Decades from now, When historians and epidemiologists look back on the Covid era, they will likely find it hard to pinpoint exactly when the pandemic ended in America and normal life resumed. Some will likely point to the day in August 2021 when the vaccination rate hit 70%, while others will highlight April 2022 when airlines dropped their mask mandate, or even Joe Biden’s. 60 minutes interview a few months later when he bluntly declared an end to the pandemic despite protests from members of his own administration. Still others might say that time is yet to come.
From another point of view, however, there is good reason to believe that it happened on February 1 at 8:01 p.m. EST, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band took the stage at the Amalie Arena. from Tampa, Florida, and kicked off their world tour with a thunderous rendition of “No Surrender” in front of 20,000 screaming, maskless fans.
The moment followed six painfully long years of E Street Band inactivity – including multiple tour delays due to Covid concerns – and a torrent of outrage over Springsteen’s decision to dramatically hike ticket prices. this time. “I know it was unpopular with some fans,” Springsteen said. rolling stone late last year, in his only remarks to date on the controversy. “But if there are complaints at the exit, you can get your money back.”
No one in Tampa seemed headed for the refund line as ‘No Surrender’ morphed into ‘Ghosts’ from the 2020s Letter to you. At this point, any fear that the E Street Band needed a few shows to shake off six years of rust was gone. They were tightly confined, beaming with joy and feeding off the frenetic atmosphere of the crowd.
It was also a slightly different incarnation of the band which now includes four backing vocalists (Curtis King, Michelle Moore, Lisa Lowell, Ada Dyer), a five-piece horn section (Curt Ramm, Barry Danielian, Eddie Manion, Ozzie Melendez, Jake Clemons), and percussionist Anthony Almonte in addition to the usual crew of Soozie Tyrell, Charlie Giordano, Steve Van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Garry Tallent, Roy Bittan, Patti Scialfa and Max Weinberg.
An 18-piece band might seem like a stretch given that the original E Street Band got along well with just five musicians, but this show covers many musical areas, including selections from Springsteen’s 2022 soul covers album. Only the strong survive, and no one felt superfluous. That was especially true on “Kitty’s Back,” when Springsteen gave nearly everyone in the band a little moment to shine. A few songs later, he invited the background vocalists up front to lock vocals with him on “Nightshift,” a 1985 Commodores classic that was one of the highlights of the night.
The long layoff has made even E Street standards like “The Promised Land”, “Out in the Street” and “Prove It All Night” fresh and vital again, while the darkness Nebraska deep cut “Johnny 99” has been turned into an arena anthem. But the most emotional moment came in the middle of the night, when the whole band left the stage, leaving Springsteen alone with his acoustic guitar.
Addressing the crowd for the first time on the evening, he told the story of forming his first band, the Castiles, with childhood pal George Theiss. “Move forward 50 years,” he said. “Another summer day, I found myself standing beside George’s deathbed… His passing would leave me as the last living member of my first group. It’s kind of like standing on rails with the burning light of an oncoming train barreling towards you. It brings clarity of thought and purpose that you might not have thought of before.
He continued his story: “I got home and about a week later George passed away. Shortly after, I wrote this song. It’s about the job we choose, the friends we choose, the passion we followed in our childhood. At 15, it’s all tomorrows. At 73, many yesterdays. Many goodbyes. That’s why you have to make the most of it now.
The arena fell silent as he sang “Last Man Standing” from letter to you for the first time in front of a live audience. The song focuses on his memories of Theiss and the hard realization that he is now the last of the Castiles. “Flock of angels, lift me up somehow,” he sang. “Somewhere high and hard and loud/Somewhere in the heart of the crowd/I’m the last man standing now.”
Few performers outside of Springsteen could create such an intimate, heartfelt moment in a basketball arena named after an oil company. He followed with another sweet letter to you song, “House of a Thousand Guitars”, before getting everyone back on their feet for a scorching “Backstreets”. The main set ended with “Because the Night”, “She’s the One”, “Wrecking Ball”, “The Rising”, and “Badlands”. The band has celebrated many 70th birthdays since the last time they played together, but somehow they played those songs with the same level of fire and passion that there are. decades.
After bowing quickly, the band didn’t even bother to go through the masquerade of leaving the stage before the encore. It started with the live premiere of “Burnin’ Train” before the house lights came on for a euphoric double shot of “Born to Run” and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”. They then returned to the 1984 hits with “Glory Days” and “Dancing in the Dark”, although the latter was a slightly truncated version since it did not bring any budding Courtney Cox on stage to dance. (This could be due to Covid concerns, which could also explain why he didn’t surf at all times of the night.)
The evening ended with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” – featuring video tributes to the late Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici – and an acoustic solo “I’ll See You in My Dreams” which once again brought the arena to utter silence. .
It’s another song about saying goodbye to a loved one and a reminder that “death is not the end”. As Springsteen sang, it was hard not to think of Jeff Beck, David Crosby, Tom Verlaine, Barrett Strong and all the other icons we’ve lost in recent weeks, or the fact that artists of Springsteen’s generation , to use his words, have many more yesterdays than tomorrows. But whatever happens in the future, Springsteen and the E Street Band are finally back on the road, and they’ll be there for at least a year. Let’s enjoy every second while we still can.
Here is the full setlist:
1. “No Surrender”
3. “Prove it all night”
4. “Letter for you”
5. “The Promised Land”
6. “Out in the Street”
7. “Candy’s Room”
8. “Kitty is back”
9. “Shining Disguise”
10. “Nightshift” (Commodores cover)
11. “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” (Ben E. King cover)
12. “The E Street Mix”
13. “Johnny 99”
14. “Last Man Standing”
15. “House of a Thousand Guitars”
16. “The Alleys”
17. “Because the night”
18. “It’s Her”
19. “Wrecking Ball”
20. “The Rise”
22. “Burning Train”
23. “Born to Run”
24. “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)”
25. “Glory Days”
26. “Dancing in the Dark”
27. “Tenth Avenue Freeze”
28. “I’ll see you in my dreams”