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The First Leg Of Bruce Springsteen’s 2023 US Tour Concluded Friday, April 14th, Here We Review The Final Dates

I can’t think of an artist on the level of stadium and arena acts who has a bond with his audience as strong as Bruce Springsteen. His concerts are audience interactive experiences in the best way, leaving his fans exhausted, hoarse, and exhilarated. I was fortunate enough to see Bruce twice this past week, on 4/11 at the UBS Arena on Long Island, and 4/14 at The Rock in Newark, the last show of this leg of the tour.

This is not the first tour that has had an underlying theme. The Rising tour touched on the aftereffects of 9/11. The Magic tour in 2007 and 2008 dealt with the political fallout of the Bush administration and the second gulf war. Wrecking ball in 2012 commented on the culture of greed and excess that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

The theme of this year’s tour, the first with the E Street band in 7 years, is friendship and mortality, triggered by the death of George Theiss, Bruce’s bandmate in his first band, The Castles. This left Bruce as the last surviving member of the band. The theme ran through much of the setlist, beginning with the usual opener, “No Surrender” (“blood brothers on a stormy night with a vow to defend”, followed by “Ghosts” from Letter To You (“I hear the sound of your guitar, coming in from the mystic far”). Even the Commodores cover “Nightshift” from his most recent album deals with the memory of Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson.

The emotional centerpiece of the show was a solo acoustic “Last Man Standing”, preceded by the story of George inviting Bruce to join his first band, and then Bruce standing at the side of George’s death bed 50 years later. The band then came in with an incredibly intense and moving “Backstreets” his ode to friendship from the Born to Run album. The shows have all concluded with another solo acoustic song, “I’ll See You In My Dreams” (“death is not the end”).

I don’t want you to think the show was all doom and gloom. There were fantastically fun moments. The core E Street Band, minus an AWOL Patti, was augmented for much of the show by four background singers and a dynamite horn section. “Kitty’s Back” ( I disagree STRONGLY with Iman on this one, got the band to show off its chops with jazzy solos from all the horn players and Roy Bittan and Charlie Giordano on keyboards. Bruce himself took the bulk of the guitar solos, and he was on fire, playing with skill and passion. Steve Van Zandt was instrumentally quiet for most of the shows, although the moments where he shared the mic with the Boss were fun al always. Nils Lofgren contributed his usual virtuoso lead on “Because the Night”.

Although most of the shows on this tour had a fairly constant set list, there were a few surprises. In the Long Island show “Thunder Road” was moved from the encore to the end of the main set. The encore opened with tour debut “Born in the USA”, eliciting audible gasps from the crowd. And Bruce had a couple of appropriate surprises for his New Jersey audience. The show opened with the wry “Local Hero”, and the encore began with “Jersey Girl”.

The E Street Band remains a force of nature, particularly the Mighty Max Weinberg, whose energy is undiminished at age 72. His drum off with percussionist Anthony Almonte was great and this is from someone who hates drum solos, And Jake Clemons has taken the fan favorite mantle from his late uncle Clarence, his solos and interactions with Bruce becoming a centerpiece of the visual aspects of the show.

Not to say that all was perfect. The title track from “Letter To You” wasn’t great, and “Nightshift”, although fun on the record, didn’t come across that well at an arena-sized venue despite a lovely vocal duet with Curtis King.

When the controversy over the ticket prices was raging at the beginning of the tour, Bruce assured his fans that anyone not satisfied with the show could get there money back. I’m sure no one did.

SETLIST. 4/11. UBS ARENA, Elmont NY

  1. No Surrender
  2. Ghosts
  3. Prove It All Night
  4. Letter to You
  5. The Promised Land
  6. Out in the Street
  7. Lucky Town
  8. Kitty’s Back
  9. Nightshift
  10. Mary’s Place
  11. Trapped
    12.The E Street Shuffle
  12. Last Man Standing
  13. Backstreets
    15; Because the Night
    16, She’s the One
  14. Wrecking Ball
  15. The Rising
  16. Badlands
  17. Thunder Road
    ENCORE
    21.Born in the USA
  18. Born to Run
    23.Rosalita
  19. Glory Days
  20. Dancing in the Dark
  21. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  22. I’ll See You in My Dreams

SETLIST 4/14 Prudential Center, Newark

  1. Local Hero
  2. No Surrender
  3. Ghosts
  4. Prove It All Night
  5. Letter to You
  6. The Promised Land
  7. Out in the Street
  8. Candy’s Room
  9. Kitty’s Back
  10. Nightshift
  11. Mary’s Place
  12. The E Street Shuffle
  13. Last Man Standing
  14. Backstreets
  15. Because the Night
  16. She’s the One
  17. Wrecking Ball
  18. The Rising
  19. Badlands
    Encore
  20. Jersey Girl
  21. Thunder Road
  22. Born to Run
  23. Rosalita
  24. Glory Days
  25. Dancing in the Dark
  26. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  27. I’ll See You in My Dreams

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