And Then There Were Four: a preview of the end of the Wrecking Ball Tour

In one week, after four remaining shows, the Wrecking Ball tour will reach its symbolic end in Kilkenny, Ireland.

Yes, Bruce and the band will be playing at least two (and likely three or four) shows in South America in September. That being said, what’s transpired over the last few weeks of the tour certainly indicates that Bruce will be treating this coming week as the symbolic conclusion to his tour, in the same manner as the series of shows in Madison Square Garden in 2000, Shea Stadium in 2003, and in the midwestern United States in 2008.

The shows in August 2008 appear to be analogous to the situation on this tour, with the symbolic finale of the Magic tour being the St. Louis and Kansas City performances, despite having an additional “outlier” show played afterwards. In 2008, that was the Harley Davidson Anniversary Festival performance; this year, it’s the Rock in Rio show and the South American dates surrounding it.

After two months of open-air shows, the tour will move back indoors for the next two shows. Tuesday’s show at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff has a capacity of approximately 30,0000, and the venue’s retractable roof will reportedly be closed to hang the curtains that create the smaller capacity. The next night, tour will visit the new arena in Leeds, which, with a 13,500 capacity is the third-smallest venue that the tour will visit. These shows, and in particular, Leeds, are highly anticipated for good reason, as the prior indoor shows on this leg of the tour (Oslo, Turku and Herning), were all outstanding performances, featured diverse setlists, and were not “album” shows.

With the tour debuts of “The Price You Pay” and “Fade Away” at the past two shows, the rumors are alive and well that Bruce may try another performance of The River from top to bottom. To date on the tour, the band has played 16 of the 20 songs from the album; unplayed are “Independence Day” (the version in Paris on July 4 last year was solo-piano), “Crush on You,” “I Wanna Marry You” and “Wreck on the Highway.” Of those four, the band is known to have practiced “Wreck on the Highway,” which even made the setlist for the Herning show in May. Getting prepared for a River show would certainly require some, but perhaps not an insurmountable amount of rehearsal.

In an indoor setting, doing The River is theoretically possible but the prediction here remains that The River – in its entirety – does not get played. Working against it is the fact that the album is just very long. The prior performance in New York in 2009 took one hour, forty-seven minutes. With Bruce’s shows currently running approximately three hours to three hours fifteen minutes, there would hardly be room left for the rest of the Wrecking Ball show. It is true that Bruce said on stage at the time that it would be done “just this one time,” but clearly that comment is not binding. A major concern, however, is that it would be impossible to recreate the amazing performance from Madison Square Garden that night, and to quote Jonathan Pont’s review of the show for Backstreets, “Bruce may be wise to let [that] performance [of The River] stand alone.”

After what transpired in Rome, a full performance of Bruce’s second album is an obvious possibility. Particularly notable was Steve Van Zandt being quoted in Italian media that performing the album was the original plan for that night.

“Wild Billy’s Circus Story” is the only song from the album unplayed on the tour, but Bruce could certainly do it solo-acoustic if the band didn’t have time to practice the accordion and tuba parts. The biggest impediment would seem to be the need for a string section on “New York City Serenade,” as Bruce has arranged for same at both of the song’s last two performances. The prediction here remains that a full-album performance of The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle is also unlikely, but certainly more likely than The River.

Needless to say, Tunnel of Love remains completely impossible, with ten of the album’s twelve songs unplayed this tour, and several having never been performed by the E Street Band.

Before this tour started, acoustic pre-sets by Bruce were extraordinarily rare. This tour, there have been ten, including each of the most recent three shows. Already a treat, they have become even more tantalizing as Bruce has been willing to try things from all corners of his back catalog, such as “Hearts of Stone” and “Maria’s Bed.”

Assuming they continue, the diversity of material therein is likely dependent on the signs Bruce sees in the crowd. If “Maria’s Bed” was possible, then certainly “All the Way Home” might get a try. One intriguing possibility is the long-lost “Man at the Top,” as a sign requesting it has been at multiple recent shows. Bruce’s willingness to try things on the piano is a welcome development and accordingly, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a solo-piano version of “The Promise” before the tour is out.

