Adding “Tunnel of Love” to the set: it works on so many levels.

Bruce wants to include a song every night that features Nils Lofgren; Bruce wants to include a song every night that features Patti Scialfa; Bruce has only a few spots available in the setlist after he plays The River in full each night.

Easy solution: play “Tunnel of Love.”  Every night of this tour.

1. It features both one of Nils’ greatest solos and one of Patti’s best vocal parts.

2. It’s one of Bruce’s biggest hits – helpful for engaging an audience that just experienced the challenging sides 3 and 4 of The River.

3. It has a thematic link to The River: Bruce has repeatedly pointed out how the song “Stolen Car” led to the writing on the Tunnel of Love album.

4. It has been barely-ever played in the Reunion era; it could be played every night on this tour without feeling stale or rote.

5. It’s one of Bruce’s greatest songs.

 

 

St. Louis, August 23, 2008 (and soundcheck revelations)

At some point, not much more can be said about the show in St. Louis, Missouri on August 23, 2008.  It was – both in my opinion, and the opinion of many others – the best show of the Magic tour.  There is probably no other tour from Bruce’s entire performing history where there is such a strong consensus as to what the best show of the tour was.  On other tours, there are some choices: for example, the best River show might have been the Nassau Coliseum New Year’s Eve show; or the Vietnam Veterans show; or the night in Philadelphia after John Lennon’s death.  For the Magic tour, it was this night that stood apart from all others.

It is rightly considered perhaps the single best show the E Street Band played since reuniting, and I know others have gone further, calling it the best since the River tour itself.

I was newly excited, however, to hear that an improved matrix recording of the show was just made available on the torrent sites.  Yes, it’s an unofficial release, but it’ll do quite nicely until Bruce officially releases a recording from this night (which, of course, is something that should be on his to-do list!)

The contents of the night’s soundcheck are known to those who were waiting in the general admission line and could hear the songs being performed, but the tape offers some new revelations, including another confirmation that Bruce does pay attention to those little details that one might think only his obsessive fans know.

The recording contains a fascinating confirmation that Bruce was acutely aware of his performance history of “Then She Kissed Me,” and that it had last been done 33 years prior, in August.

Bruce may not have been aware that it would be exactly 33 years to the date since the song’s last performance.  He certainly was remembering, however, the band’s run of shows at the Bottom Line stand of August 1975: “Then She Kissed Me” was played at almost every one of the ten shows there.  Alternate choice “When You Walk in the Room,” rehearsed in the soundcheck but which went unplayed (it was probably Bruce’s alternate choice for the opening song) underscores his memory of those shows.

Sure enough, before running through the song, Bruce, Nils and other members of the band can be heard discussing Bruce’s inclusion of covers in the band’s set, and Bruce remarking to Nils that “you might have heard it at a show you were at!” and Nils immediately confirming “I was, I was at that show!”  Nils also recalls, quite correctly, that “…the first date of ours was was the night after your last stand there.”

Bottom Line August 1975

Nassau Coliseum 1980: Revisiting the Show’s Length and All-Time Ranking

The glorious official release of the December 31, 1980 show from the Nassau Coliseum from the Springsteen archives now calls for a re-evaluation of the show’s length and its ranking among the longest-ever Springsteen shows.

That topic is of particular interest here, and was previously explored on this site in June of 2012, when Bruce was playing a remarkable series of shows in Europe, approaching his all-time records and finally, on the last night of the tour in Helsinki, cracking the four-hour mark.

The Nassau show had for years been regarded as the longest-ever (until July 31, 2012), and with the benefit of a complete recording running at proper speed, it can now be properly measured…and perhaps properly ranked.

Obtaining an accurate measurement:
The official recording of the Nassau show runs 3:47:21.  Applying principles previously explained here, the measurement of the show starts with Bruce’s first words to the crowd, “Are you ready to send out 1980?”  The set break (between “Thunder Road” and “Cadillac Ranch”) is not counted.  There are a few seconds left on the end of the recording after “Raise Your Hand” ends that also must be disregarded.

Accordingly, this site recognizes, for ranking purposes, that the length of the December 31, 1980 show is 3:45:53.

All-Time Rank:
The Nassau Coliseum show comes in ahead over the longest (non-Helsinki) Wrecking Ball shows.

The February 16, 2014 show in Melbourne, Australia – known for being the only High Hopes tour show to not be officially released – was 3:46:41, good for second-longest all-time.

Coming in just ahead of the Nassau Coliseum show is the December 19, 1980 show at Madison Square Garden.  The relatively new JEMS upgrade of the show – after the typical show-measurement methodology is applied – runs 3:46:20.

There is, however, the possibility that the tape from that show runs a touch slow which could throw the measurement off slightly.

Barring a definitive official release of the New York show to provide a perfect comparison, the top-5 length rankings are currently believed to be:

1. Helsinki, July 31, 2012, 4:04:47

2. Melbourne, February 16, 2014, 3:46:41

3. New York, December 19, 1980, 3:46:20

4. Uniondale, December 31, 1980, 3:45:53

5. Madrid, June 17, 2012, 3:45:32

 

NOTE:
A prior version of this post mistakenly omitted the Melbourne show from the rankings.  Thanks to T. for the correction.  This site regrets the error.

The Top Ten Shows that Bruce Springsteen Should Release from his Archives

In a live interview on Sirus’s “E Street Radio” channel on May 18, 2014, prior to the last show of the High Hopes Tour, Bruce spoke generally about his future plans, and mentioned potential archival releases of past shows. Today was the exciting first step in that process, with the introduction of a dedicated page on his website and the release of the Apollo Theater show from March 2012 prior to the start of the Wrecking Ball Tour.

