Setlists: 2021

August 31
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #26. Standard 2021 setlist.

August 28
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #25. Standard 2021 setlist. According to Patti Scialfa, this show was filmed.

In the Crowd: Walter Cichon's sons David and Bryan Cichon, on what would have been their father's 75th birthday. Bryan posted about the show on Facebook, writing in part that it was "a musical celebration of a life and a man I never got to know but that I now know better thanks to Bruce and his memories. Our Dad lives on through one of the greatest rock and rollers, storytellers, and men of our time. He has been immortalized."

August 27
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #24. Standard 2021 setlist.

August 26
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #23. Standard 2021 setlist.


August 25, 2021 - photograph by PJay Plutzer

August 25
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #22. Standard 2021 setlist.

August 24
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #21. Standard 2021 setlist, with Patti returning after her absence from the previous show. Bruce Springsteen's first public comment regarding the terrible news of the Rolling Stones drummer's death came at the end of the Springsteen on Broadway performance: "God bless Charlie Watts," Bruce added to his usual farewell salute to his audience.


August 24, 2021 - photograph by Michael Zorn

It was a "highly emotional" performance from Springsteen, says photographer Michael Zorn, who attended the show and shares a few shots with us here.

"Bruce was wiping away tears at many moments during the show," Zorn says, naming 'My Father's House,' and 'The Wish,' as well as when Bruce "talked about visiting with Clarence and Danny, and Walter and Ray, every night."


August 24, 2021 - photograph by Michael Zorn

Of course, moments of levity balanced it all out —  especially when Bruce talked about getting busted for a shot in the park. "The absolute worst words you can possibly hear: 'The United States of America vs. Bruce Springsteen.' At that point, you know you've fucked up. You have the whole United States pissed at you, thinking, 'Oh, yeah, this fucker did something bad.'

"It was good tequila, though."


August 24, 2021 - photograph by Michael Zorn

And it's not just National Parks — some words of advice for anyone visiting his hometown: "Freehold police will bust anyone. Don't fuck around, because they don't fuck around — take my word for it."

And because it can't be said enough, God bless Charlie Watts.

In the Crowd: Olympic silver medalist Jessica Springsteen; rock critic, author, and 2019 Piedmont Laureate Emeritus David Menconi

August 20
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Fire / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams

Notes: Performance #20. The setlist changes for the first time in 2021, with Patti Scialfa's first absence of the run; Springsteen leaves out "Tougher Than the Rest," and invites the audience to sing along on "Fire."

August 19
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #19. Standard 2021 setlist.

August 18
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #18. Standard 2021 setlist.

August 17
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: The dog days are over: after a month of summer vacation, Springsteen on Broadway resumes. Performance #17 begins the final 2021 run, three more weeks of performances at the St. James Theatre.

With new Covid precautionary measures requiring all in the building to wear a mask, Bruce Springsteen wore a black one himself as he took the stage, removing it shortly thereafter to begin the performance. Before "My Hometown," he thanked the audience for remaining masked up.


photograph by Eason Jordan

Despite apparently having a mild case of the sniffles, Springsteen sounded terrific. Unsurprisingly, though he peppered in a few new jokes, there were no significant changes to the show — the 2021-model setlist has remained the same since opening night on June 24.

He did, however, choose one recent news item to react to — a certain lyrical debate that peaked just as Springsteen on Broadway went on break. After singing the first line of "Thunder Road" — "The screen door slams, Mary's dress sways" — Bruce took a dramatic pause before repeating that last word, speaking it loudly and clearly: "Sways." Having weighed in, siding with Jon Landau's "definitive answer" in the New Yorker, Springsteen carried right on with the performance. Just as many unswayed "waves" proponents will carry on trusting the art rather than the artist on this particular subject.


photograph by Eason Jordan

Presumably because of the heightened Covid precautions, Springsteen remained socially distanced from the front row rather than shaking hands as he typically has, but he had more kisses than usual to blow to the audience. And, of course, some waves.

