Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band: Fifteen Songs That Evoke ‘Magic’
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are now in full swing on their world tour in support of the number-one album, 'Magic'. The tour is off to a good start; however, I am rather surprised to see that he hasn't unleashed a number of songs. More specifically, the set list Springsteen has constructed screams for alternates and other songs that evoke feelings of isolation, desperation and hope. Below you will find my list of fifteen-essential songs Springsteen and the E Street Band need to at least rotate on this tour. These aren't just selfish choices but songs whose underlying themes sit right next to the material on 'Magic' and whose placement in the sets would only enhance and further evolve the material from the new album. Springsteen's concerts are more than just epic performances, but shows that evolve around a thesis and he often picks material that suits his latest effort. Without further adieu, here are fifteen essential songs that evoke "magic."
#1 "Born In The USA"
It was ignored, aside from a one-off performance, in 1999 and 2000 and was dropped from his set only making sporadic appearances after the start of the Iraq War in 2003. Never has there been a more urgent time than now for this song to be sung. The power the E Street Band brings to the song will leave you speechless. I can't think of a more powerful and poignant song to raise the roof nightly.
#2 "Devils and Dust"
This song was initially written for the E Street Band, but it found a home on his 2005 solo album of the same name. The resolve of the backbeat is calling out for an E Street Band arrangement which will only help accentuate the song and its message and meaning.
#3 "Open All Night"
If there is any one song on 'Nebraska' that is screaming for a full band E Street treatment, this is it. I saw Bruce play this one solo on an electric in 2005 and the arena was slack jawed. I can only begin to imagine what a full blown band arrangement is capable of. This would either make for a great encore song or right up front early in the set as it's sure to keep the audience on their feet. If the current performance of "Reason To Believe" is any indication, this could be a classic performance.
#4 "Long Time Comin'"
Possibly the best song on 'Devils & Dust' and while it was nearly a decade old when it was released, it's also one of Bruce's most emotionally naked and truthful songs. When Springsteen sings with fervor, the E Street band follows with an equally stirring backbeat. Songs don't get more personal than this and when the emotions run deep, it bleeds through in the performance.
#5 "Human Touch"
While Springsteen may be the most spectacular live performer to ever live, in the last decade his sets have occasionally been missing hits. I respect his song selection immensely, but every once in a while the reaction from the crown when they hear a long forgotten favorite gives you chills. "Human Touch" is a song the E Street Band completely owned the handful of times it was performed on the 2000 tour and it deserves regular airings if for no other reason than the song's ending.
#6 "Living Proof"
Written after the birth of his first son, it's one of the most emotive tracks in the Springsteen cannon. It's been performed with the E Street Band a handful of times, but with a set list full of desperation and desolation we need to be reminded that rebirth and revitalization is just around the corner.
#7 "Souls of the Departed"
Written about the first Iraq war, the blazing guitars make this essential and when I saw this in 2003 and again in 2004 it was delivered with pinpoint precision by the E Street Band. If there is a song that is screaming to be paired with "Born In The USA" this is it.
#8 "Secret Garden"
This is one of his most evocative, unambiguous and gorgeous ballads from the 1995 'Greatest Hits' album. Since he's reunited the E Street Band in 1999, they've played this song one time at Madison Square Garden in 2000. The performance on that particular evening was restrained, subdued and staggering. This needs to be performed again…and again.
#9 "The Fever"
One of the coolest most laid back tunes in his catalog and it's been performed two times in the last twenty-seven years. Southside Johnny may have the definitive version of this song, but its bluesy tempo and moody texture make this a wild card that could bowl over audiences.
One of the greatest concert experiences of my life is when I have been able to witness this magnanimous Jimmy Cliff cover, best to known to everyone from the 'We Are The World' album. It's delivered with such passion and vigor one wonders why it's not performed every night.
#11 "Cadillac Ranch/I'm A Rocker"
"American Land" has proven to be a worthy show closer, however, I believe he needs one number to put the crowd over the top and leave them gasping for air and in awe at what they just witnessed. These two 'River' rockers would do the job and could easily be rotated nightly.
#12 "Stolen Car" ('Tracks' version)
When Bruce released his four-cd box set 'Tracks' in 1998, I was pleasantly surprised to see he included an alternate version of this haunting track originally released on 'The River'. This version is piano heavy and is highlighted by Steve Van Zandt's harrowing mandolin. I can't think of a song with more perfectly textured harmonies that has remained unearthed that needs to make a debut this tour.
#13 "Leap of Faith"
Love, faith and sexual release highlights this rocking number from the misunderstood 'Lucky Town'. The supercharged opening is fit for arenas and with the proper band to perform it, this should win over audiences.
#14 "Tunnel of Love"
"Tunnel of Love" was a top-ten single; one of his best and most underrated. Whenever I have seen this live, it's been chock full of joyous energy from both band and fan. It would provide the audience with a warm blanket as Bruce and the band take chances elsewhere in the set and leave the casual fan back to this album.
Writer's note: Three days after this article was handed in, Bruce debuted "Tunnel of Love" during the second Chicago show and it appears it will get regular airings.
#15 "The Price You Pay"
Going back to every tour from the 1995 ('The Ghost of Tom Joad') onward, 'The Price You Pay" could have and should have been a staple on every tour. It hasn't been performed since 1981, twenty-six long years. The layered harmonic textures that accompany Springsteen's aching vocal on 'The River' are a favorite for all Springsteen fans. Our lives are full of complications and darkness, but even in desperate times, Springsteen finds a way and divine inner light for us to transmute our hopes and dreams. I figured this was a shoo-in for the 'Devils & Dust' tour, but it went missing. With the E Street Band in the background, this song needs to live, breathe and soar once again. While I am asking for the impossible, why not add the extra verse performed on the 1981 European tour and which is found on the original studio cut from 1979? I know…wishful thinking, but it doesn't hurt to ask?
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer and can be found at The Screen Door.