After close to 2 months of touring arenas in the States and about 20 odd shows, the first leg of the tour draws to a close. Having not seen Bruce and the band yet (that'll change come Jun 28!), I can't say much about the performances. But based on what I've heard so far on the bootlegs, the band is tighter than ever, and you can just hear the incredible energy oozing out from Bruce and the crowd alike.
And where do I start with the setlist? Fucking incredible, is what they have been so far. Over 100 different songs played, with more sure to come when they hit the stadiums and festivals of Europe. The only other bands I can think of now who constantly rotates their setlists are The Dead, Dave Matthews Band and Phish, who coincidentally are jam bands. I couldn't think of a more perfect song than Badlands to open the show, and Born To Run to close the main set. Some of the staples brought over from the Magic Tour are American Land, Radio Nowhere, The Rising, Lonesome Day, Waitin' On A Sunny Day and The Promised Land.
On the other hand, Bruce is only playing an average of 4 songs from the new album each night, Working On A Dream, Outlaw Pete, The Wrestler and Kingdom Of Days. Why he chose to leave out My Lucky Day, What Love Can Do and Good Eye is beyond me, cause I think those songs could kill live. But fans were treated to a group of songs known as the 'recession 3-pack' -- Seeds (finally!!), Johnny 99 and The Ghost Of Tom Joad. These songs obviously share the same theme, and by performing them, Bruce acknowledges the current state of the world and its frail economy. The band also does a great take on Hard Times (opening the encore), a traditional tune written in the mid-1850's, with the help of two backup singers, Curtis King and Cindy Mizelle, both from the Sessions Band. One notable mention is the return of Land Of Hope And Dreams, which fits in well with the overall theme of the show.
Still on the issue of setlists, the main highlight has gotta be the covers that the band has been pulling out during almost every show. This sign request thingy started towards the end of the Magic Tour, but apparently some people thought it'd be funny to bring request signs of songs that the band rarely plays or have never played before, in attempts to stump them. But after a few shows, you realize you can't fuckin' stump the E Street Band because they are, after all, still the greatest 'bar band' in the world. Songs I never thought Bruce would play (or at least so early on in the tour): I Wanna Be Sedated, London Calling, You Really Got Me, Hang On Sloopy, Seventh Son, Expressway To Your Heart, Louie Louie, Good Lovin', Mountain Of Love, Little Latin Lupe Lu, My Generation, and of course, Like A Rolling Stone. I'd sure love to see them do Then She Kissed Me and London Calling at Hyde Park :)
Meanwhile, other lesser-played originals were brought out (some thanks to the requests); The E Street Shuffle, Cover Me, Incident On 57th Street, For You, Backstreets, Jungleland, Racing In The Street. We surely hope to see more tour premieres during the coming weeks of the European tour!
So now I come to the part about Jay Weinberg :) This fella (who's only 18, and also my Facebook friend) drums like a maniac, and drums like his life depends on it. With all due respect to Max (who I dare say is one of the best and most instinctive drummers in Rock & Roll today), his son is just as good, if not better than him. He'll be playing the first few shows in Europe, as his dad has to be in L.A. for the new Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (Pearl Jam being the first musical guest :D). The only downside is that Max has obviously much more experience than Jay, which means he knows how to play more songs and can read Bruce better (audibles). But seriously, it's not that big an issue. There're so many better and more experienced drummers (than Jay) that could easily replace Max. But the fact that Bruce decided to recruit Jay shows that he's keeping it within the family.
In a nutshell, the setlists have been nothing short of stunning so far, and they will continue to evolve in Europe. As we all know, the craziest Springsteen fans are always from Europe (especially England, Spain, Italy and Sweden), and summer is always the right time for Bruce and the boys to play for more than 3 hours. And for the first time, they are playing some high profile festivals -- Pink Pop Festival in The Netherlands, than back to the States with the famous Bonnaroo Festival (Manchester, TN), followed by Glastonbury, Hard Rock Calling (my show!!!) and Festival des Vielles Charrues in France. This is probably a good move by Bruce, as he'll attract a whole new generation of fans, and they'll get to experience the greatest live act in the world.
The E Street Band is on a roll, playing one of their best shows in their 35-year career, and any thoughts that this could be a farewell tour can be dimissed; well at least for now. As Jon Stewart so gracefully put it, "If you're a fan of joy, go see Bruce Springsteen." Till then, I'll be seeing you in Europe...