If there is anything I have learned in 38 years of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concert-going — my first show was in the summer of 1985, at Giants Stadium — it’s that when he is playing a show at which something special is called for, for whatever reason, he knows how to rise to the occasion.
His three shows, Aug. 30 and Sept. 1 and 3, at East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium, the building that replaced Giants Stadium, represented such an occasion. They were his first stadium shows in his home state since 2016, and he had pledged specifically — at the height of the pandemic, on his SiriusXM radio show “From My Home to Yours” — “As hard as it is to believe right now, 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.”
There is only one venue in New Jersey that holds 50,000 people, and that is MetLife Stadium.
I don’t know if that was on his mind at the last of the three shows, Sept. 3, but it sure seemed that way. I wrote in my Night 2 review that he and the band turned it up a notch at that show. (Night 1 was also very good, but not on that level; my review is here). But on Night 3, they turned it up a notch further, with even more passionate performances, and a more unpredictable and simply better setlist.
Some 50,000 people packed the stadium, hoping for a night to remember, and Springsteen didn’t let them down.
The show had a tour debut (“Two Hearts”) plus four other songs not played at the two previous MetLife shows (“Jungleland,” “Jersey Girl,” “Detroit Medley,” “Something in the Night”) and four additional songs that have been rarely played on the tour (“Spirit in the Night,” “Lonesome Day,” “Night,” Atlantic City”). (See videos of “Jungleland,” “Two Hearts,” “Detroit Medley” and “Something in the Night” below.)
Among the songs not played were tour mainstays “Ghosts,” “Glory Days” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”
No one knows what will happen on the rest of the tour (shows are scheduled into December, and the postponement of two Philadelphia stadium dates to August 2024 means there is probably a lot more touring to come before then). But in the three Meadowlands shows, as well as the last one before that (Aug. 26 in Foxborough, Mass.), Springsteen has shown a greater willingness to shake up the setlist, from night to night, than he has throughout most of the earlier dates. Let’s hope this continues.
Springsteen and the band played the same opening sequence (“Lonesome Day,” “Night,” “No Surrender”) at all three shows, which is fine with me: These three bracing jolts of energy work very well together. “Two Hearts,” played fourth on Night 3, was a nice way to keep that spirit going for one more song.
The encores were what really sent this show over the top, though. “Jungleland” — one of Springsteen’s most beloved songs, with Jake Clemons nailing his late uncle Clarence Clemons’ most titanic solo — was just the perfect way to start them. “Detroit Medley” was a fun retro-rock detour (as “Seven Nights to Rock” was, on Night 2).
And while the wistful “I’ll See You in My Dreams” has been an effective closer throughout the tour — returning to the theme of mortality, and the importance of seizing the day, that Springsteen previously brings up in “Last Man Standing” and other songs — it was an undeniably good move to switch, probably for one night only, to a sweet and sentimental full-band version of “Jersey Girl” (previously played on this tour only on April 14, as the first encore at the Prudential Center in Newark).
Here is the Sept. 3 setlist (songs in bold were not played on either Aug. 30 or Sept. 1), with some videos below it.
“Prove It All Night”
“Something in the Night”
“Letter to You”
“The Promised Land”
“Spirit in the Night”
“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”
Springsteen & the E Street Band’s next show takes place Sept. 7, at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse.
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