After the disappointing shows in Paris and London, the tour turned a corner in July, in no small part due to the interesting and adventurous setlists used, with the Limerick show (itself with an interesting setlist) the only full-album performance since. It was previously suggested here that the first three Irish shows – Limerick, Cork and Belfast – were obvious candidates to get Born to Run, Darkness, and Born in the U.S.A., respectively; Bruce clearly had other plans.

Accordingly, with Limerick having had Born to Run, it is possible that that the two Kilkenny shows could get Darkness and Born in the USA. I believe it more likely that those shows will be album-free, as Bruce is likely to be focused on bringing things full-circle as he wraps up the tour. Several key songs from earlier in the tour, including “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Jack of All Trades” and “Rocky Ground” have returned to the set in recent shows, and it has been Bruce’s regular practice, as evidenced on the Rising, Magic and Working on a Dream tours to debut multiple new songs over the final few shows of a tour. It’s far more likely that those are the songs we see making up the setlist in Kilkenny, rather than 10 or 12 in a row from one album.

If Kilkenny were to get a full album performance, my preference would be to see a complete performance of “Wrecking Ball.” Admittedly, there has been absolutely no indication that Bruce has considered this, and it would certainly require extra rehearsal to prepare (“You’ve Got It,” definitely, and possibly “This Depression” and/or “Easy Money” as well). It would, however, be the most interesting of the possible full-album performances. The show could start with “We Take Care of Our Own,” go through to “We Are Alive” and then allow a completely open second half of the show, with Bruce free to select rarities, sign requests and crowd favorites for the balance of the show.

Since the beginning of July, an additional 15 songs have premiered on the Wrecking Ball tour. Several have been covers, played due to sign request, such as “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” but the majority have been Springsteen songs: “One Way Street,” “Man’s Job,” “Roulette,” “Lucky Town,” “New York City Serenade,” “The Price You Pay,” “Real World,” “Nebraska” and “Fade Away.” “Fade Away” was song #212 played on the Wrecking Ball tour and should this development continue Bruce could easily reach 220 before the week is out.

Every end-of-tour show in the Reunion era has had multiple tour premieres, and Kilkenny should be no different. Some possible tour debuts to look for over the final week:

A thematic choice for the end of the tour

At the end of the Reunion tour, it was “Blood Brothers,” with a re-written final verse to sum up Bruce’s feelings about the band and their reunion. On the Magic tour in Kansas City, Bruce opted for a beloved and long-lost cover, “Rocking All Over the World,” thanking everyone in “E Street Nation” they had seen over the course of the tour. In Buffalo at the end of the Working on a Dream tour, Bruce debuted “I’ll Work For Your Love,” using the title of the song as metaphor for his relationship with his fans.

Bruce certainly could repeat one of these, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he found something different from elsewhere in his catalog to say “thanks” and “goodbye.”

“Local Hero”

It’s been practiced repeatedly at soundcheck and is seemingly ready to debut at any point. Perhaps Bruce is just waiting until he sees a sign for it.

“Gotta Get That Feeling” and “City of Night”

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of this tour has been the paucity of songs from The Promise that have made the set. Return appearances from “Talk to Me” and “Save My Love” might be more likely, but if Bruce ever does dig deeper into this album, these two songs could be in play, as they were both rehearsed by the band in soundcheck earlier in the tour.

Tunnel of Love”

The hope here is that Patti Scialfa comes back to the fold before the tour is out, and if she does, this song would be an obvious choice for Bruce to highlight her role in the band.

“Roll of the Dice”

Admittedly, not a tour premiere, as Bruce performed it in a solo-acoustic format in Hanover in May. Yet “Roll of the Dice” has been performed by the E Street Band before, on the Reunion and Rising tours, and with Bruce trying more of his 1992 material with the band, this seems like the next logical addition to the set from that group of songs.

 

The Stay Hard, Stay Hungry, Stay Alive End-of-Tour Wishlist

“Further On (Up the Road)”

Perhaps a possibility for that “end of tour” thematic choice, there’s lots of potential for a new version that suits the current incarnation of the band. Bruce has been very flexible with the arrangement of this song over the past decade, and something melding the “rocking” melody from The Rising and the repeated vocal parts sung by the different band members on the Seeger Sessions tour would be welcome.

