Bruce Springsteen Plays 'Nebraska' Hit For First Time Since 2016

Even if you're The Boss, seemingly always on the road, and doling out epic shows with at least two dozen songs per gig, there are going to be some gems in your catalogue you might not get to when you have 21 albums.

This problem is compounded when you're Bruce Springsteen, who at this stage of his career is unofficially required to play a dozen of his greatest hits each night like "Born to Run," "Thunder Road," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out," "The Promised Land," and "Dancing in the Dark."

Thus there's only about 12 slots left in the setlist for new bangers, covers, audience requests, and songs that just perfectly fit the current tour.

Therefore classics from relatively quiet, tender, acoustic Nebraska, the 1982 secret masterpiece, might have a hard time getting placed in the set.

As Shakira's accountant might have once said, numbers don' lie. Despite being what some fans consider his last perfect album, Bruce, doesn't play material from Nebraska much. Of his rich catalogue, it ranks just ninth in our database of songs that get represented on stage.

Fans are more likely to hear songs from newer albums likeThe Rising and The Ghost of Tom Joad than they are from the LP named after The Cornhusker State.

For example, the most performed Nebraska tune is the hauntingly dark first-person narrative of a man on death row nicknamed "Johnny 99."

Like how is it even legal to start a song off with this:

Well they closed down the auto plant in Mahwah late that month
Ralph went out lookin' for a job but he couldn't find none
He came home too drunk from mixin' Tanqueray and wine
Got a gun, shot a night clerk, now they call him Johnny 99

Springsteen performing "Johnny 99" in New Jersey in '85

Compare that to the title track of The Ghost of Tom Joad which is perfectly fine, but has been performed more than any of the tracks from Nebraska, despite being 13 years newer.

And more curious, when Bruce does dip into the Nebraska songbook, the other two of his top three tunes from the LP are the downright dreary dirge of "My Father's House," and the impossibly romantic "Atlantic City."

Everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City

Some of the best Springsteen lyrics are found in "Open All Night," while "State Trooper" comes with one of the creepiest tones any musician has squeezed out of an acoustic guitar. Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper wish they could get that dark while staying subtle.

Which brings us to "Reason to Believe," a song Bruce has only played a little over 200 times, another of the oddly hopeful tales mixed with sadness that came out of the Nebraska sessions that were deemed too personal to record with the E Street Band.

Another dark tune written and recorded in those sessions was the oft-misunderstood "Born in the USA," that did sound right being blasted by the band.

Springsteen hadn't performed "Reason to Believe" since the Obama administration.

Unlike a couple of the Nebraska-era tunes Bruce has drastically rearranged, despite now being performed by a full horn section, singers, several guitarists, and the Boss on the mouth harp, the bones of the song and melody remain.

And how about that slide guitar by Nils Lofgren sure adds to the country vibe that not only resonated on the album, but inspired bands like The Beat Farmers into covering it shortly after the song was originally released.

The Dublin show was the fourth Irish stop on the Boss' 2024 World Tour. The final three of those gigs he performed the beautiful Pogues cover, "A Rainy Night in Soho," as a tribute to the recently departed Shane MacGowan who he visited shortly before his death.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band continues their summer soiree through Europe through July. In August they return home to North America.

Go to Bruce's website on the off-chance there's a ticket or two available.

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Last updated: 15 Jun 2024, 06:28 Etc/UTC