Yet the interview that Brad Serling of nugs.net gave to Backstreets is what truly tantalizes, with the revelation that there is “a working list of 30 shows ‘spanning Bruce’s entire career’ under consideration” for release.

There were of course no shows specifically mentioned, but the interview with Serling offers a few clues, including his experience that some of the best selling archival recordings for other bands are the shows that fans have had in their collection for many years.

One final consideration, of course, is the availability of a sufficient quality copy of the show in Bruce’s archives. It is presumed here that this is not an obstacle for recent shows, which is likely one of the reasons why the Apollo Theater show was chosen as the first download: it was ready and available for release.  Material from earlier periods of Bruce’s career may not be as easily available.

With these considerations in mind, here’s hoping these are among the thirty shows under consideration, and among the first shows released:

The Top 10 Shows that Bruce Springsteen Should Release From His Archives:
1. August 20, 1981 – Los Angeles, California
The benefit concert for the Vietnam Veterans of America is well known as one of the most important and emotional perforamances in Springsteen’s entire career. It has been widely bootlegged, but none of the available recordings approach the high quality of other famous shows. An easy choice for #1.

2. November 16, 1990 – Los Angeles, California
The benefit for the Christic Institute featured Springsteen playing solo: not only on guitar, but – for the first time in many years – on piano as well. It was Bruce’s first public performance since dismissing the E Street Band and was the debut of four new songs, including “Real World.” This show, along with the following night’s performance, were reportedly considered as candidates for an official release in the 1990s.

3. September 24, 1999 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
For the fifth night of a six-show run during the Reunion tour, Bruce and the band moved across the street from the new arena to the old Spectrum, performing the night after Bruce’s fiftieth birthday. One of the best shows of that tour, but unfortunately no excellent recordings of the show have ever been available…yet.

4. August 23, 2008 – St. Louis, Missouri
Probably the best show by the E Street Band since they reunited in 1999. Memorable for the resurrection of numerous classic cover songs, including “Then She Kissed Me” and “Mountain of Love” as well as the band playing at peak power at the end of the Magic tour: the versions of “Gypsy Biker” and “Long Walk Home” from this show are definitive.

5. September 19, 1978 – Passaic, New Jersey
The “Piece de Resistance” show, and famously broadcast on WNEW-FM. It could be said that this show does not need an official release, given that it already exists in excellent quality in collectors’ circles. It remains one of the more significant shows in Bruce’s career, with the radio broadcast bringing many a fan’s first exposure to the E Street Band.  The LP, cassette and CD bootlegs of this show have been treasured by so many fans for so many years that it seems unfathomable that this show will not be included.

6. August 20, 1984 – East Rutherford, New Jersey
Well known under the bootleg title “The Last Great Show,” this was the final night of a ten-night homecoming stand at the Meadowlands Arena on the first leg of the Born in the U.S.A. tour. The Miami Horns and Little Steven were special guests, including on a memorable version of “Drift Away.” This show was one of the sources of the Live 1975-1985 box set and should be easily available for release.

7. March 25, 1977 – Boston, Massachusetts
The final night of a legendary four-show run to end a series of shows in which Springsteen was playing live because he could not record in the studio due to his legal battles with Mike Appel. Featuring a powerful “Backstreets” and “Higher and Higher” to end the show.

8. October 18, 1975 – Los Angeles, California
The fourth of a six-night residency at the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood. This show is the source of the now-famous version of “Thunder Road” that starts the Live 1975-1985 box set. Given the likelihood that the entire show exists in Bruce’s archives, this is a probable (and worthy) choice for inclusion in the series.

9. May 3, 1988 – Mountain View, California
Available for years under the famous bootleg title “Roses and Broken Hearts,” and widely considered the best show of the Tunnel of Love tour. A wild encore includes “Sweet Soul Music,” “Have Love Will Travel,” and for the first time in ten years, “Little Latin Lupe Lu.”

10. January 31, 1973 – New York, New York
Shortly after the release of Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, Mike Appel made arrangements for this show to be recorded for King Biscuit Flower Hour radio program. Given the uncertainty of availability of early recordings of the band, this seems a likely choice as the earliest recording in the archive series.

 

Other strong contenders:

May 9, 1974, Cambridge, Massachussets
The show at the Harvard Square Theater reviewed by Jon Landau, resulting in a now legendary quote. The band was touring behind The Wild, The Innocent… and included David Sancious and Boom Carter in their lineup.

August 9, 1978 – Cleveland, Ohio
The famous “Agora” show, broadcast on Cleveland’s WMMS, with the band introduced by Kid Leo.

December 31, 1980 – Uniondale, New York
Still one of Springsteen’s longest-ever shows (even if since surpassed several times in 2012). This show was a source for Live 1975-85, Tracks and The Essential Bruce Springsteen and is certainly sitting in Bruce’s archives in its entirety.

May 8, 1981 – Stockholm, Sweden
Arguably the best show of the 1981 European tour, Bruce’s first extended visit overseas.

October 31, 1984 – Los Angeles, California
Halloween night includes a special “High School Confidential” opening skit and a rare performance of “My Father’s House.”