“I Wanna Be With You”

By all accounts, each of this song’s performances at the top of shows on the Reunion Tour (and once on the Magic tour) went over well, with the crowd engergized by the each of the various members of the band playing their different parts before Bruce started singing the first verse. I suppose everyone has their favorite from “Tracks,” and this is mine.

“Brothers Under the Bridges (’83)”

One of the few songs from Discs 1-3 of Tracks to be never tried live, this is an out-of-nowhere longshot, but then again, so was “Wages of Sin” – so perhaps this outtake from Born in the U.S.A. is not impossible. I’ve noticed multiple signs for this in the crowd, and I hope Bruce saw them too.

“Real World”

I found it quite intriguing that Bruce performed this song twice in Cork. One explanation is that the perfectionist side of Bruce felt that the pre-show performance wasn’t quite on, and he was compelled to try again. A second explanation, favored here, is that Bruce was reminded of the power of the song and that it was worth playing for the full house, and not just the early arrivals down front.

A band version of the song is admittedly far less likely than hearing the piano version again, but I can confirm that a personal appeal was made to Bruce on this tour for a full-band performance of the song. In either arrangement, a repeat performance of “Real World” in Kilkenny is at the top of my list.

On Recent Setlist Developments (Mönchengladbach and Leipzig)

Needless to say, the complete turnaround in the construction of the setlist from only one week ago is as dramatic as it is welcome.

It is extraordinarily gratifying and reassuring that Bruce saw to it that improvements were made in his song selection, and that he and the band are again working on new things for the set in the pre-show soundchecks.

Dumping the full-album performances doesn’t mean that Bruce can’t play something for everyone, of course, and as evidenced in both of the recent German shows, he mixed in his hits and well-known material together with more challenging numbers.  Plus, with the return of “Rocky Ground” in Mönchengladbach and “We Take Care of Our Own” in Leipzig, he is fortunately adding a bit more of the Wrecking Ball album to the set after hitting a low point of 2 new songs in the show (3 if you count the new arrangement of “Land of Hope and Dreams”) in Geneva.

With only nine shows left in Europe, the wish-list for new songs to try is as follows:

5. “Local Hero” – it’s been repeatedly practiced, and should hopefully be making an appearance imminently.

4. “Gotta Get that Feeling” – if the band could nail “One Way Street” so easily, this gem from The Promise should be no sweat.  It was rehearsed last October but hasn’t ever made a setlist yet this tour.

3. “It’s a Shame” – a personal favorite from “The Promise.”

2. “The Big Muddy” – so far, the 1992-93 material that Bruce has tried has all been songs previously attempted with the E Street Band.  He’s never tried this one before wiht E Street and he should.  They could stick to a sparse arrangement with the electric guitar and atmospheric keyboards but I also think this could be transformed into a rock showpiece, similar to what was done to “The Ghost of Tom Joad.”

1. “Real World” – in a full-band arrangement.  Bruce successfully reclaimed the song with his solo-piano performances on the Devils and Dust tour, and the band he now has gives him the opportunity to try to get the band arrangement right.  With the horns and singers, this could be spectacular.

Naples and “Thunder Road”

Tonight’s show in Naples featured the first solo-acoustic “Thunder Road” of the tour, in the closing spot, for a post-“Twist and Shout” bonus for the crowd.

The performances of “Thunder Road” this tour have been generally excellent, and Bruce has noticeably become more free about allowing and encouraging the crowd to sing along.  Tonight, at the end of the show, he quite literally relies upon the crowd to carry the song, and it was indeed an outstanding performance, from both Bruce and the audience.

“Thunder Road” has occasionally been used as the closing song of shows before, including the 2002 European leg of the Rising tour.  A solo-acoustic performance to end the show is a relatively new development, however, and something that Bruce has used at some of the private (fundraising benefits for his childrens’ schools) and charity (the Light of Day performances) shows that he’s done in recent years.  This was the first time it’s been done at an E Street Band show, however.

