“Here’s a little summer beach music for ya!” said Bruce Springsteen, introducing the biggest surprise of his Aug. 30 concert with the E Street Band at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford: “Sherry Darling” (see video below), the one song from this show that hadn’t previously been played on the band’s current tour.
There were other minor surprises in the setlist too: “Lonesome Day” (see video below) and “Night” as the opening one-two punch, with the usual opener, “No Surrender,” pushed to No. 3; and, later, a dark and menacing “Atlantic City” (see video below), played just twice before on this tour.
While this nearly three-hour show and the previous one — Aug. 26 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts — did demonstrate a tad more unpredictability than has been the case at most previous tour stops, shaking things up from night to night is simply not what this tour is about.
What it’s really about is two complementary things: (1) giving fans a kind of overview of Springsteen’s career, touching on key songs from nearly every phase of it and (2) exploring the meditation-on-mortality theme that was a big part of his 2020 album, Letter to You.
The Letter to You song “Last Man Standing” — performed by Springsteen with just an acoustic guitar and a mournful trumpet solo by Barry Danielian — was the show’s centerpiece, in combination with the emotionally explosive “Backstreets” that followed it.
“Last Man Standing” was preceded by a thoughtful talk about the death of his old friend and bandmate George Theiss, and the effect it had on him.
“Death gives you pause to think,” said Springsteen. “It’s like you’re standing on the tracks, the white-hot light of an oncoming train bearing down on you. Death brings a certain clarity of thought, of purpose, and death’s final and lasting gift to the living is an expanded vision of this life itself. … George’s death made me realize how important living every moment and seizing the day is. So be good to yourself, and be good to those you love, and to this world that we live in.”
Another bittersweet Letter to You ballad — “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” performed as the last encore — was a fitting cap for the evening. But much of the rest of the show was purely celebratory, including a succession of encores — “Born to Run,” “Rosalita,” “Glory Days,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out” — all played with as much energy as I’ve ever seen the band muster, with the house lights on and the hometown crowd going nuts.
Springsteen, who turns 74 less than a month from now, clowned around with Steven Van Zandt and other band members like a bunch of adolescent goofballs during “Rosalita” and “Glory Days” (equally goofy: a “Saturday Night Live”-referencing “more cowbell” joke earlier, during “Johnny 99”). And he ripped open his shirt, in a display of youthful bravado, before “Tenth Avenue Freeze-out.”
Earlier, he had really seemed to emphasize lines like “I’m ready to grow young again” (in “No Surrender”) and the rallying cry “Count the band in, then kick into overdrive/By the end of the set, we leave no one alive” (in “Ghosts”). And before “Mary’s Place, he asked a favorite question, “Is there anybody alive out there?”, and soon added, “because we are here tonight to bring the life out of ya. … I want to go to the land of the living. But I can’t get there by myself. I need you to get there with me.”
This was just Springsteen and the E Street Band’s second show of the tour in New Jersey — they also performed at the Prudential Center in Newark in April. As was fitting for a Meadowlands show, they performed both of their songs that mention the “swamps of Jersey” — “Wrecking Ball” and “Rosalita” — and got big cheers each time.
They will perform again at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 1 and 3 (for tickets, visit ticketmaster.com). And though nothing is confirmed, the fact that their recently postponed Philadelphia stadium shows were pushed to August 2024 means there is a good chance they will be back at MetLife next summer.
Here is the Aug. 30 setlist and, under it, a photo gallery by Wes Orshoski, and some videos.
“Prove It All Night”
“Letter to You”
“The Promised Land”
“Out in the Street”
“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”
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