There has been a lot of talk about the current Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour in terms of the ticket cost and how the setlists have been static throughout the tour. But finally, after 28 shows, The Boss pulled into his home state of New Jersey and had the faithful at the Prudential Center in his hand the entire night. It seemed as if every seat was filled, and despite most of the songs being the same on the tour, it didn’t look like anyone in the building cared. Everyone was smiling.
The evening kicked off with the rarity “Local Hero”, just the third time Springsteen and the band have played the song since 2003. It was followed by the one-two punch of “No Surrender” and “Ghosts”. “Kitty’s Back” has been a major highlight of the show, letting The Boss conduct the E Street Band like a big band leader, pointing to each member to give a solo. With 18 musicians on stage, this band’s incarnation is one of the biggest he has ever toured with, and he ensures each member gets their chance to have all 20,000 attendees looking right at them.
“Nightshift” works much better in live performance than it does on record. Springsteen’s voice is strong, and his duet with Curtis King channels the song into another plane. “Mary’s Place” has seemingly come out of nowhere to become a set staple in the tour. Springsteen says he wants to throw a party, so this song is perfect for the occasion. During “Mary’s Place”, he tries to get the audience to quiet down, but a “Bruuuuucing” rains down on him, leading him to say, “Don’t Bruce me, I’m working!”
The show’s centerpiece is “Last Man Standing” into “Backstreets”, both about losing George Theiss and being the last surviving member of his first band and all the memories that this brings. The show is loosely about the loss and celebration of life, and these two songs hit hard, especially given the number of tragedies during the pandemic. Springsteen might not acknowledge the last few years directly, though many wish he would; many of the song choices say it for him.
The rest of the show is hit after hit with the bonus of “Jersey Girl” opening the encore, giving one more for the locals. Hearing the first notes of “Born to Run” has yet to get old, and when the house lights go up for the finalé, the audience collectively surrenders themselves to the moment. “Rosalita” lets the band get silly, “Glory Days” finds Little Steven egging on the crowd, “Dancing in the Dark” with the lights up is always a little silly, and then Springsteen does most of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” while walking through the crowd.
After the band leaves the stage, Springsteen closes his show with “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, another nod to how fragile life is and how our memories keep our loved ones alive in our minds. He dedicates the song to his late nephew. With a wave to the crowd, Springsteen leaves the stage, concluding the first leg of the 2023 tour. It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen before the tour returns to the US in August, but The Boss will be rocking through Europe in the meantime.