Springsteen & E Street Band Made Euro Tour Debut This Day in 1981

Bruce Springsteen. Asbury Park’s Hero. The Boss. There aren't many more combinations that could so perfectly describe the epitome of the American man himself.

With a career now spanning almost five decades, it’s somehow still a mystery as to how one man could create as much dynamic art as he has. Carrying 19 full-studio albums in his lengthy repertoire, it’s no wonder Springsteen holds the title as one of the best-selling artists of all time.

Most recently wrapping up his Tony Award-winning Broadway residency Springsteen on Broadway in 2018, along with a few one-off benefit performances, and his directorial debut of the concert film Western Stars in 2019, fans are itching to know what’s next for the heartland rocker.

Bruce Springsteen Instagram Photo from Western Stars 2019

Despite previous rumors of a potential 2020 album/tour combo featuring the E Street Band, recent talk suggests that those options might be on hold… for now.

Of course, with the state of the world at the moment, a lot is uncertain regardless. So let’s take the time now to look back on one of the highlights of Springsteen’s esteemed career. And we’re not talking about a couple of years. Try just under four decades – exactly 39 years to the day.

April 7, 1981 - Hamburg, Germany. Already 54 shows into The River tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band find themselves at the opening European show of the run. As if the stakes weren’t high enough, the date would also mark the E Street Band’s first performance in Europe ever.

Having released his fifth studio album The River at the start of the tour back in October, Springsteen was finally taking advantage of his established role in cities beyond North America. With six sold-out shows at Wembley Arena waiting in the wings, The Boss and the E Street Band were more than ready to take on Congress Centrum in Hamburg.

Split into three parts, the European opener featured songs off of every preceding album in Springsteen’s catalogue, along with a few covers along the way.

Set I opened with a couple of hits off of Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) like “Prove It All Night” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” before hammering on recent tracks off of The River including “Out In the Street,” “Independence Day,” “Two Hearts” and “The River.”

While difficult to find footage from the Hamburg show, check out these clips from The River tour 1981!

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Perform "The River" Live 1981

In between the originals, Springsteen couldn’t help but also throw in a cover from one of his biggest inspirations at the time, Creedence Clearwater Revival, with “Who’ll Stop the Rain.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Perform Cover of "Who'll Stop the Rain" Live 1981

Transitioning into Set II, Springsteen and the E Street Band continued the promotional trend of The River with key performances of songs like “Cadillac Ranch,” “Sherry Darling,” “Hungry Heart,” “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” “Wreck On the Highway” and “Ramrod.”

Not surprisingly, the band was sure to touch on almost all of their full-studio LPs of the time, supplementing The River tracks with hits like “Backstreets” off of Born to Run (1975) and “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)” off of The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973).

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Perform "Backstreets" Live 1981

To end the everlasting European debut, Springsteen and company closed with a three-song encore featuring “Born to Run,” “Detroit Medley” and another nod to the CCR great John Fogerty with a cover of his “Rockin’ All Over the World.” Talk about full circle, indeed.

See the complete setlist from Hamburg here!

Bruce Springsteen Setlist @ Congress Centrum CCH 04/07/1981

By the fall of 1981, The River tour would finally end after 140 shows, and would be remembered as one of the pivotal moments in Springsteen’s career. In addition to helping cement his audience beyond the homeland, the run would also establish him as one of the pioneers in marathon shows, sometimes playing nearly four hours a night.

Now, exactly 39 years later, Bruce Springsteen is effectively known as The Boss not only because of his powerful songwriting, but because of large scale tours like that of The River 1981.

Although 2020 hasn’t played out exactly as we expected on a broader level, we can at least find some solace in the permanence of music, and Springsteen is a prime example of that. Luckily, while there may not be any 2020 plans in the works for the New Jersey native, we are sure that the man really was born to run. So, don’t lose faith just yet.

For updates on all things Bruce Springsteen, check out his official website!

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Last updated: 25 Mar 2023, 11:02 Etc/UTC