June 24, 1993 – East Rutherford, New Jersey
The “Concert to Fight Hunger,” at the end of the 1992-1993 World Tour; with guest appearances from Little Steven, Max Weinberg, Southside Johnny, and a roof-raising moment when Clarence Clemons comes out during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”

May 8, 2000 – Hartford, Connecticut
One of the consensus best shows of the Reunion tour, including Bruce dropping a part of “Honky Tonk Women” into the start of “Darlington County.”

June 28, 2003 – Milan, Italy
The final night of the European leg of the Rising tour, including a wild crowd, a thunderstorm and a rare performance of “Follow that Dream.” Specifically cited by Jon Landau at the time as one of Bruce’s best-ever shows.

October 4, 2003 – New York, NY
The final night of the Rising tour includes a rarity-filled setlist and a guest appearance from Bob Dylan.

November 19, 2007 – Boston, Massachusetts
Danny Federici’s last complete show with the E Street Band. (Alternate choice: April 22, 2008 in Tampa, Florida, the first show after his death).

November 8, 2009 – New York, New York
A complete performance of The River album, for the first and quite possibly only time. A stunning show, even beyond the album portion of the proceedings.

November 22, 2009 – Buffalo, New York
The final night of the Working on a Dream tour; a complete performance of Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and Clarence Clemons’ final tour show with the band.

July 31, 2012 – Helsinki, Finland
At four hours, four minutes and forty-seven seconds, the longest Springsteen show ever performed.

High Hopes 2014 US Springsteen Tour Preview

The US leg of the 2014 “High Hopes” tour starts this Sunday, April 6, in Dallas, Texas. What does Bruce (possibly) have in store?

First Free Show Since 1973
Sunday’s show in Dallas will be the first time since the 1970s that the E Street Band has performed a full set that was completely free and open to the public.

There have been past free performances that had limited public access (such as the Apollo Theater show before the Wrecking Ball tour) or performances that were open the public but were less (often much less) than a full set.

Bruce and the band performed times in the 1970s at Colleges and Universities where the tickets were free to students but not otherwise open to the general public. The last known time a show was completely free and open to the public was on September 8, 1973.

With the exciting news that this show will be streamed online, one need not look so far in the past to find the last time that happened; it was September 21, 2013, the last show of the Wrecking Ball tour, at the Rock in Rio festival in Brazil. (Hopefully Bruce won’t do a full performance of the Born in the U.S.A. album this time).

 
Will songs from High Hopes ever make regular appearances in the setlist?
If the South African and Australasian shows are any guide, it appears that Bruce is treating the High Hopes songs much as he did the Working on a Dream songs, showing very little faith in them when creating his setlists.

“High Hopes” (the song) will be there every night, and “Just Like Fire Would” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” will be on most nights as well. The rest of the songs are conspicuous by their absence: “Dream Baby Dream,” “Frankie Fell in Love” and “Hunter of Invisible Game” were only played once each; “This Is Your Sword” twice, and three songs from the album haven’t yet been played live this tour. Even “Heaven’s Wall” and “American Skin” were missing from several of the shows played this tour.

Then again, returning to the U.S. may give Bruce a bit more freedom to try his new material, as he may not feel obligated to play as many of his “regular” or “hit” material to crowds that haven’t had the chance to see him play as often. Further, this leg of the tour notably is playing to several markets that the Wrecking Ball tour missed, so there is the potential that those “new” songs may also make the set.


What about “album” shows?
Another factor that suggests a greater presence of new material is that Bruce should now at this point be completely finished with playing “album” shows. He is no longer playing for crowds that have had rare (or no prior) opportunities to see him in concert. There is simply no reason that he should have to resort to the gimmick that are full-album shows, particularly at the start of a tour behind a new album, and in the country where he plays the majority of his live shows.

 
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction – Thursday, April 10
Next week, the E Street Band will receive the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “Award for Musical Excellence” (formerly known as the “Sidemen” award). Of course Bruce will be performing with the band at the event. But what will they play?

Assuming a limited performance slot, the two most obvious choices are “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and “The E Street Shuffle.” The former is what Bruce himself has described as the “story of the band” and of course has been used for two years as tribute to the members of the band no longer with us. The latter would be an appropriate choice of song to include Vini Lopez and David Sancious; indeed, Lopez played drums on the song at a show in September 2012.

A final consideration on the band’s song choices is that this may be the one time that the members of the band are given the opportunity to choose the songs played, rather than Bruce himself. In an ideal world, the band would be able to play each member’s signature song (“Racing in the Street” for Roy, “Two Hearts” for Steve, “My Love Will Not Let You Down” for Max, and so on) but time constraints would clearly not allow such a long set.

One further wrinkle is the question of who, if anyone, will be on stage other than the band members being inducted. It would be possible to limit the performance to only those being inducted – with David Sancious playing the keyboards instead of Charlie Giordano – but that would also limit the performance to songs without saxophone.

It further seems unlikely that Bruce would have just Jake on saxophone (rather than the entire horn section). Given that the event falls in the middle of the tour, it is more likely that the current incarnation of the band will be on stage in its entirety.  Including, of course, Steve Van Zandt or Patti Scialfa, in what could be their only time on stage with the band this spring.


Tom Morello replacing Steve Van Zandt (again)
As he did for the Australian tour of 2013, Tom Morello will be replacing Steve Van Zandt, while Steve is off filming episodes of Lillyhammer in Norway.

