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The Setlist Draft: Curating Our Perfect Bruce Springsteen Show

Thursday, 02 May 2024 Written by Huw Baines

Life is full of thankless tasks. Chief among them used to be guessing where Bruce Springsteen might wander during one of his marathon setlists. Of late, though, the Boss has wound in the grand deviations in favour of something more streamlined and, one can assume, kind to 74-year-old joints. But that doesn’t mean he’s misplaced his appetite for the odd surprise.

During the closing stop of his US tour  — which recently wrapped up ahead of his massive European run, including stadium dates in Cardiff, Belfast, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin, Sunderland and London — he threw down a couple of curveballs.

At the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio the E-Street band dialled up Youngstown and I’m Goin’ Down for the first time since 2017, only to reach for the ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ rager Streets of Fire for the first time since 2016 later in the set.

That got us thinking (dangerous, sure) but what minor surgery would we do to his expected arsenal before Bruce rolls up at the Principality Stadium in the Welsh capital on May 5? Read on to find out. 1-2-3-4!

When the moment calls for…something bold and new (ish)

‘Letter to You’ — Springsteen’s most recent set of originals — is now almost four years old and, live, it’s weathered that time nicely. Ghosts is huge, for example, while Last Man Standing has become an elegiac set staple. Lurking on the record are a handful of older songs given a modern gloss, among them the winding, masterfully-executed Janey Needs a Shooter, which dates all the way back to the dead air between ‘Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.’ and ‘The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle’ in the mid-1970s. On the LP, it offers one of his best vocal performances in years, with some of his late-career affectations dropped for an approach more recognisable to those who live vicariously through bootlegs from the 1978 Darkness… tour. It’s never been played live, and that’s something we’d like to see remedied, if only to get wholly swept up in whatever its drawn-out conclusion might become.

When the moment calls for…something that’ll make you move

It’s been almost 40 years since Bruce and the E-Street Band climbed into Cover Me at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, capturing the track for inclusion on his massive ‘Live/1975-85’ set, and it’s been almost 10 since he played the song at all. The Coliseum version is ripe for revival, coming off a brooding intro before exploding into its hip-shaking, swaggering riff. Of late, Springsteen has called on covers from his ‘Only the Strong Survive’ LP to fill the sort of slot Cover Me might occupy and while they’re fun, this is something else. 

When the moment calls for…some piercing introspection in the aisles

Brilliant Disguise had a pretty good time of things pre-pandemic — it also popped up on setlists here and there in 2023 — but it’s due an extended run in the side. ‘Tunnel of Love’ has in recent years been recognised as a particularly influential beast, notably on bands such as The War on Drugs and Wild Pink, and this is one of its crowning glories. It’s helplessly melodic, sad to its core and home to one of the great piano flourishes in pop music. Basically, I’d quite like to butcher its surging chorus while crying into an exorbitantly expensive beer. Is that really too much to ask, Bruce? (I will also settle for Tougher Than the Rest, which I know is on the outer reaches of the regular setlist. I can cry to that one, too. Not an issue.)

When the moment calls for…a sign of the times

At Springsteen’s 2012 Hyde Park show, a woman standing next to me spontaneously broke into heaving, hacking sobs halfway through Jack of All Trades, a song about the merry-go-round misery caused by economic boom and bust. Bruce shows have always had the capacity to get under people’s skin — it’s why he writes cathartic songs like that one — and his latest tour is traversing the globe at a time of needling tension and uncertainty. The 1979 outtake Roulette, written during sessions for ‘The River’ in the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1978, goes a long way to capturing this feeling, knitting it to a roiling, rampaging rock song that doesn’t necessarily allow for a release, rattling through each section on the back of Max Weinberg’s ticking hi-hat.

When the moment calls for…a winding shaggy dog epic

Bruce has written a lot of these over the years and a few of them are still in regular rotation — come on down, Rosalita — but Thundercrack is still capable of hanging with any of them. It served as Springsteen’s set-closing fireworks show for years (before Rosalita) and is straight, uncut Jersey Shore bullshit from someone who’s never shown any desire to excise that part of his personality, no matter how famous he got. This hasn’t darkened his door since 2016. Too long, Boss. Too long. Maybe it’d work in place of the Detroit Medley if Rosie has to come to the dance. Just an idea. I am willing to paint the title on a sign if that helps sweeten the deal.

Bruce Springsteen Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun May 05 2024 - CARDIFF Principality Stadium
Thu May 09 2024 - BELFAST Boucher Playing Fields
Sun May 12 2024 - KILKENNY Nowlan Park
Thu May 16 2024 - CORK Pairc Ui Chaoimh
Sun May 19 2024 - DUBLIN Croke Park
Wed May 22 2024 - SUNDERLAND Stadium Of Light

Tue May 28 2024 - PRAGUE Airport Letnany (Czech Republic)
Sat June 01 2024 - MILAN SAN SIRO STADIUM (Italy)
Mon June 03 2024 - MILAN SAN SIRO STADIUM (Italy)
Wed June 12 2024 - MADRID Civitas Metropolitano (Spain)
Fri June 14 2024 - MADRID Civitas Metropolitano (Spain)
Mon June 17 2024 - MADRID Civitas Metropolitano (Spain)
Thu June 20 2024 - BARCELONA Estadi Olimpic (Spain)
Sat June 22 2024 - BARCELONA Estadi Olimpic (Spain)
Thu June 27 2024 - NIJMEGEN Goffertpark (Netherlands)
Sat June 29 2024 - NIJMEGEN Goffertpark (Netherlands)
Tue July 02 2024 - WERCHTER Werchter Park (Belgium)
Fri July 05 2024 - HANNOVER Heinz Von Heiden Arena (Germany)
Tue July 09 2024 - ODENSE Dyrskuepladsen (Denmark)
Fri July 12 2024 - HELSINKI Olympic Stadium (Finland)
Mon July 15 2024 - STOCKHOLM Friends Arena (Sweden)
Thu July 18 2024 - STOCKHOLM Friends Arena (Sweden)
Sun July 21 2024 - BERGEN Dokken (Norway)

Thu July 25 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium
Sat July 27 2024 - LONDON Wembley Stadium

Thu August 15 2024 - PITTSBURGH Pennsylvania - PPG Paints Arena (USA)
Sun August 18 2024 - PITTSBURGH Pennsylvania - PPG Paints Arena (USA)
Wed August 21 2024 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Citizens Bank Park (USA)
Fri August 23 2024 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Citizens Bank Park (USA)
Sat September 07 2024 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Nationals Park (USA)
Fri September 13 2024 - BALTIMORE Maryland - Oriole Park At Camden Yards (USA)
Sun September 15 2024 - ASBURY PARK New Jersey - North Beach (USA)
Thu October 31 2024 - MONTREAL Quebec - Bell Centre (Canada)
Sun November 03 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Scotiabank Arena (Canada)
Wed November 06 2024 - TORONTO Ontario - Scotiabank Arena (Canada)
Sat November 09 2024 - OTTAWA Ontario - Canadian Tire Centre (Canada)
Wed November 13 2024 - WINNIPEG Manitoba - Canada Life Centre (formerly Bell MTS Place) (Canada)
Sat November 16 2024 - CALGARY Alberta - Scotiabank Saddledome (Canada)
Tue November 19 2024 - EDMONTON Alberta - Rogers Place (Canada)
Fri November 22 2024 - VANCOUVER British Columbia - Rogers Arena (Canada)

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