It also appears that encouraging the crowd-singalong to “Thunder Road” at the end of the show may well have been Bruce’s tip of his hat to his last concert in Naples, on May 22, 1997, at the very end of the Ghost of Tom Joad tour.  With a large crowd assembled below the theater singing “O Sole Mio,” Bruce takes a curtain call on the second-floor balcony, and then emerges with guitar, harmonica and Kevin Buell in tow, holding a mostly-unnecessary lyric sheet.  The video below tells the rest of the story; notably, the only words that one can actually hear from Bruce are “The screen door slams…” before the crowd takes over.

Setlist, Melbourne Night 3

Much of what is written here deals with potential changes (and possible improvements) to Bruce’s live set, so it would only be fair to laud him when things go right.  The opening of the third night in Melbourne was a FANTASTIC opening to a show.  (And yes, I say this without having been in the audience).

The opening songs – “Long Walk Home,” “Radio Nowhere,” “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” “Better Days” and “We Take Care of Our Own” is the best opening run of songs any any show this entire tour.

One one level, these are all appropriate choices for Australia, as the first four songs had never before been played there.  Crowds down under never got to see the Lucky Town material as the 1992-93 tour never reached Australian shores and they never got to see Magic songs as that tour also skipped Australia.  The Reunion tour – and its common opening song “My Love Will Not Let You Down” – also missed Australia.

The fifth, “We Take Care of Our Own,” had been inexplicably dropped from several shows earlier in the Australian tour, and its return is hailed here, not just because it is an excellent song, but also because is the most important of the new songs and should be in the show every night.

In a broader view, the presence of this material is also welcome because they are some of Bruce’s finest and most underplayed songs.  The absence of Magic material is at times plain baffling.  “Better Days” has had only four performances since 1993, and “My Love Will Not Let You Down” has been a rarity since the end of the Reunion tour.

To say that this show is a positive indicator for the rest of the tour is an understatement.  Well done, Bruce.

On Band Introductions and Dropping “My City of Ruins” from the Show

Sunday night’s show in Melbourne was the first of the Wrecking Ball tour to not include “My City of Ruins,” a song played at every show to date on the tour. Not only was this cornerstone of Bruce’s current live show mysteriously absent, but Bruce either forgot or deliberately omitted introducing the various members of the band on stage.

A fair analysis of the band introductions would certainly acknowledge they could tend towards being overblown, overwrought and occasionally too long, yet they also served as a humorous counterbalance to Bruce’s more serious material. On this tour, they served to introduce the numerous new faces to the crowd (the horn section and singers, in particular) who the more casual fans would not otherwise know while also allowing Bruce to acknowledge the absence of Clarence and Danny. Accordingly, it remains a big surprise that they would be omitted, even if Bruce felt it time to drop “My City of Ruins” from the show.

The importance of the band introductions is underscored by how rare it is for them to go missing. When was the last time they weren’t part of the show?

1. There were no band introductions during any of the three rehearsal shows for the Magic tour in September of 2007. Yet when the tour started on October 2 in Hartford, Bruce had taken to including them at the very end of “American Land,” where they would remain every night of that tour, and every night of the subsequent Working on a Dream tour.

2. There were no band introductions on the Vote for Change or Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tours. These shows, while headlined by the E Street Band, were multi-artist bills, resulting in a shortened set for Bruce. Consequently, the introductions were missing from these shows.

3. The last full-length show to be missing band introductions occurred at the very end of the Born in the USA tour on September 27, 1985.

At the beginning of the Born in the USA tour, “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” regularly ended the main set, and included the band introductions, as it had for the prior ten years. Once “Rosalita” dropped out of the show, Bruce started introducing the band during the “Travelin’ Band” section of the “Detroit Medley,” although there were certain shows (beginning with the November 8, 1984 show in Tempe) where the introductions would occasionally be omitted, usually in favor of an additional song in the medley — in Tempe, it was “I See a Train.”