As evidenced by those ten shows in 2013, Steve’s absence is unlikely to affect the setlist choices, as Bruce played songs during those shows from almost every one of his albums.  The one possible exception is the song “Two Hearts.”  This was the song that Bruce played every time Steve guested on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, and was the song that was played every night on the Reunion tour, when Steve returned to the band.  It was absent in Australia in 2013, and returned to the set in Oslo, on Steve’s first night back.  It’s never been played by Bruce and the E Street Band without Steve on stage, so if it’s that one song you’re hoping to hear, you might be out of luck.

A reasonable analysis of Steve’s role in the modern E Street Band would indicate that his trademark vocals may be missed even more than his guitar playing.  Nils was called on by Bruce, in a manner similar to the Born in the U.S.A. tour, to join in on harmony vocals in Steve’s place but there is still going to be a clear difference.  Steve’s guitar parts, by contrast, were ably covered by Nils and Tom Morello in 2013.  Steve’s solos on more recent material such as “Living in the Future,” “Easy Money” or “Gypsy Biker” would probably require some practice to get right, although the issue is mostly moot, as Bruce regrettably seems to have little interest in playing those songs.


Patti Scialfa
Patti hasn’t played a full show with the E Street Band since September of 2012, and the number of shows she plays goes down on each successive tour.  She has, however, usually been present for the first US leg of a tour, so there is reason to hope that she may be able to make it more than just the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.  She obviously will be missing the Nashville show, given the announcement that she’ll be performing at Sting and Trudie Styler’s Rainforest Benefit show that same night.

In the past, Patti’s absence has made it less likely that songs from Tunnel of Love or the song “Human Touch” would be played.  Recently though, Bruce has been relying on Soozie to cover Patti’s vocal parts on those songs, so performances of them are fortunately not completely precluded.


American Beauty
It is unprecedented for Bruce to release new original material while in the middle of a tour (excepting, obviously, the times when a tour started a few days prior to the release of the album it was supporting). Record Store Day is Saturday, April 19, and the band will be performing in Charlotte that night. Here’s hoping that Bruce chooses to debut one (or more) of the new songs from American Beauty at that show.

There is no need to wait for Charlotte, of course.  Bruce does have a long history of playing new songs live before they are released on an album (such as “Point Blank” in 1978, “Seeds” in 1985 or “American Skin (41 Shots)” in 2000).  It wouldn’t be a surprise if he tried some of the American Beauty songs as early as opening night in Cincinnati.


“Local” Cover Songs
There was a great deal of publicity regarding Bruce’s choices of “local” cover songs in South Africa and Australia, and they were obvious highlights of the tour. That said, it seems unlikely to continue in the US, and those hoping for a cover song from different band from Tampa or Raleigh or Columbus are likely to go away disappointed. The nature of the Southern Hemisphere leg, where the band did not fly home after each show and were on an extended tour together naturally lent itself to more time for pre-show practice and more time to come up with interesting ideas for each show.


Miscellaneous
Will the shows continue to be available as official downloads?
There’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

Will there be more shows?
Bruce’s tours are big business and there’s never before been a tour where he’s skipped his biggest markets in the US (for example, New York). At some point in the foreseeable future, he will be playing there again.

But when exactly?
Your guess is as good as mine.

Is this the tour where “Waiting on a Sunny Day” finally gets a rest?
It just might be. In a positive trend, it was absent from 5 of the 13 Australia/New Zealand shows.

What other live staples might get a well-deserved rest?
Hopefully “Dancing in the Dark” will take a break from the show for a while. It’s an intriguing possibility with the tour returning to a “familiar” market; Bruce may not feel compelled to play it for fans overseas that are seeing him for the first time.

Will the Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out tribute continue?
It was present in Australia in 2014, after having already been done there in 2013. It’s possible, but unlikely that it will be left out.

Will Bruce still be taking lots of signs from the audience?
I wish he’d tamp down on this trend. He could easily make an announcement through his website (or his newfound social media presence!) telling people that he’s not doing that this time around.

If he does still want to take signs, I do have a suggestion or two:

 


They’re Here! Springsteen’s Official Live Show Downloads Now Available!

“Talk about a dream, try to make it real…”

And they have!  The day is finally here: one can download an official, high-quality recording of Bruce Springsteen’s live shows.  The E Street Band played in Cape Town, South Africa on January 26, 2014, and late in the evening of January 29, 2014 the first recording was made available – at the reasonable price of $9.99 for MP3 or $14.99 for FLAC.

Instant reaction:

It’s a good mix.  A nice balance of instruments, and a good amount of audience.  Maybe Bruce’s vocals are a little low, but this is the first time they’re doing this.  One imagines a little tweaking to the mix will probably happen over the first few shows.

Lots of little things can be heard in the mix that might get missed at some of the shows: a great guitar part by Tom Morello at the end of the “Death to My Hometown,” or the backing singers in “Out in the Street,” or the baritone sax of Ed Manion adding to the bottom end in “Spirit in the Night.”  Nice lyric change by Bruce in “Hungry Heart” to “…here I am in Cape Town again.”

(And that’s just from the first seven songs!)

Total Disaster as Springsteen Tries to Sell Recordings of Live Shows

UPDATE, JANUARY 22:

Today, Backstreets breaks more news on this subject, and it’s unequivocally positive:

“Backstreets has just confirmed that, in addition to the USB wristband sales model, Springsteen will also be offering direct audio downloads through his official Live Nation online store following each show on the upcoming leg, with no physical purchase required. There will be two options for audio formats: MP3 (320 kbps) or FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec). Pricing will match Pearl Jam’s, at $9.99 for MP3 or $14.99 for FLAC. Hard to say fairer than that.”

