10 Songs Bruce Springsteen Hasn’t Played Yet on His 2023 Tour
There's no way that Bruce Springsteen could ever play all of his best songs in one night. This much was true, even before he played his last show with the E Street Band more than six years ago.
So when Springsteen reassembled his musical band of brothers (and sisters) in the E Street Band for their first proper tour since 2017, they had their work cut out for them. As demonstrated by the opening night of the tour in Tampa, Fla., however, the set list has been carefully constructed and considered. It's built to cover a lot of bases – and eras.
One of the main questions was how deep Springsteen would go with new material, considering that he had as many as three different "new" albums to draw on. Almost immediately, he took 2019's Western Stars out of the mix. "I might do one, but the E Street Band is going to come out and put on a rock show," he told Rolling Stone after tickets went on sale. "That’s what people want to see. That’s what I want to play, and that’s what it’s going to be."
Only the Strong Survive is technically Springsteen's most recent album but he downplayed 2022's soul covers set, mixing in only two tracks. Instead, he placed the larger focus on 2020's Letter to You, with Tampa's set list highlighting six songs from the album. They also dug surprisingly deep when it came to unexpected tracks: "The E Street Shuffle" and "Kitty's Back," both from 1973's The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, have been consistently in the set list since opening night.
Using historical information from setlist.fm, let's take a look at what might be ahead as Springsteen continues down the touring trail.
"Born in the U.S.A."
From: Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
"Born in the U.S.A" was a regular presence in the set list for Springsteen on Broadway, which ran for more than 250 performances between 2017 and 2021. The song was last performed with the E Street Band in July 2016. It's often been misbranded as patriotic but Springsteen once again clarified his true intent, calling "Born in the U.S.A." a "complex picture of the country" during a 2021 conversation with Barack Obama.
From: The River (1980)
"Hungry Heart" was a familiar highlight of many Springsteen concerts before the pandemic, as he would go crowd-surfing while singing the verses. COVID protocols made it seem likely the moment would get spiked on this current run. But then Springsteen went out into the crowd during "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" for a victory lap on foot during a concert in Dallas. A little more than a week later, he followed that up by channeling major crowd-surfing vibes in Tulsa, Okla., reclining across one of the stage monitors amid "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)."
"Darkness on the Edge of Town"
From: Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978)
The closing song on the album of the same name is also the final track Springsteen and the band recorded to wrap up the sessions. "Darkness on the Edge of Town" has been a constant presence through many eras, even finding its way into concerts he played in 1992 and 1993 without the E Street Band. Springsteen first started writing the song in 1976 but didn't complete the final lyrics until nearly two years later. The delay hardly mattered, as "Darkness on the Edge of Town" became one of the jewels in his catalog.
From: The River (1980)
The E Street Band's last proper tour was initially dedicated to full-album performances of The River, so it's understandable if Springsteen chooses to give songs from the double LP a rest. Performing the more than 80-minute opus in its entirety was quite an undertaking. "The River" was most recently performed with the E Street Band during their final performance of 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand.
From: Nebraska (1982)
Nebraska was the closest fans had come to gaining access to Springsteen's demo stash, as he recorded solo renditions simply to document his latest songs for the band before their next session. He laid down 15 songs, largely with just his voice and a guitar, in a day that bled deep into the night. But then Springsteen found he was unsatisfied with the bulk of the band versions and elected to release his original demos instead. "Atlantic City" was a classic story song that found its roots in a 1980 movie of the same name. Watching the film inspired Springsteen to write a song built in part around current events. The "Chicken Man," for example, drew on the real-life Philly mobster Philip Testa, who had been killed by a nail bomb in 1981.
From: Born to Run (1975)
Many fans wondered if Springsteen would ever play "Jungleland" again after saxophonist Clarence Clemons suddenly passed away in 2011. It was hard to imagine anyone but Clemons playing the iconic solo that arrives at the midpoint of the song. Clemons' nephew Jake was tapped to be his spiritual replacement in the E Street Band, but they still performed 51 shows on the Wrecking Ball world tour in 2012 before finally returning to "Jungleland." Clemons honored his late uncle by lifting his horn to the sky after the performance in Gothenburg, Sweden. The song has remained a semi-regular part of the set since then, making its most recent appearance during the 2017 tour in Brisbane, Australia.
From: Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
During a spoken intro for "Growin' Up," Springsteen once told a tale about being sent home from Catholic school, "for pissin' in my desk." With his trademark laugh, he added, "obviously a popular pastime, right?" The anecdote helped to set the right tone for the song, which also has an important history as one of several that he used to help secure a deal with Columbia Records. David Bowie subsequently also recorded a version of "Growin' Up" during sessions for his 1974 album Diamond Dogs, with Ronnie Wood guesting on guitar. The cover didn't make the final album but was released as a bonus track years later.
"Spirit in the Night"
From: Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (1973)
Both Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle turn 50 this year, so it's a reason to expect that Springsteen will include more songs from each as the tour progresses. "Kitty's Back" and "The E Street Shuffle" both found regular set list slots in the early part of the tour, giving more consistently played songs like "Spirit in the Night" at least a brief rest. The song's most recent airing at an E Street show came in February 2017 during a performance in Christchurch, New Zealand.
From: We Are the World (1985)
We all remember picking up a random album that proved to be a pivotal choice. For Bruce Springsteen, one of those moments happened when he bought a Jimmy Cliff cassette at an Amsterdam airport. He heard the reggae singer's "Trapped" and decided to revamp it into a song to play with the band. Giving it more of a rock feel, Springsteen debuted "Trapped on the opening night of a crucial six-show stand at Wembley Arena while touring The River in 1981. He'd made his London debut in 1975, but still felt a twinge of uncertainty. The Wembley shows (and secret weapons like "Trapped") helped Springsteen finally find his footing. He later contributed a live recording of "Trapped" to the all-star We Are the World charity album in 1985.
"Tougher Than the Rest"
From: Tunnel of Love (1987)
This fan favorite was a regular part of his Springsteen on Broadway performances but has been a more sporadic pick for regular concert set lists in recent years. "Tougher Than the Rest" made its last appearance in an E Street Band setting during the group's concert on Aug. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J.
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