When the “Detroit Medley” also dropped out of the set, the band would simply be introduced in the encores, usually between “”Born to Run” and “Ramrod” or after “Rockin’ All Over the World.” Some shows, however, simply omitted the introductions entirely, the last of which was the September 27, 1985 show in Los Angeles. Every full-length, tour-proper E Street Band show since then had included introductions until Sunday in Melbourne.

Brisbane Thoughts (via YouTube)

A few notes and observations as someone who has been living vicariously through YouTube clips (thanks to everyone who uploaded), photos and show reports:

1. Bruce is relying on Nils to carry a greater load with Steve absent.

Nils is joining in at Bruce’s microphone for the last verse of “Badlands” (video). He also was playing the acoustic guitar part at the start of The River (video).

Also of note: Tom Morello was playing Steve’s banjo part on “Shackled and Drawn” (video) but did not play the mandolin part on “Land of Hope and Dreams.” (video)

I did quite enjoy seeing Morello put his hand in the air, right along with the crowd, for the “I believe in the faith that can save me” line from “Badlands” and “faith will be rewarded” line from “Land of Hope and Dreams.”

2. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out lacks the usual audience sing-along (video night 1, video night 2).

This is likely due to the fact that “Tenth Avenue” had never been performed in Australia! It’s not just that the Reunion tour (where the sing-along originated) never made it down under, but the song wasn’t played on the Australian legs of the Born in the USA or Rising tours either.

3. Bruce has added another crowd-surfing song to his arsenal: “Out in the Street.” (video)

That makes four this tour – in addition to “Out in the Street,” he’s also used “634-5789,” “Hungry Heart” and “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day.”

4. Security probably isn’t having as much fun as Bruce.

His trips into the crowd now aren’t limited just to the stage at the back of the pit — he went into the pit to dance during “634-5789” (video) and apparently almost to the very back of the floor for “Darlington County” (video).

5. The disappearance of “We Take Care of Our Own” was unexpected.

Aside from “Just Like Fire Would” and “High Hopes,” the biggest surprise from Brisbane is that Bruce would drop another new song from the set, and in particular one that is a key song from the new album. This could be (and I hope is) a similar situation to that of the July 5, 2008 show in Gothenburg, where “Radio Nowhere” was dropped for the only time on the Magic tour.

That being said, it was unusual to see a setlist with only four Wrecking Ball songs so early into this leg of the tour. I was hoping to that “This Depression” and “Rocky Ground” would appear as the alternates for “Jack of All Trades” and “We Are Alive.” The omission of “This Depression” is particularly strange given that Tom Morello is readily available to play the guitar solo.

Australian Tour Preview

Bruce’s first tour of Australia in ten years begins in one week. What can be expected?

Setlist Changes for Australia
It stands to reason that Bruce will return to setlists with more Wrecking Ball material, including key songs such as “Jack of All Trades,” “We Are Alive” and “Rocky Ground,” all of which fell out of the set on the Fall leg in the US. They may not remain staples throughout 2013 but given that nothing from the Wrecking Ball album (save the old arrangement of “Land of Hope and Dreams”) has ever been played in Australia, it’s a safe bet that they appear this month.

Less certain, but certainly appropriate, would be the inclusion of material from Bruce’s other albums of the 2000s, in particular Magic but also potentially Working on a Dream or even Devils and Dust. As the tours supporting those albums never traveled to Australia, Bruce would serve his audience well by adding the best of that material – “Radio Nowhere,” “Long Walk Home” and “Gypsy Biker” to the setlist. The new full-band arrangement of “Devils and Dust” would be welcome as well.

Working on a Dream songs remain a longshot, but certainly are not out of the question. Given how little effort Bruce gave to those songs in 2009, I would be surprised if many of them were played, although the title song may show up. I also suspect that, to my chagrin, “American Land” could be played a time or two.

While they have certainly grown tired in the American shows – and even at times in the European shows – the Australians haven’t had the opportunity to experience Bruce’s full-fledged embrace of the audience’s sign requests. It seems quite likely that there will be multiple requests granted per night. I would expect them to include a balance of hits and favorites – “I’m Goin’ Down” or “Because the Night” – as well as obscurities, such as “Loose Ends” or “Talk to Me.”