July 17
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #16. Standard 2021 setlist. Last show before a month-long break in the schedule.

In the Crowd: Danny DeVito

July 16
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #15. Standard 2021 setlist.

In the Crowd: E Street/Sessions Band/Disciples of Soul trombonist Clark Gayton, John Mellencamp

July 15
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #14. Standard 2021 setlist.

In the Crowd: Garry Tallent, Pam Springsteen

July 14
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #13. Standard 2021 setlist.

In the Crowd: Garry Tallent, Lauren Jenkins

July 13
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #12. Standard 2021 setlist. "Night 12 featured a very loose Bruce, in fine voice and playful mood, racing (arguably even rushing) through many of the early stories, which were punctuated by an especially high number of F-bombs ('FUCK green beans!). This loose tone and surprising velocity (also notable on a speedy 'My Hometown') only made the moments where the show really slowed down feel more momentous, as when Bruce spoke (rather than sang) key lines in 'My Father's House' and 'The Wish.' Nor did the show stint on emotion: Bruce wiped away tears at several points during the night, and the performances of 'The Promised Land' and 'American Skin (41 Shots)' were exceptionally powerful. His humor was in full force as well, with an extended version of the bit about being arrested for 'moving after dark,'  accusing the audience of being full of would-be 'night-movers' and calling back to his earlier comments on his 2021 arrest, joking: 'I'm working on a theme!' 

"A few arrangement notes (not necessarily unique to this night): 'Tenth Avenue Freeze-out' was performed with slightly slowed down and simplified piano accompaniment, bringing out Bruce's soulful vocals and the song's elegiac role in the show. Similarly, the arrangement for 'Dancing In The Dark' has been adjusted away from the hard-strumming acoustic rock version of recent years to a tenser, somewhat quieter guitar accompaniment. Perhaps as a result, a full break occurred between that song and the still-hard-charging 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' in a shift from the first run's combined arrangement. A night of emotional twists and turns, often powerful, at times slightly jarring — but an absolute joy to see Bruce back chasing that one plus one equals three." —Jake Romanow

July 10
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #11. Standard 2021 setlist.

July 9
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #10. Standard 2021 setlist.

July 8
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #9. Standard 2021 setlist. "At the end of the pre-'My Hometown' arrest story, Bruce mentioned his lawyer was in attendance. During the intro to 'The Wish' (which predictably destroyed me) a persistent police siren could be heard outside the theater, inspiring Bruce to stop, take a beat, and say, 'I think the fuckers are coming to take me again!' The audience exploded with applause." —J.W.

In the Crowd: According to Springsteen, his lawyer.

July 7
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #8. Standard 2021 setlist.

In the Crowd: Jake Clemons

July 6
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #7. Standard 2021 setlist. "An especially powerful, emotional night. Bruce, in top form, cried several times during the show. He first did so at the conclusion of 'My Father's House,' when he turned his back to the audience and wiped away tears. As he spoke of his love for his mom during the intro to the next song, 'The Wish,' his voice cracked; he paused and wiped away more tears. He wept a third time during his intro to 'Born in the U.S.A.,' as he talked of his fondness for two of his mentors, the Motifs' Cichon brothers, one of whom went missing in the VIetnam War and was presumed killed there, and Castilles drummer Bart Haynes, who also was killed in Vietnam. Tears came a final time during Bruce's touching intro to 'I'll See You in My Dreams." Tears aside — and many in the audience cried more than Bruce did — Bruce introduced 'Fire' differently from previous nights, saying he wrote the song for Elvis Presley in hopes he'd sing the song to Ann-Margret in one of his movies. Another unusual bit: During 'Dancing in the Dark,' after singing the line 'You sit around gettin' older,' he sarcastically added 'and older and older' without guitar accompaniment, before reverting to the guitar and the song's original lyrics." — E.J.

In the Crowd: Dave Marsh

July 3
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #6. Standard 2021 setlist.

