On the 1999-2000 E Street Band Reunion Tour, Bruce Springsteen featured “Land of Hope and Dreams” — a new, then-unreleased anthem with a strong gospel flavor — quite prominently. He even, when introducing the song, tied its inspirational message to the band’s rebirth.
At one of the band’s London shows in May 1999, for instance, he called the tour “kind of a re-birth and a re-dedication of our band and our commitment to serve you … and I wanna leave you with a song in that spirit, a new song called ‘Land of Hope and Dreams.’ ”
The song is strongly influenced by the gospel standard “This Train (Is Bound for Glory)” (see below), but its message is more inclusive. “This Train” maintains that you have to live right to get on the train that’s bound for glory — you can’t even be a whiskey drinker or a cigar smoker. In Springsteen’s song, all he asks for is faith. And maybe you don’t even need that to get to the promised land.
This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said this train … dreams will not be thwarted
This train … faith will be rewarded
Springsteen almost always performs “Land of Hope and Dreams” late in the show, and it often feels like the evening’s climactic moment. It’s far from his greatest or most original songwriting achievement, but it’s served an important purpose for him, and his fans, for 30 years now. And for that alone, it deserves to be in the Top 10 of this list.
Background facts: Springsteen began performing “Land of Hope and Dreams” live in 1999, and first released it on the Live in New York City album that was recorded at Madison Square Garden in 2000 and released in 2001. The Live in New York City version was also, pointedly, the B-side of his 2002 single release of “The Rising.”
He released a studio version featuring backing by a large horn section, the Victorious Gospel Choir and others, on his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball. He also adds a bit of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” as he has done in concerts. In his book “Bruce Springsteen: The Stories Behind the Songs,” Brian Hiatt writes that Clarence Clemons’ health problems prevented him from recording a new solo, but producer Ron Aniello figured out a way to add a Clemons solo from a past concert.
According to Brucebase, Springsteen has performed “Land of Hope and Dreams” 696 times between 1999 and 2019, including nightly performances at the “Springsteen on Broadway” shows in 2017 and 2018.
On each of the 70 days leading up to Bruce Springsteen’s 70th birthday (on Sept. 23, 2019), NJArts.net will do a post on one of The Boss’ best songs of the last 30 years. We’re starting with No. 70 and working our way up. For more on the project, click here.
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