Tom Morello
The March 14 show in Brisbane will be the first E Street Band show without Steve Van Zandt since October 15, 1988.

One way of looking at Steve’s absence is that the show will go on without much changing. While the show suffered greatly the last time a band member was temporarily replaced, Steve’s role in the band is certainly far different than that of Max Weinberg. Accordingly, I suspect his absence will affect the overall performance of the band to a significantly lesser degree. It would be fair to note that Steve’s most important musical contributions to the band are as arranger and vocalist (rather than guitarist), and while not having him there is unfortunate, it isn’t a critical loss. The E Street Band did play 243 shows in the Eighties (including eight in Australia) without him.

I imagine Steve’s absence will be most noticeable with respect to the band’s on-stage persona. Steve’s role as Bruce’s best musical friend might be hammed up but overall, it isn’t an act. Particularly with the loss of Clarence, Steve has done a great job this tour in the role of Bruce’s primary foil onstage. He’s one of the few band members who seemingly has the run of the stage without taking specific direction from Bruce as to positioning and performance antics and I predict that this will not be an insignificant loss.

The alternate way of looking at this temporary change is that having Tom Morello on stage will be a challenge of sorts to Bruce, requiring him to increase his intensity, both for the loss of Steve and knowing that the person standing to his left can run circles around him when it comes to guitar skills.

Morello has, of course, guested numerous times with the band over the past year, although mostly on material that is played every night, such as “Death to My Hometown” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.” “Jack of All Trades” is a likely inclusion, as noted above, although it may well alternate with “This Depression.” Each Australian city should be able to count on hearing Morello’s feature “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” although perhaps not every single night.

The hope here remains that Bruce finds some additional songs to feature Morello’s playing. The prospect of them ripping up “Lucky Town” together may be a pipe dream, but “Murder Incorporated” or “Further On (Up the Road)” would be welcome choices.

On another band personnel note, it remains unclear if Patti Scialfa will be joining the band for the Australian tour. She’s been absent since the first New Jersey show last September, but she did make a few surprise appearances in Europe last summer. If she does indeed make it to Australia, “Easy Money” will probably make the set, and it also offers the potential of some Tunnel of Love material in the show (another tour that never reached Australian shores).

Multi-Night Stands
Also notable about this leg of the tour is that the tour plays multiple nights in each city, with three-night stands in both Sydney and Melbourne. Presumably this will mean that Bruce’s back catalog, already opened fairly wide to date on the tour, will continue to get a workout in each city, with plenty of opportunities for changes from night to night. “Second” nights have been rare this tour, but the few that have occurred, such as Paris, Gothenburg or Fenway Park, have been some remarkable shows.

Sydney and Melbourne will also feature the extremely rare third show (only previously done this past September in New Jersey). One aspect of the Reunion and Rising tours that is missed in recent years is the band setting up for multiple shows in one venue: not only does it lead to setlist variety, but by the end of the stand, the band is usually playing at a particularly high level. These upcoming stands have the potential to result in some great shows.

12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief Preview (and Wishlist)

What exactly is in store for the lucky thousands at the Garden and the millions watching on TV on Wednesday?

Bruce’s set

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.

Stand Up for Heroes

The live stream of the event was great and I hope it extended the fundraising capacity of the event quite a bit. (Note to the organizers: if you’d asked for the $10 just to get to the stream, I’d have kicked it in just to watch).

In my opinion, this was probably the best of the six sets Bruce has performed at the annual Stand Up For Heroes events. I note that I am also partial to the very first one, done in 2007, which had a setlist of This Hard Land, Devil’s Arcade (in its only ever acoustic performance) and Thunder Road.

Bruce seemed in great voice, and the version of “We Take Care of Our Own” was perhaps stronger than any of those done at the rallies in support of Obama over the past month.

At this point, anything from Tunnel of Love is a treat but I quite enjoyed the acoustic “Tougher Than The Rest” with Patti. It’s the first time they’ve sung it together in an acoustic format since their performance at Sonny’s Southern Cuisine in Asbury Park in July 2002. I just wish Patti could make it to more of the regular E Street shows so this would have chance at making the set.

