Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band kick off their world tour on March 18th at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, but they gave a two-hour preview of the show on Friday at the Apollo Theater. With six new members of the E Street Band and a new album to support, it’s clear that this tour will likely be very different than previous outings. Here are ten things to expect – though keep in mind that nothing is a lock in Springsteen world. After all, everyone expected public rehearsal shows before this tour – even Little Steven.
1) A more rigid setlist than last time. When Springsteen and the E Street Road hit the road in 2009 behind Working On A Dream they abandoned most of the new material almost immediately. Even the made-for-the-stage “My Lucky Day” was dropped from the regular setlist after three shows. Instead, the tour focused extensively on Springsteen’s back catalog, and the group played widely different shows from night to night. They even did six of his first seven albums straight through at various points. On this tour, however, expect them to play a large dose of Wrecking Ball every single night. Early shows supporting The Rising and Magic had pretty static setlists, and this will probably be no different.
2) Lots of songs that utilize the horn section. It’s no coincidence that Springsteen dug out the 1973 rarity “E Street Shuffle” on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and the Apollo Theater gig. It’s a great showcase for the horns. Expect to hear “10th Avenue Freeze Out” (which doubles as a Clarence tribute) most nights, and hopefully “Kitty’s Back” and “So Young And In Love” at select stops. We’re also hoping for the title track to Lucky Town. It’s an overlooked classic, and it always sounds great with horns.
3) The rise of Jake Clemons. Springsteen may have replaced Clarence Clemons with a five-piece horn section that includes two sax players, but at the Apollo Theater show there was no doubt who was getting the vast majority of the solos. The Little Big Man took the spotlight for “Badlands,” “The Promised Land” and “Thunder Road.” Jake also handled background vocals on the soul covers, and even played a drum at one point. If they ever break out “Jungleland” he’ll have an amazing opportunity to show off his chops.
4) “Waiting On A Sunny Day.” The hardcore fans mostly hate this cheerful sing-along from The Rising, but Springsteen and the rest of the audience seem to love it. Bruce breaks it out at every opportunity (even Stone Pony private events and Joe Grushecky gigs) and it got an airing at the Apollo, so it’s clear that there is no escape. We’re forever waiting on that sunny day.
5) A new percussionist. When Springsteen and the E Street Band took the stage at the Apollo Theater everybody knew there would be a horn section, but the guy in the back of the stage with the bongos was a complete mystery. Turns out it’s Everett Bradley. He’s played with everyone from Hall & Oates to Bon Jovi. He did a great job with the end of “E Street Shuffle” at the Apollo, and he’ll certainly be a big help with some of the more complex new material.
6) A nightly tribute to Clarence Clemons. Springsteen and the E Street Band went completely dead quiet during Clarence’s big moment in “10th Avenue Freeze Out” to let the audience sing it, and cheer wildly for the late saxophonist. It was a nice way to honor him without turing the concert into a memorial service, and it will likely continue in some form on the road.
7) Meet the E Street Sessions Band. As my colleague Brian Hiatt tweeted, “There are so many people in the E Street Band, that like Newt Gingrich’s moon colony, it may be eligible to petition for statehood.” When they took a bow at the end of the Apollo Theater show, the new line-up of the E Street Band seemed to stretch across the entire stage. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just very different than the E Street Band that recorded “Born To Run” – or even the band that reunited in 1999.
8) Say goodbye to the all-request portion of the evening. On the last tour, Springsteen devoted an entire section of the show audience requests. Fans in the general admission pit made signs begging Bruce to play rarities like “Restless Nights,” and awesome covers like “Like A Rolling Stone” and “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man.” We could be wrong, but we suspect that Bruce has played enough games of Stump The Band, at least for now.
9) A lot of political songs. Wrecking Ball is basically a concept record about the Great Recession. At the Apollo show Springsteen dug out the Nebraska chestnut “Mansion On The Hill,” and this week he rehearsed the “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and the Woody Guthrie songs “Vigilante Man” and “I Ain’t Got No Home.” It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if he added in more songs from Nebraska, “Seeds” and other songs about struggling Americans. He’s certainly got no shortage of them.
10) Wild stadium shows in the Fall. They haven’t announced a single American date after this leg wraps up May 2nd in Newark, but Springsteen is almost certainly going to do a run of select stadium shows in the Fall. Word has already leaked out about plans for Wrigley Field and Fenway Park gigs. There will obviously also be shows around New Jersey, though it’s unclear if they’ll play Citi Field in Queens, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx or Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Regardless of where he plays, expect the shows to have a more party-like atmosphere with less emphasis on the new material – so expect more visits from “Rosalita” and less from “Jack Of All Trades.”