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  • Pete Chianca & Leann Pomaville

Video post: Surprise, surprise – Bruce Springsteen is no longer predictable

Well, we hope you’re happy with yourself, all you setlist naysayers. Turns out that through a good portion of last year’s tour, Bruce Springsteen was battling through a serious peptic ulcer, just trying to hold it together, and all you could do was whine about how he was playing “Kitty’s Back” too many times. You can send your formal apologies in care of this blog for us to pass on to Bruce next time we see him.

Beyond his ailment, though, we think his stated goal of presenting a more thematic show was just as significant in his decision to keep to a more established setlist than we were used to. And anyone who attended one of those shows can tell you, it worked! They were powerful shows that reflected a powerful new perspective for a vibrant artist who, let’s face it, was no longer a spring chicken.

But now, with the fourth leg of the band’s world tour well underway, Bruce seems more than healthy and reenergized — he’s on fire! (To paraphrase, well, him.) And the playful Bruce of old, pulling Easter eggs out of the ether to shock and delight the audience on any given night, seems to be making his way back to the front of the stage. 

Don’t take our word for it, though. See below for just a few of the unexpected highlights this leg of the tour has brought us. (And he hasn’t even hit Europe yet!)

March 22: OK, so it may not have been in “The Sphere,” but it was Bruce’s first show in Vegas since 2002 — and just the third time ever. Appropriately, we got the first "Viva Las Vegas" since 2002 to open the encores. (Less rare but equally welcome was the first “Roll of the Dice” since 2017.)

March 25: Considering it gets a name check in one of Bruce’s most-played songs, it's surprising how rarely he makes it to San Diego (it’s actually pronounced “Son Di-ago”): This was the first time since 1996, and the first time with the E Street Band since 1981. (!) But he made up for it during "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," when the band came to a complete stop for the crowd to roar: "down San Diego way!"

March 27: Bruce made a surprise appearance with Zach Bryan, performing Bryan's songs "Sandpaper" and "Revival" —  the latter along with the supremely talented Maggie Rogers — as the show's encore. Not only that, he flew 3,000 miles back to the East Coast to do it, and flew another 3,000 back the next day for his show in San Francisco. Did we mention the man is 74?

March 28: Speaking of San Francisco, it got “Something in the Night” opening the show for the first time since 1977. Easily the best song ever about running burned and blind. 

April 4 and 7: We don’t know about you, but we’ve been waiting what felt like forever for Patti Scialfa to return to the E Street stage. Well, in Inglewood, California, it finally happened, with Patti joining Bruce for “Tougher Than The Rest” and “Fire” at both shows. That first number was no surprise — it’s sort of become their theme song — but Bruce said at the show it was the very first time Patti had sung “Fire.” (At least on stage — what they do in the privacy of their own home is their business.) The last time Patti joined Bruce on stage with the E street Band was April 28, 2023 in Barcelona.    

April 4: Patti wasn’t the only highlight: Bruce played John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” and the Cajun waltz “Jole Blon” — famously sung by Bruce and Gary U.S. Bonds on Bonds’ “Dedication” album (1981) — for the first time during this tour. “Boom Boom” was last played in 2016 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and “Jole Blon” last appeared in 2017 in Christchurch, New Zealand.

April 7: The second night in Inglewood saw “Open All Night” (the version with the horns, natch) played for the first time since 2014. And then Tom Morello turned up to guest on "American Skin (41 Shots)" and “The Ghost Of Tom Joad,” with both the songs and Morello making their only appearances so far on the 2023-2024 tour.

April 12: Mohegan Sun, the casino in Connecticut, also got “Roll of the Dice,” and the equally appropriate “Lucky Town” (a tour debut). Not only that, but “Seeds” was played for the first time since 2016 during The River Tour. Who knows why — maybe a big black limo blew by Bruce when he was stuck with a flat tire on the way to the venue.

April 15: “Adam Raised a Cain” made its tour debut, the first time it’s been played since 2017. 

April 18: Syracuse gets “Growin' Up” for the first time with the E Street Band since 2017. 

April 21: No doubt to celebrate the presence of longtime Blogness correspondent Anne Haines in the audience, Columbus saw Springsteen and the E Street Band play “Youngstown” (with its Ohio shout-out) and “I’m Goin’ Down” for the first time since 2017, and “Streets of Fire” for the first time since 2016. 

And as if all that weren’t enough in terms of things nobody saw coming, Bruce and various band members have taken to previewing shows with behind-the-scene Instagram videos that are, admittedly, kind of silly — but in the best way possible. (Presumably masterminded by Bruce’s talented sister, the photographer Pamela Springsteen, who is credited on the last bunch.) He even got Garry to do one!

Oh, and beyond all this he somehow had time to host the American Music Honors event for John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples and Dion DiMucci at Monmouth University on Wednesday.

So what’s to come in Europe, and on his return to the states later this summer? Frankly, we’d take the exact same show we got last year if it means Bruce his healthy, happy, and ready to rock. But we suspect the biggest surprises may be still to come.



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