Darkness on Saturday night
This was a vastly superior show to last night, and really quite good overall. Once Bruce had played Born to Run on night one, it required little imagination to suspect that Darkness would come out on night two. (I’m quite sure it’ll be Born in the U.S.A. next Saturday).
The band’s performance on Darkness was excellent, and my overall impression is that it was the best version they’ve done, superior to its prior incarnations in 2009 at Giants Stadium and the Spectrum. Bruce’s guitar work was strong, particularly in “Adam Raised a Cain,” and Roy shined – as he always does – on “Racing in the Street.” One feature that took me by surprise was Bruce pushing the tempo faster during “Prove It,” adding some new life to the song. (Sadly, the “’78 intro” was absent).
The opening to the show was simply fantastic. “My Love Will Not Let You Down” remains a great opening song, and to get both “Leap of Faith” and “Better Days” within the first four songs was magnificent. The current incarnation of the E Street Band is just perfect for this material. Ideally, these songs will continue in rotation and Bruce will see fit to find a few more from 1992 to pull out, including “Roll of the Dice,” “Real World” and “Lucky Town.” Adding “I’m a Rocker” (via sign request) was an inspired choice, one of those moments where the sign request is immediately granted and works well.
The back half of tonight’s show also held up better than it did on Friday. “Radio Nowhere” to follow “Sunny Day” was effective at recapturing the intensity from earlier in the show, and “Seven Nights to Rock” gave Bruce the opportunity to introduce the band. Bruce essentially went clockwise around the stage, starting with Soozie, and Steve got the honors as the last person introduced. “Rosalita” would have been a much better choice than “American Land” for the final song of the night. Also notable about the encore was that Bruce brought up a young person on stage for “Dancing in the Dark” – but not to dance. Rather, they were given a guitar and played along with Bruce, trading off the “hey baby!” lyrics. I found this to be much more valid and interesting than the parade of children during “Sunny Day” (of which there were none tonight).
What happens on the rest of the European tour?
As mentioned above, it seems very likely that the third show in Stockholm will be Born in the U.S.A. What will happen in Turku on Tuesday and Wednesday is much less clear.
The shows in Oslo immediately prior to Stockholm didn’t have full album performances. Bruce’s long introductions about his relationship with Sweden and Stockholm obviously don’t apply to Turku, a city in which he’s never played. It is certainly plausible that the album shows will only happen in certain locations – London and Milan seem obvious choices.
Then again, once the album shows were announced for Giants Stadium in 2009, they continued for the balance of that tour, with “Born to Run” played at almost every show. I doubt it would be inaccurate to suggest that most fans – even those who didn’t get to see the 2009 album shows – would be disappointed if “Born to Run” was played at the vast majority of the shows on the European tour.
The only multi-night stands remaining on the tour are Turku and Kilkenny (the two London shows being separate entities). Would Bruce really play “Born to Run” at every remaining show other than the second nights in those cities? It seems impossible. Perhaps the more likely scenario is that he rotates the albums within the various countries — with the four German or four Italian shows each getting different albums.
In addition to Born to Run, Darkness, and Born in the U.S.A., 2009 saw one-night-only performances of Greetings…, The Wild, The Innocent… and The River. If any of those three were to get played, I would think The Wild, The Innocent… would be the most likely. The length of The River and the challenging nature of the material on that album and on Greetings means that those albums just aren’t possible in a stadium.
The hope here is that the complete-album performances stay away. As mentioned previously, I mean no disrespect to the European fans who haven’t seen these performances before. I simply think Bruce can and should do better for his fans. Playing albums in full is something that artists do when they have nothing new to say. When they have no new album to promote, and simply want to get out and tour (and make money). It’s a gimmick used to sell tickets, and Bruce generally doesn’t need that help in Europe (a few shows excepted).
As evidenced by his most recent record, Bruce does have things to say, and it’s a shame that he has dropped so many of the new songs from the setlist. “Rocky Ground” remains relevant, interesting, and yes, challenging to his audience. He should be playing it every night. Bruce has spoken extensively about how “We Are Alive” was key to completing the Wrecking Ball record, which makes its absence from the show all that much more puzzling. “This Depression,” even without Tom Morello to guest, has captured the audience when played in a stadium.
Album shows for The Rising, Magic and Lucky Town would be amazing. But even more than those, if Bruce is going to do shows where he plays an album in full, the one he should do is Wrecking Ball.