets.
What exactly is in store for the lucky thousands at the Garden and the millions watching on TV on Wednesday?
Rolling Stone had initially reported (on November 20) that Bruce and the E Street Band were one of the main acts that would get an approximately 45-minute set. That news came before the addition of the Rolling Stones to the bill, or the change that “Bon Jovi” would appear (ie. the entire band) rather than “Jon Bon Jovi” (just the one person). It would seem more likely that Bruce (and the other main artists) will be restricted to a slightly shorter set.
“My City of Ruins” would seem to be a lock (hopefully in a four to five minute version), and “We Take Care of Our Own” likely as well. “Born to Run” always works. What else is there? One obvious path is to stick to the crowd-pleasers, such as “Dancing in the Dark” and “Hungry Heart.”
My preferred set would be to go thematic, and find some things from the catalog that fit the tenor of the evening. “This Hard Land,” “Rocky Ground,” and yes “The Promised Land,” the latter of which would be a good opportunity to bring up a guest (Eddie Vedder?)
Artists Guesting with E Street
Perhaps having Bruce and Alicia Keys do “New York City Serenade” remains a pipe dream. But certainly she and Kanye West could lend their talents to “Rocky Ground” to marvelous effect.
Dave Grohl would do a fine job on “Badlands.”
If Bon Jovi is brought up for a duet, I hope Bruce sees fit to think outside the box somewhat and avoid the inevitable “Thunder Road.” I actually would quite enjoy seeing Bruce and Jon do “Talk To Me,” as a tip of the cap to the Jersey Shore.
There’s plenty of the spirit of “Long Live Rock” in “No Surrender,” and I think it’d be perfect for Bruce to do with Pete Townshend.
Bruce guesting with Other Artists
I’d expect Bruce to come out during Billy Joel’s set, so I’m hoping it’s for something other than “New York State of Mind.” “The Stranger” seems right in Bruce’s wheelhouse.
A guest spot during Roger Waters seems unlikely; during Kanye West is just wishful thinking. Eddie Vedder may well get the (obvious) guest-spot with The Who but if they do bring Bruce up I think it’d be for something from their earlier catalog: “I Can’t Explain,” “My Generation,” or “The Kids are Alright.”
Bruce. Jagger. “Street Fighting Man.” This needs to happen.
I contributed to the “Notes from the Road” on Brucespringsteen.net.
Some additional thoughts:
The “Surprise, Surprise” performance was a dedication to a fan down front who (I assume) was celebrating a birthday. It would be fair to call this one of Bruce’s lesser compositions but the rest of the opening run of songs was so strong that this could be easily overlooked. The key to the early run was the audible of “Trapped,” which was a perfect choice to use as the bridge from “Prove It” to “Lost in the Flood.” It kept the audience engaged while also keeping the mood and intensity where Bruce wanted it.
My personal preference is for Bruce to get rid of the sign requests completely, but given that he’s unwilling to do so, I do have to complement him when he picks good ones. “Be True” followed by “Light of Day” was probably the best song request segment of the entire tour. “Light of Day” really burns, and its years of rest following the Reunion tour have done it well. Bruce did an extended guitar solo at the beginning, arguably his best guitar work of the night — on a night where there was a Prove It ’78 and a strong solo at the end of “Lost in the Flood.”
Sadly, Sam Moore didn’t get on stage but it was still wonderful to hear him singing (if only a few lines). He is quite possibly the single best guest star the E Street Band has ever had on its stage (a topic likely to be discussed on this site in the future) and it was again touching to hear Bruce talk about watching Sam and Dave at the Satellite Lounge in Fort Dix, NJ and how he learned the art of bandleading from Sam.
Bruce tends to get summational at the end of tours, and while this certainly wasn’t the end of the entire tour, there was still an element of that in the setlist, with the return of the “Apollo Medley” to bring things full circle, as well as the additional outing for the “78 Intro” to “Prove It All Night.”
I was surprised by the idiocy factor in the audience tonight. Some of it is attributable to the casual fans in the crowd not being prepared for a diehard-friendly set – “Be True” didn’t seem to engage much of the pit, let alone the rest of the house. Some limited incidents don’t really have an impact on the show, and just make one shake their head: people who were wearing guest passes smoking cigarettes in the pit.
The biggest problems occurred on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” with not one but two members of the audience getting on the stage uninvited. Bruce was not pleased that he was forced to interrupt his “the change was made uptown, and the big man joined the band” exhortation because he was removing someone from his stage. (Personally, I was rooting for a hard tackle from security). Come the end of the song, he actually had the band repeat the “yeah, yeah, it’s alright” ending as another idiot interrupted him as they climbed up on the center platform and tried to put a hat on his head.
This was slightly shorter show than normal and although there was nothing listed on the setlist, I suspect the idiots during “Tenth Avenue” cost the crowd the chance at a bonus encore on this “finale” show for 2012.