Given how the Wrecking Ball tour has progressed, it was certainly very surprising to see the Born in the U.S.A. album get played again. I would hardly presume to compare an arena show such as Leeds – or even a small stadium show such as Cardiff – to a Kilkenny stadium show. Comparing Limerick, Cork or Belfast certainly seems fair, however, and tonight’s setlist compares quite unfavorably to any of those shows.
As stated here before, setting aside any general dislike of the gimmick that is full-album shows, there’s not anything specifically wrong with Born in the U.S.A.; from top to bottom, it’s certainly one of Bruce’s most consistent records, and if no doubt serves as the crowd-pleaser. What remains frustrating about the shows where this album is featured is that Bruce takes such a strange approach to the setlist surrounding it. It’s as if he goes on auto-pilot and can’t realize that when playing the album full of hits, he can and should use the balance of the set for more challenging material.
Of course “Badlands” and “Out in the Street” is a great way to open a show. But if the set is already guaranteed to contain a run of hits in the middle, it would be appropriate to try something less familiar at the top of the show, when Bruce has the audience’s attention simply because it’s the very beginning of the show and everyone’s excited.
The covers granted by sign request were great fun. Yes, the performance might have been a little sloppy, but it hardly detracted from them. They’re both personal favorites and I was thrilled that Bruce played “Shake” and “Sweet Soul Music.” Looking at them objectively, though, it is obvious that they were misplaced in the show. Those songs are exactly the sort of thing that should be saved for the encore, particularly when the Born in the U.S.A. hit singles are being played in the main set. There was no reason Bruce couldn’t simply have taken the signs and deferred playing them until the encore; he’s certainly done that numerous times before.
if anything, tonight’s show simply sets hopes higher for Sunday. It would be a fair expectation that Bruce keeps the repeated songs to the absolute minimum (Wrecking Ball songs, “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue,” “Badlands,” and “Dancing in the Dark”) and sends the tour off with a worthy finale.