In the Crowd: Maggie Haberman, Preet Bharara

July 2
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #5. Standard 2021 setlist. "'Fire' is campier and more fun than ever. Audience clapping during 'Dancing' prompts Bruce to halt the song and half-jokingly say, 'You're gonna fuck me up," shutting down the clapping. The only tears tonight came from the audience, after a few nights of Bruce weeping during the emotional intro to 'I'll See You in My Dreams.'" — E.J.

July 1
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #4. Standard 2021 setlist. "After telling the story before 'The Promised Land' Bruce strung the bottom string of his guitar, and it just made this dud of a sound; he was surprised as the audience. At first we didn't know if he just strummed it wrong or needed to tune it himself, but he looked off to the side of the stage and said, 'It's panic time back there right now. Oh yes, it's panic time.' He smiled the whole time, and it took about 20 seconds before [guitar tech] Kevin Buell came out to bring him another guitar. Bruce said, 'Oh, they are going to remember this! The time when they were all in panic mode!' I don't know if he had the wrong guitar from the start or it just wasn't tuned properly, but it did make for a funny moment. On his DWI: 'I didn't wake up that morning and say to myself, "I want to see what the inside of a New Jersey jail looks like!"' When talking about his Dad, Bruce mentioned how his Dad had a bottle of Old Spice on the sink which always surprised him. Bruce said, 'I always wanted to get on that boat.'" —S.G.

Press: "Bruce Springsteen opens up about mom's Alzheimer's: 'Taken a lot away from us'" —today.com

June 30
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #3. Standard 2021 setlist. "Overall, I found this to be a compelling revival. It feels updated in an authentic way, the new songs work nicely, and I was glad to see him step away from the obligation of 'Born to Run' — didn't miss it all," J.P. tells us. "Bruce seemed to use the stage more, filling it out (as it's bigger than the Walter Kerr's). His voice sounds amazing: supple, powerful, and he used all of its attributes. I don't know what he's doing to maintain it, but it was particularly impressive. He did go off-script a few times, once to particularly great effect. He clearly loves what he's doing up there. As for me, I was most pleased, occasionally moved, occasionally really moved, and most important, it was a show where I felt like I was really concentrating. Maybe it's the break we all had? Maybe because I needed a big distraction? Perhaps. Mostly because it was smart and funny and sounded really great."

June 29
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Performance #2 of Springsteen on Broadway 2021. "Another superb, dazzling, deeply moving show," E.J. tells us, with the same setlist as opening night and "slightly tweaked storytelling (the tree and the magic trick were prominently mentioned early in the performance)." "Fire" was slightly re-worked, with Bruce and Patti singing together from start to finish rather than trading verses as on Saturday. And a less-raucous crowd meant only one official "Shut the fuck up."

K.F. writes: "I've seen both versions of the show. As Ken Rosen wrote, the original flowed a bit more smoothly. I liked the changes, but I also missed what he left out (unfortunately he can't go on for four hours, so I totally understand.) I don't want to spoil the show for others so I'll leave it at that. But this version was flowing with even more emotion than the original. He's older now, almost 72, and his introspection, perspective on life, and understanding of his mortality all increased the emotional level significantly."

In the Crowd: Barbara Carr, Dave Marsh, Bob Seger

June 26
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist:
Growin' Up (guitar)
My Hometown (piano)
My Father's House (guitar)
The Wish (piano)
Thunder Road (guitar)
The Promised Land (guitar)
Born in the U.S.A. (guitar)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (piano)
Tougher Than the Rest (piano) - with Patti Scialfa Springsteen
Fire (guitar) - with Patti Scialfa Springsteen
American Skin (41 Shots) (guitar)
The Rising (guitar)
Dancing in the Dark (guitar)
Land of Hope and Dreams (guitar)
I'll See You in My Dreams (guitar)

Notes: Opening night of Springsteen on Broadway 2021, and Springsteen's first public performance in its new venue, the St. James Theatre (246 W 44th St). Ken Rosen reported for Backstreets:


Photograph by Eason Jordan

LIGHTS UP TONIGHT: SATURDAY'S RETURN OF SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY — AND BROADWAY ITSELF

The tears started before Bruce Springsteen ever said a word.

