In May 2020, with the world turned upside down by the pandemic, Bruce Springsteen made a prediction on his SiriusXM satellite radio show, “From My Home to Yours.”
“As hard as it is to believe right now,” he said, “your children will go back to school. Churches will be open and full. You will once again hug and kiss family members at your gatherings. You will shout over the noise of a crowded bar to order a drink and speak to your friends. … And 50,000 people will once again scream their heads off somewhere in New Jersey.”
Well, it wasn’t 50,000 people — that will have to wait until his three MetLife Stadium concerts in late August and early September. But Springsteen finally gave about 20,000 of his fans a chance to do that, April 14 at the Prudential Center in Newark. It was the last of the 28 shows of the first leg of his world tour, but the first of them to take place “somewhere in New Jersey.” And people did, indeed, scream their heads off, particularly in response to the Jersey references in songs like “Wrecking Ball” and “Rosalita.”
“Good evening, New Jersey,” Springsteen said at the start of the show. “I am so glad to be back in my home state, with my people.”
Setlists have stayed mostly the same over those 28 shows, but Springsteen did add two tour debuts in Newark: the rarely played “Local Hero” to open, with a big, blaring sound utilizing the full capabilities of the expanded E Street Band, with its five-piece horn section and four-member vocal choir; and his sentimental cover of Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl,” featuring Charles Giordano on accordion, to begin the encores. (watch videos of both below)
Also, the celebratory “Mary’s Place” — which made its tour debut at the UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y., April 9, and also was played at the April 11 show there — stayed in the setlist, and helped add to the good vibes.
“Are you ready for a New Jersey-style house party?” Springsteen asked, before this song began. He seemed to be in a bit of a playful mood this night: During a portion of the song in which the volume went low and people started chanting “Bruuuuuce!,” he joked, “Don’t Bruce me. I’m working.” Also, during “The Promised Land,” he drank a mini-bottle of alcohol offered by a fan (to be more precise, they clinked bottles and then drank together).
By now, the contours of the show throughout this leg of the tour are well known to Springsteen fans: The early burst of energy with songs such as “No Surrender” and “Ghosts.” The loose, almost jazzy sound of oldies “Kitty’s Back” and “The E Street Shuffle.” The emotional depths of “Last Man Standing” (preceded by a speech about mortality and the passing of time) and “Backstreets” (almost operatic in its intensity, and with an added speech, in the middle, about the persistence of memory). The wildness of encores such as “Rosalita” (with its clowning around by band members) and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” (featuring a walk around the arena floor by Springsteen). The sweet, low-key hopefulness of the final song, “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
The setlist may have stayed mostly the same from night to night, so far on this tour. But this is not a band going through the motions. This was the second tour stop I’ve seen in person (I also went to the Philadelphia show, March 16) and I have been very impressed — not that I expected anything different, after attending scores of E Street shows over the years — by the band’s ability to make even the most familiar songs in their catalog sound fresh. Every time. And especially in New Jersey.
Among the band members, special praise has to go to drummer Max Weinberg — just a superhuman source of energy throughout the two-hour, 50-minute show, especially on rhythmically intense songs such as “Candy’s Room” and “She’s the One” — and saxophonist Jake Clemons, who joined the group after the 2011 death of his uncle Clarence Clemons. Jake just keeps getting better and better, while also providing an uplifting connection to the legendary Big Man by his mere presence.
Fans have understandably been upset by the high ticket prices of this tour. And the band has also dealt with health issues, with a number of the musicians missing one or more shows due to COVID. Also, the Newark show had a different problem of its own, with the doors opening late and attendees forced to wait in long, unorganized lines.
But once the band started playing — around 8:10, which was approximately 20 minutes later than expected, to make sure everyone could get in, in time — all of that was forgotten. In November, when asked by Rolling Stone about his ticket prices, Springsteen may have seemed a bit callous when he said, “I know it was unpopular with some fans. But if there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back.” But the truth is, rarely throughout Springsteen’s career have there been any complaints on the way out. And he is making sure there aren’t going to be any on this tour, either.
Here is the show’s setlist and, below it, videos of “Local Hero,” “Jersey Girl” and “Wrecking Ball.”
“Prove It All Night”
“Letter to You”
“The Promised Land”
“Out in the Street”
“The E Street Shuffle”
“Last Man Standing”
“Because the Night”
“She’s the One”
“Born to Run”
“Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”
“Dancing in the Dark”
“Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
“I’ll See You in My Dreams”
The was Springsteen and the band’s first show in New Jersey, incidentally, since Aug. 30, 2016, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.
The band will start the European leg of their tour April 28 in Barcelona, but will be back in the States starting Aug. 9 and 11 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and perform at MetLife Stadium, Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 and 3.
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