(Emphasis mine)

Needless to say, this is simply fantastic news, and largely addresses each of the issues raised below with Springsteen’s plans as originally revealed.  The original article remains below, with several parts of it now gladly moot.

Original Article:

Last week, Backstreets breaks the news that Bruce Springsteen is finally ready to sell official live recordings of his concerts, and he’s planning on doing so on his upcoming tour.  Jon Landau, Bruce’s longtime manager, is quoted:  “We’re trying to keep the surprises coming…I think we are.”

No kidding.

Today, the program is revealed:
1. Fans will have to buy a “wristband” with a USB drive attached in order to obtain the recording of the show.
2. For each wristband purchased, they can download one show.  Want 10 different shows?  You’ve got to buy 10 wristbands.
3. The downloads are only offered in MP3 format.
4. The cost: $40 per wristband, plus tax and shipping.

The only accurate characterization of this program is that is a massive blunder on the part of Springsteen, and shows a total lack of understanding of his fanbase and of technology generally.

The Price
The $40 price is so far out of line with the industry standard as to be baffling.  Pearl Jam charges $10 per show in MP3 format; $15 per show in FLAC format; $16.98 for physical CDs and $20 for FLAC-HD.   Similar prices are charged by Metallica.  John Fogerty.  Phish.

Plus tax and shipping.  That’s right, because the only way to get the recording is on the silly USB drive, a buyer has to also pay for shipping (minimum charge $8.95 on an item that requires about $2.00 of postage) in order to get the recording.

And the wristband?  A 2 GB USB drive is worth maybe $5.  Assuming the buyer even wants one.

Of course Bruce is free to charge whatever he wants for his music, as is his right as an artist.  As consumers and fans, we are free to call him out on it.  This is just greedy.

The Quality
MP3s are not “high-quality” audio.  This is not up for debate.  Advertising these as “high-quality audio recordings,” as listed in the store on Bruce’s official website, is insulting.

It’s perfectly fair to charge a different rate for MP3s and FLAC-HD, as the artists mentioned above do.  Offering MP3s only is stupid.  Why would Bruce not want his fans to be able to hear the music in the best possible quality?  It simply makes no sense.

The Wristband
The vast majority of people buying the shows do not want or need a wristband with a USB drive attached thereto.

If the shows are going to be downloaded from the internet, there is no sensible reason whatsoever to make it necessary to ship a USB drive through the mail in order to do so!  One wonders how much of the price could be reduced simply by eliminating this nonsense.

The Fundamental Lack of Understanding of the Fanbase (and Technology)
The takeaway here is that Bruce and/or his advisors, including Jon Landau, simply do not understand Bruce’s fanbase.

Official recordings of live shows is something that Bruce’s fanbase has been clamoring for for years and years.  There are tens of thousands of fans who want high-quality recordings of live shows who would be buying two or three or five or ten shows each if the price was fair and the format useful.  There are hundreds of fans (and possibly more) who would buy every single show of the tour if he was doing this properly.

$40 for MP3s and a pointless USB drive is just terrible.  One is left to wonder how something the fans have wanted for so long could have been implemented so terribly.

What to Expect on Bruce Springsteen’s “High Hopes” 2014 tour

Now that Bruce Springsteen’s new album High Hopes has been released, what can we look forward to on the upcoming tour?


Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
Tuesday will be Bruce’s fourth appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Playing “High Hopes” is guaranteed. The second song is less certain, but the prediction here is “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Presumably Bruce will also return in another comedy bit as well. I wouldn’t dare predict what is in store there.


Starting the Tour Overseas, in a New Market
With no rehearsal shows scheduled or expected, this tour will wind up as the first time in the Reunion era in which the core setlist is unveiled at the first show of the tour (January 26 in Cape Town). In the past, rehearsal shows — or defacto rehearsal shows, such as the Apollo Theater performance — have served as the first look at the basic set structure that Bruce will use.

Also new is that Bruce is starting his tour overseas. The only time the E Street Band started a tour overseas was the Reunion tour in 1999, but they did have two rehearsal shows in the US prior to doing so.

Further complicating things is that Bruce will be starting the tour in a market in which he’s never played. It stands to reason that the first night in Cape Town will resemble the shows Bruce played in Mexico City and South America last tour, with perhaps songs from High Hopes instead of Wrecking Ball. It would not at all be surprising to see Bruce choose to include the key songs from his back catalog (“The Promised Land,” “Prove It All Night,” “Thunder Road,” “Born in the USA”) in the South African shows rather than focusing on the new material. Accordingly, a true representation of the core setlist for the tour might not appear until Bruce reaches Australia.


How much material from High Hopes makes the set?
The early shows on each of Bruce’s recent tours have all included a large amount of new material. 11 of the 15 songs from The Rising were in the core setlist; 8 of 12 from Magic, and 7 of 11 from Wrecking Ball. Although many of the songs were almost immediately dropped, Bruce did even have 6 songs from the album in the set on the opening night of the Working on a Dream tour.

A similar number of new songs can be expected at the start of this tour. Some of the predictions are easy, as the E Street Band has already played several of the songs from this album live. “High Hopes” is a near-certainty for the first song of the show. “The Ghost of Tom Joad” is a definite, and “American Skin (41 Shots)” likely. “Just Like Fire Would” seems certain for the Australian shows, and may well turn up in South Africa (and elsewhere) too.

