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Bruce Springsteen Offers Thrills, Surprises in Nashville – Concert Review

Bruce Springsteen
Fiona Goodall, Getty Images

Throughout the years, Bruce Springsteen has sequenced his concerts by taking the tracks off his most recent album and finding songs from his catalog that work off similar musical or lyrical themes. However, judging by his stop at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on April 17, he seems to be breaking from this pattern.

Only four of the 12 songs from ‘High Hopes’ made it into the 28-song set (listed below) and two of those, ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’ and ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad,’ have been performed live by Springsteen for years. The other two, ‘High Hopes’ and ‘The Wall,’ began the main set and the encore, respectively.

Instead, this felt more like an extension of the final shows of the U.S. portion of the ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour, where the you got the feeling that Springsteen could mix things up at any moment. On two occasions, he visibly called out diversions from the setlist, and on another, his tech, Kevin Buell, walked out with two guitars, which told the band which song was next. In addition, three of the songs from ‘Wrecking Ball’ — ‘Death to My Hometown,’ ‘Shackled and Drawn’ and ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ — were in virtually the same spot as they were on his last go-round of the states.

This has been the pattern for Springsteen’s setlists throughout his current stretch of dates. Maybe it’s because most of the cities he’s playing weren’t visited during either of the two U.S. legs of the ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour in 2012, and he wanted to give audiences a taste of what they had missed.

Even the tour-specific t-shirts for sale at the arena referenced the E Street Band — most likely a nod to their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — instead of ‘High Hopes’. And given the lead time needed to design and produce the merchandise, this may have been Springsteen’s plan all along.

But if Springsteen’s approach to the setlist wasn’t radically different (some key songs of the ‘Wrecking Ball’ tour weren’t featured), that didn’t mean he was any less engaged. After all, so much of his reputation as a live act stems from his apparent inability to go through the motions. If anything, his interaction with the audience in the opening third of the concert was possibly greater than usual. The nightly crowd-surf during ‘Hungry Heart’ saw him grabbing request signs while being held up by the audience. Much of ‘Spirit in the Night’ was sung with him and Jake Clemons on a platform between the pit and the back of the floor. And as he walked through the audience, he repeatedly posed for pictures in the middle of the song.

All of this would have given those who weren’t down front cause to be jealous if, at any moment, he had shirked his role as frontman. As this was going on, he never missed a beat, and was still able to give cues to the band — who deserve extra credit for being able to follow his lead from all parts of the arena — regardless of what else he was doing.

But after a couple of covers via the fan-made signs (Elvis Presley‘s ‘Burning Love’ and the Rolling Stones‘ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’), the party settled down with the help of one of those audibles, ‘American Skin (41 Shots).’ After a blistering ‘Because the Night’ came a couple of rarely played songs from ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ ‘I’m on Fire’ and ‘Downbound Train.’

The encore began with ‘The Wall’ a haunting song inspired by a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., followed by probably the biggest surprise of the night, ‘Point Blank,’ which posed a problem: how will he get from a pair of quiet, ruminative numbers to the traditional lights-up celebration that begins with ‘Born to Run.’ The answer was with ‘Born in the U.S.A.,’ which, even though it’s one of his biggest hits, has rarely been played in America during a full-fledged E Street Band tour (outside of some full-album shows in 2009) since October 2003. It was, both musically and lyrically, the perfect segue and, after the E Street Band left the stage following a rousing cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout,’ Springsteen closed out the evening with a solo acoustic performance of ‘Thunder Road.’

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, April 17, 2014 Set List

1. ‘High Hopes’
2. ‘Badlands’
3. ‘No Surrender’
4. ‘Death to My Hometown’
5. ‘Hungry Heart’
6. ‘Spirit in the Night’
7. ‘Burning Love’ (sign request)
8. ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ (sign request)
9. ‘Atlantic City’
10. ‘Johnny 99’
11. ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’
12. ‘The Promised Land’
13. ‘Because the Night’
14. ‘I’m On Fire’
15. ‘Downbound Train’
16. ‘Shackled and Drawn’
17. ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’
18. ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’
19. ‘The Rising’
20. ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’

Encore

21. ‘The Wall’
22. ‘Point Blank’
23. ‘Born in the U.S.A.’
24. ‘Born to Run’
25. ‘Dancing in the Dark’
26. ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’
27. ‘Shout’
28. ‘Thunder Road’

Next: Watch Every Cover Song From Bruce Springsteen's 2014 Tour

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