For Bruce Springsteen fans, it’s not exactly the best of news and the worst of news. But let’s put it this way: For a certain kind of Springsteen fan, it’s the best of news. And for another kind of Springsteen fan, it’s the worst of news.
Today, The Boss announced that he will play his 1980 album The River in its entirety at all shows on his upcoming tour, which includes stops in Newark, New York and Philadelphia.
For those who are planning to attend only one show on the tour, if they can land a ticket, this is pretty great news. The River is one of Springsteen’s best-loved albums, and it contains many songs that he rarely plays (“Stolen Car,” “The Price You Pay,” “Drive All Night,” etc.). Springsteen fans are guaranteed to hear some signature songs, such as “The River,” “Out in the Street” and “Hungry Heart.” And they’ll hear all those River rarities, too. Plus as much other stuff as Springsteen can fit in. The only time he has played all 20 songs from The River at a concert, in 2009 at Madison Square Garden, he still had room for 12 other songs.
I was at that Madison Square Garden show, and it was one of the best Springsteen concerts I have ever seen. As I remember it, demand for tickets was ridiculously high.
The problem with Springsteen’s announcement, however, is that many of his fans don’t want to see just one show. They want to see a bunch. But they may reconsider that, knowing that the setlists are going to be so similar.
This kind of hardcore fan, furthermore, wants to hear other rarities, too: cast-aside Springsteen oldies, surprise covers, etc. There will be less space for them with 20 River songs each night. And for those wanting to hear lots of the outtakes unearthed in Springsteen’s new boxed set, The Ties That Bind: The River Collection, or maybe even new, unreleased songs he has written since his last tour … there certainly won’t be a lot of room for those, either.
So no matter how great the music is — and I don’t doubt that it will be pretty great — this is a decision, ultimately, that will be more popular among Springsteen’s casual followers than it will be among his biggest fans.
Here is Springsteen’s set list from Nov. 8, 2009 at Madison Square Garden. River songs are in bold.
“The Ties That Bind”
“Out in the Street”
“Crush on You”
“You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”
“I Wanna Marry You”
“I’m a Rocker”
“The Price You Pay”
“Drive All Night”
“Wreck on the Highway”
“Waitin’ on a Sunny Day”
“Born to Run”
“Seven Nights to Rock”
“Sweet Soul Music”
“Dancing in the Dark”
“Can’t Help Falling in Love”
“(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”