Bruce discussed playing “Heaven’s Wall,” “Frankie Fell in Love” and “Dream Baby Dream” in the interview recently broadcast on E Street Radio; they all seem logical contenders. I would expect these seven songs to be the “new” songs that are performed most often in concert.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Bruce try “Hunter of Invisible Game” and/or “The Wall” at the start of the tour but it would seem only a question of time before they would be dropped from the show. In the past, the quieter and slower new songs (“Magic,” “The Wrestler,” “Jack of All Trades”) were all tried at the start of the tour but eventually dropped from the set. “Empty Sky” is the only recent example of such a song being played every night of a tour.


What’s the song that gets played once and only once?
History tells us that there will be one song from this album that will be played exactly once on the tour, and never again. It was “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)” on the Rising tour; “You’ll Be Comin’ Down” on the Magic tour; “What Love Can Do” on the Working on a Dream tour and “You’ve Got It” on the Wrecking Ball tour.

The prediction here is that this time, it’ll be “Harry’s Place.” There’s a lot of different sonic layers in the song that could be hard to replicate on stage (Morello’s guitar, the sax, the distorted vocal); the fact that the song’s time has arguably passed (Bruce has dated the song as commentary on the “Bush years” in America); and the “x-factor” that Bruce might be a little bit uncomfortable singing the expletives in concert.


Album shows?
One would think these are a thing of the past but they can’t entirely be ruled out either. With Bruce returning to Australian markets he played just one year ago, those cities may experience something similar to what happened in Europe this past summer. If one was hoping to hear a Born to Run and/or a Born in the USA album show, the stadium dates in Melbourne and the outdoor dates in Hunter Valley are the most likely candidates. It’s not very likely to happen, but certainly not impossible either. As always, the hope here is that Bruce doesn’t do them.


What gets played from Bruce’s other recent albums?
Not much, in all likelihood. One of the few disappointments of Bruce’s busy touring schedule is that with each successive new album and tour, he has generally ignored his other recent material.

On the Magic tour, only “The Rising” and “Lonesome Day” remained from The Rising as regulars in the set. Only “Radio Nowhere” from Magic showed up on the Working on a Dream tour with any regularity, and Magic songs have been sparsely played since. Essentially nothing at all from Working on a Dream was played on the Wrecking Ball tour.

“Death to My Hometown” and “Wrecking Ball” were the two songs from Wrecking Ball played most frequently and seem the two most likely to get played again. “Shackled and Drawn” probably has a shot too. Sadly, we’re unlikely to ever see “We Are Alive,” “Jack of All Trades,” “Rocky Ground” or “Easy Money” played live again in any meaningful quantity.


Does anything from the back catalog get retired for this tour?
Bruce is going to absolutely play “Dancing in the Dark” when he goes to South Africa, but the hope here is that he gives it rest thereafter.

It’s been in the set essentially non-stop since the very beginning of the Rising tour. It might be his biggest hit, but he has other songs that are just as well known and would work fine in the encore to give “Dancing” a well-deserved break.

After 2+ tours of the song being played every night, Bruce finally dropped “American Land” out of the show on the second night of the Wrecking Ball tour, and the song has made only occasional appearances since. One hopes he has the same good sense with “Waiting on a Sunny Day” on this tour.

It will be curious to see if Bruce elects to de-emphasize “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” on this tour. After being an every-night song and feature of the set on the Reunion tour, it made only four appearances on the Rising tour. A similar approach may be taken again on this upcoming tour.

Bruce Springsteen at Stand Up for Heroes: Three Songs and Two Dirty Jokes

Tonight is the seventh annual “Stand Up for Heroes” benefit for the Bob Woodruff Foundation, with Bruce once again performing, as he has each of the past six years.

The event continues to grow in size and after three years each at Town Hall and the Beacon Theatre, is now taking place at the Theater at Madison Square Garden (the venue formerly known as the “Felt Forum”). Surprisingly, this will be Bruce’s first ever performance at this venue; an E Street Band show was planned for this venue in 1975 but cancelled.

Three Songs

Most of Bruce’s performances have been solo acoustic, with the songs varying from year to year; he’s never done any song more than twice. Choices have included the usual catalog staples such as “Thunder Road,” “The Promised Land” and “Born to Run” but also contemporary material such as “Devil’s Arcade” in 2007 and “We Take Care of Our Own” last year. Patti Scialfa has joined in at three of the events, including a duet with Bruce on “Tougher Than the Rest” last year. Most of his performances at the past shows have consisted of three songs.

A real wild-card prediction: it wouldn’t be totally out of the question for Bruce to break out a new song. At this time of year in 2008, Bruce performed “Working on a Dream” for the very first time in a solo acoustic arrangement at the last of a series of rallies in support of President Obama’s campaign. With rumors swirling about a new Springsteen album coming out in early 2014, Bruce just might try something out for the first time tomorrow.

Two Dirty Jokes

“Stand Up for Heroes” is a part of the New York Comedy Festival, and Bruce has gamely tried to fit in on a bill that contains mostly comedians. In his first appearance in 2007, noting that “the flyer said ‘night of laughs,'” he came equipped with a few jokes that he admitted he got from his children and were described as “not knee-slapping funny, piss-your-pants funny, they’re sort of mildly amusing.”

Of course, Bruce’s sense of humor tends towards the ribald (e.g. “Red Headed Woman;” “Pilgrim in the Temple of Love”). In 2009, he blamed this on his years on the road – “problem is, problem with my jokes is, I’m on the road with the band, so they’re all kinda bad, they’re bad jokes.” By 2012, it was a running gag: “Now, besides singing a few songs, I also come out and tell bad jokes every year.”