The live stream unfortunately cut off just as the auction was about to take place: traditionally, the guitar Bruce was just playing is auctioned off.

Bruce Springsteen and Halloween Night (and Rochester wishlist)

With the news that the Rochester show has been postponed to Wednesday brings the first Halloween night show for Bruce since 1992.

History and past performances tell us that this is one of Bruce’s favorite holidays. Now that Halloween festivities at his house are no longer an annual event – a victim of “catastrophic success” and too many visitors in his neighborhood, as he wrote on his website a few years ago, here’s hoping he has something up his sleeve for the fans in Rochester instead.

Bruce has had four prior special performances for Halloween:
1. October 31, 1980 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

Bruce is carried on stage in a coffin and starts the show with a cover of “Jumpin'” Gene Simmons’ “Haunted House.” Youtube (audio) link is here. This performance was previously discussed on this site as one of Bruce’s best one-time-only covers. Lesser known about this show is that Bruce also did a special cover this night to start the show’s second set: the instrumental “Out of Limits” (a takeoff on the “Twilight Zone” theme), originally done by the Marketts in 1964.

2. October 31, 1984 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

The show starts with a skit about “midnight in Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory,” and how “they were trying to awaken the monster. They tried all sorts of scientific methods, such as the mystery of electricity…then they tried to awaken his sexual perceptions…and then they performed an attack on his auditorial system (as “Louie Louie” is blasted)…but nothing seemed to work.”

“But then they tried Professor Frankenstein’s foolproof monster-wake-up, and then out of the darkness came a mystery man” – and Bruce is presented a guitar, leaps out of the coffin, and starts playing “High School Confidential.”

(A further description of the night’s proceedings can be found in Dave Marsh’s Glory Days).

3. October 31, 1992 – Target Center, Minneapolis

A special keyboard introduction by Roy leads into a rare “Spirit in the Night” opener.

Bonus – October 30, 2007 – Los Angeles Sports Arena

No special song this time, but back at the Sports Arena (this time, the night before Halloween), Bruce is again carried on stage in a coffin. Steve presents him a guitar and he asks “Is there anybody alive out there?” as he starts the standard “Radio Nowhere” opener. Video of these events was originally shown on Bruce’s website and can be found on Youtube here.

Note: there was also a Halloween show during the Born to Run tour in 1975 but there is no known tape and no known details about anything “special” for the holiday.

Special Songs for Rochester?

What might Bruce break out on Wednesday night? There are many possible choices, and not just the ones discussed above:

5. “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”. Yes, it’s obvious. Yes, it’s cliched. But that didn’t stop Bruce from playing this rarity in Paris this past July 4, either.

4. Wages of Sin.” This Nebraska era-outtake may only have a tenuous connection to Halloween – one particular lyric about “the devil snapping at my heels” (a line that was also used in “My Father’s House”) – but the general mood of the song and the verse about the narrator trying to make it home through the woods before darkness falls are plenty spooky on their own. Never before performed live, this song resides on the famous Disc 2 of Tracks, well known to be a favorite of Steve Van Zandt. The past three tours have included the live premieres of “Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own,” “Restless Nights,” and “Living on the Edge of the World,” all from that same Disc 2, so perhaps this one’s not totally out of the question.

3. “Monster Mash.” Novelty songs have their place, and that the crowd will know it certainly helps its chances. The band (in particular, the backup singers) should have no problem with this. A possibility for the encore, particularly if there’s a sign requesting it.

2. “Werewolves of London.” Part of what has made Hurricane Sandy so big of a storm is the high tides associated with the full moon. Technically, the full moon is today but that’s close enough for some howling on Wednesday night. Even without the connection to the storm, this classic by Bruce’s friend Warren Zevon would perfect for the occasion.

1. “A Night with the Jersey Devil.” Notable as the first time Bruce released original material on his website, this composition was made available on Halloween 2008 as an MP3 download with an accompanying video. Halloween night in Rochester seems as likely a time as any for the live debut of this composition, which gave writing credits to “Bruce Springsteen / Robert Jones / Gene Vincent.” Check out the official video here and keep your fingers crossed for Wednesday!