Stockholm Night 1, Friends Arena, May 3

I reviewed this show for Backstreets; report can be found there.

I truly was shocked by the appearance of the entire Born to Run album. When Bruce started addressing the crowd with the harmonica in his hand, I was expecting a repeat of the piano version of “Thunder Road” that started the Hyde Park show last July.

Looking back on the show, the fact that the album performance was the highlight of the show is distressing. A fair analysis of the 2009 tour indicates that Bruce had, for good reason, given up on the “Working on a Dream” album and either had run out of ideas for his live show or simply fell back on what seemed easiest — entire performances of “Born to Run,” and occasional performances of other albums.

On this tour, Bruce’s new material is of significantly higher quality, yet he is giving up on much of it, with the live show now down to three or four new songs per night. He has ignored his two “new” discs of outtakes (The Promise) that are well suited to his band, in particular, a horn section and backing singers. There’s also his outstanding 2007 album, Magic, that has joined Tunnel of Love, Human Touch and Lucky Town as material that is completely ignored for the live set.

So why is he resorting to a whole-album performance of Born to Run? If this was a special, one-time event, then there is no problem. But if this special feature is repeated elsewhere in Europe — or if Darkness or Born in the U.S.A. turn up tomorrow night, then that’s reason for major concern. (Note to European readers: I understand perfectly if you want the opportunity to see the album shows, and don’t begrudge your desire to to so one bit; I just think Bruce can do better than that for you).

Bruce’s introduction of the album during the show was particularly heartfelt, and he did achieve his stated goal of surprising everyone. I just wish he had chosen something more challenging and innovative as the surprise.

Compounding the issue was the setlist that surrounded the album performance. I have no quibble with “Out in the Street,” “The Promised Land,” and “Darlington County” coming out on night one of a multi-night stand. But some of the other choices – “Pay Me My Money Down” in particular – were baffling. Playing it in such close proximity to “Sunny Day” was a big error. I think Bruce himself knew things were going off the track when he cut “Shackled and Drawn” short.

Stockholm is the fourth three-night stand of the tour (East Rutherford, Sydney, Melbourne) and the second nights in each of those cities represented a big change in the setlist. I am hopeful that pattern holds for tomorrow, and in particular, that Bruce plays some of the 1992 material he had been trying recently, as well as the “Magic” songs and “High Hopes,” which came out in Australia.

Also fitting would be an increased presence of his new album. “This Depression,” “Rocky Ground” and “We Are Alive” are too good to be discarded from the show so early (particularly while “Death to My Hometown” remains). While there certainly is some overlap in fans seeing shows in 2013 as well as 2012, all of the European cities getting shows this year (excepting Milan, Paris and London) did not have shows in 2012.

This entry was posted in Shows.

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