What follows is the comedy stylings of Bruce Springsteen from the past “Stand up for Heroes” performances. Be forewarned: some of these are not family-friendly.

  • “Knock knock.” (Who’s there?) “The interrupting cow.” (The interrupting cow who?)—“Moo!”
  • An Irish guy and Italian guy are sitting at the bar. Irish guy says “Italians are the dumbest people on the face of the planet.” Italian guy says “what do you mean?” Irish guy says “I bet you don’t even know what Easter is.” So they make a bet. Italian guy gets up on the bar and he says “Easter is when Jesus Christ rolls away the stone, steps out into the sun, and if he sees his shadow…”
  • Guy goes into his doctor’s office, for his yearly checkup. Doctor says “You gotta stop masturbating, my friend.” Guy says “How come?” “I’m trying to examine you.”
  • A man and woman had a dog that they really liked. But the dog was getting kinda old, and when it sleeps with them in the bedroom, the dog snores in the middle of the night and wakes everybody up. So the husband says “why don’t you go down to the vet to see if there’s anything we can do for the dog to keep the dog from snoring.” So she goes to the vet, and the vet says “Uh, lady, there’s one thing that’s fail-safe, but it’s going to sound a little strange.” She says “well, ok, what is it?” He says “When the dog starts snoring in the middle of the night, you just get a ribbon, and you tie a ribbon around his penis. I guarantee the dog is going to stop snoring.” So, night comes, and they’re all in bed, and the dog is there, starts snoring, snoring. She says “what do I have to lose?” She finds a little blue ribbon, she comes out, ties it around the dog’s penis, he stops snoring. Two hours later, her husband starts snoring. She thinks, “I don’t know.” Finds a little red ribbon, ties it around his penis, the husband stops snoring. So morning comes, the husband wakes up, and looks down at himself, looks down at the dog. He says “I don’t know where we were last night, but I know that we came in first and second.”
  • I picked up the newspaper today: Pepsi has created a soft drink that has Viagra in it. First of all, guys, that’s good news. You’re actually going to have people who are going to go the supermarket and can pour yourself a stiff one. Problem is, they won’t be able to call it a soft drink anymore. They even came up with a good name. They’re going to call it ‘mount and do.’
  • Mailman dies, he’s in this little town, and they send the body over to the funeral home. And they’re undressing the body, getting the body ready for the wake. And the assistant says to the manager, “come here, you’ve got to see this. You’ve just got to see this. Look at the size of this guy’s penis, will you?” And this was of Smithsonian proportions. And the manager says, “well, that is something, man. We can’t put this in the box. In the interests of science, we’ve got to keep this thing preserved.” And ok, get the hacksaw, they get the hacksaw, and uh, got it. End of the day, he doesn’t know what to do with it, puts it in his briefcase. He thinks, “I’ve got to take this thing home and show the wife.” (Bruce: And so, uh, aw, I fucked up the joke already! Did I mention that the mailman’s name is Mr. Smith? That’s why I’m a musician.”) So he takes it home, and uh, long story short, pops the briefcase, and his wife says “Oh my God, Smith’s dead!”
  • A man’s playing golf. He’s in the rough. Swinging, swinging, swinging at this little stand of buttercups. Swinging, swinging. Buttercups are flying. Big voice comes out of the sky: “This is Mother Nature. You’re killing my buttercups. You’re never going to taste butter again.” Guy goes “Fuck!” Goes home. The next morning he wakes up. Butters the toast. Nothing. Next morning, he makes the pancakes, butters the panckaes. Oh, no. He goes to the movies. Puts the butter on the popcorn. Nothing. He goes “Jesus, Christ.” He’s out with his buddy the next week. They’re golfing. His buddy goes over the rise. Guy goes “Hey Mikey, where are you?” “My ball’s lost over here in the pussywillows! “Don’t swing!”
  • So a guy’s out on the golf course, he’s with a friend of his. And the guy swings with everything he’s got, and the ball slices, and he hits his pal right in the crotch. So the guy, boom! Drops over. And ohhh, writhing on the ground in agony. He says “quick, quick, quick! Get me to the doctor, get me to the doctor!” They get him over and down to the doctor, he says “Doc, how bad is it? How bad is it? You don’t understand, I’m going to be married next week. We saved ourselves for each other. She’s a virgin, this has got to work. This has just got to work!” So the doctor says, “Well, you know, I could put it in a splint. That’ll, heal it, and it’ll keep it straight, and you know, next week, should be ok.” So the doctor takes out four of the tongue depressors and makes a nice little four-sided bandage, and he wires it all together. Looks pretty good! So the guy gets married, doesn’t mention anything to his girlfriend. They get off the plane, they’re in Hawaii, it’s the honeymoon night, everything is perfect. And boom, she rips open her blouse, she has this gorgeous set of breasts, and this was the first time he had seen them. She says “you’ll be the first one who’s ever touched these breasts.” So he sits there and he thinks, and he whips down his pants and says “look at this! It’s still in the crate!”
  • There’s a middle-aged woman who had a heart attack, and she was taken to the hospital. And while she was on the operating table, she had a near-death experience. She saw the white light in the tunnel, and she got up to God, and she said “God, God, is my time up?” He said, “No, no, no, no, no, you’ve got, you’ve got like 40 years left.” “40 years?” “You’ve got 40 years left, says that right here in the book.” So upon hearing this, the light faded away and she kind of woke up, and said “40 years left? Hmm. I’m in the hospital, maybe I’ll get a little facelift, and some liposuction and a tummy tuck while I’m here. Alright, get ready for the rest, you know? Just change your hair color…” So a few days later, she got out, well, she was feeling great, right? She was crossing the street on the way back home, got hit by a car and killed. And she went back up to God, and said “I thought you said I had 40 years left!” And he says, “I didn’t recognize you!”

Bruce and E Street: back on tour in 2014!

The news that Bruce and the E Street Band are touring again in 2014 is certainly received as a surprise here. It was my belief and expectation that 2014 would be a “down year,” with Bruce having just completed his longest tour in the Reunion era.

There are essentially two scenarios for next year’s tour of Australia:

One: Bruce is playing these shows as an “extra” tour and going back to Australia (and nowhere else) because it’s a good financial deal for him (with tickets priced at nearly $200 US), he had fun playing there in 2013, he wants to enjoy Summer weather in February, or some such similar reason.

If this is the case, one could expect a healthy dose of Bruce’s hits, familiar live songs, and probably some of the “album” shows that he played in Europe in 2013.

Two: these shows will be the first of a new world tour, in support of a new Springsteen album. The assumption here is that this is the more likely scenario.

E Street Band circa 2014

With the news (admittedly, with Australian tour promoter Michael Gudinski as the sole source) that Tom Morello will be on the Australian tour, it again appears that the E Street band will be getting even larger.

An argument – indeed, a compelling argument – can be made that there is no need for the band to be quite so large. Even in 1999, there wasn’t really enough for Nils and Steve to do at times, and adding extra singers, percussion and guitar has only compounded the issue. Additionally, it is my belief that the sheer size of the band has contributed to the problems of inadequate sound quality that Bruce’s audience have experienced in recent years.

Since the Reunion tour, no person invited to join the E Street Band on tour (save replacement dummer Jay Weinberg) has ever left the band, with Bruce showing no interest whatsoever in downsizing.

Assuming Bruce has no interest in changing that policy, well, why not invite Morello too? If he does join the tour, hopefully his talents are extended to more than just nightly versions of “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

Has Bruce learned from the mistakes of 2009?

The Magic tour lasted 100 shows, from October 2007 to August 2008. Almost immediately, plans were made for Bruce to release a new album (Working on a Dream in January 2009) and return to the road (the tour started April 1, 2009 in San Jose).

There were two big problems with this plan: one, the new songs weren’t good; and two, the band didn’t rehearse nearly enough. Having recently ended a long tour, Bruce clearly didn’t think the band needed much rehearsal time and indeed, he didn’t think he needed much either. Bruce didn’t even attend several of the rehearsal sessions, which were used only to familiarize Jay Weinberg with the band.

Admittedly, there were some new elements added to the show: an adaptation of the “Morello” arrangement of “The Ghost of Tom Joad;” the return of “Seeds,” and the Stephen Foster cover, “Hard Times Come Again No More.”

Yet without much of the new material, and a surprising lack of material from the recent “Magic” album, the shows lacked focus in a manner that was completely uncharacteristic for Bruce. Bruce hadn’t put in enough effort to create a “new show,” and accordingly, he had to resort to gimmicks such as “stump the band” and the full-album shows. Sure, the shows were enjoyable, but there was no challenge to the audience.

So: has he learned from those mistakes? We’ll have to wait and see.

New tour – new setlist?

In the first part of Bruce’s career, it took four tours (Born to Run, Darkness, The River, Born in the U.S.A.) of largely similar setlists before Bruce finally made a change with the Tunnel of Love tour and brought out a radically different set.

In the reunion era, there’s now been another four tours in support of new material where the setlists have remained similar: The Rising, Magic, Working on a Dream and now Wrecking Ball.

On each tour, a core group of new songs was played, but those new songs mostly failed to carry over from tour to tour. A few things from The Rising have remained in regular rotation, but nothing from Magic has seen any significant time since that tour ended. The Promise remains completely ignored. One is left to wonder if Bruce will have any interest in the Wrecking Ball material in 2014, or if it will be relegated to the same fate.

Assuming a new album comes out in 2014, it would be expected that a healthy portion of the new songs make the setlist on a nightly basis. The big hope here is that Bruce finally moves away from the same core group of back-catalog material he has been using to fill out the balance of the set since 2002.

There’s a reason “Born to Run,” “Badlands,” “The Promised Land,” and “The Rising” get played every (or almost every) night, and I would hardly begrudge Bruce playing what he feels are the most important songs of his career. Yet he also needs to draw a distinction between the songs he absolutely must play, and those which could get some well deserved rest.

It would be a disappointment if those remaining spaces in the setlist get the same songs once again (Dancing in the Dark, Waiting on a Sunny Day, Out in the Street, She’s the One, Thunder Road, Rosalita, Darlington County, No Surrender, Lonesome Day, Because the Night, Prove it All Night, The River, Spirit in the Night). Of course any one of those songs is going to be someone’s favorite (here, it’s “Thunder Road”) but at this point in his career, Bruce is simply disregarding too much of his recorded output in favor of a limited group of songs. While it is true that Bruce played 225 songs on his most recent tour, a full half of them (113) were played three times or fewer.

The original incarnation of the E Street Band lasted from 1973 to 1988 (fifteen years) and it was only at the very end of that time that Bruce challenged himself and his audience with an entirely new setlist. The current, reunion-era incarnation has now been together for almost as long. Here’s hoping Bruce isn’t content to keep doing the same thing, and he works to find a new E Street Band show for 2014.