Ecstatic applause welcoming him to the St. James Theatre stage would have gone on for minutes last night had Bruce not shut it right down, forcefully motioning the crowd to their seats with his hands as if he had the power to do so. (And it seems he did.)

"If you want to be a rock star…." he began, before immediately flinging his first, heartfelt, post-pandemic "Shut the fuck up!" to an audience that was understandably having trouble containing its enthusiasm. And just like that, all seemed right with the world.

Except, of course, that all wasn't right with the world — and that fact hovered over and infused the June 26 season premiere of Springsteen on Broadway.

More revival than reprise, the 2021 edition of Springsteen on Broadway follows the same plot, but the script has been extensively revised and updated along with several musical numbers new to the show.

That only stands to reason: the Broadway show wasn't just a story, it was his story. Three years on — Springsteen on Broadway originally ran for 236 performances in 2017 and 2018 — his story had grown. It's only natural that he'd have newfound perspective on his life and journey after the last year. Haven't we all?

Photograph by Matt Orel

None of us, Bruce included, imagined at the close of the original run that we'd be together again in such changed circumstances, and it's not something the artist could just brush off in performance. After all, we'd all entered the theater past a loud crowd of protesters who took issue with the theater's vaccination requirement for attendees, and we could still hear their chanting through the first two songs. Springsteen expressed empathy for them, acknowledging how understandable it is to be frightened and confused in the world we've found ourselves in.


Photograph by Eason Jordan

Bruce ripped and replaced entire sections of the script in order to freshen the show, a fact that was evident from the start. Gone was the prologue about his magic trick and favorite tree (although awkwardly, both were referred to in the epilogue, just one of many places where the seams of Bruce's tailoring showed); tossed was the "Born to Run"/"I live ten minutes from my hometown" comic relief intro to "My Hometown."

Instead, Bruce addressed the events of the past year from both a personal and societal perspective, his personal lens often providing a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor. He acknowledged his arrest (which made waves at the beginning of this year, though charges for drunken and reckless driving were dismissed), confessed to his heinous crime, and walked us through his trip to "Zoom Court" for the case of "The United States vs. Bruce Springsteen" — words which were as strange for us to hear as they were for him. It was the comic highlight of the night, and it served as a great set-up for "My Hometown": "New Jersey — they love me there!"

His arrest became a bit of a running gag, in fact — when telling his familiar story of being stopped by the police in 1972 for moving his belongings after dark, Bruce quipped: "It's kinda my thing."

For most of the show, the songs were the same, and their scripted introductions addressed the same themes. Those of us who had seen Springsteen on Broadway before knew where Bruce was headed with each story, though their power was undiminished. The moment he first broke into song with the opening riff of "Growin' Up"… well, it was like the pivotal moment in The Wizard of Oz. As Bruce strummed those notes, all color returned to the world.

"My Father's House" and its accompanying story were as potent as ever — this was probably the segment that changed the least. But its companion segment about Bruce's mom was a reminder that time hadn't paused since the original Broadway run.

Bruce's mother, Adele, is now 95 and a decade in to Alzheimer's Disease. She can no longer talk, but she makes a particular noise when she sees Bruce that lets him know she recognizes him. She can no longer walk, but she rocks and leans toward him as if she can still dance. It must have been a harder piece to recite than in the previous run, but he did it with composure and grace, leading into "The Wish" with a simple and direct "I love her."

Bruce's vocals were in fine, warm form throughout — particularly breathtaking in "Thunder Road," which featured (I swear) a silent sing-along, and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," which threatened to transcend its acoustic arrangement at any moment and flat-out rock. Bruce's nod to the E Street Band always generated the most enthusiasm among theatre-goers, but with Little Steven in the house (he'd made a very noticeable entrance before the house lights dimmed), the applause was thunderous.

"Born in the U.S.A." was even more powerful than before, and his setup story this time focused less on Ron Kovic and more on Walter Cichon and Bart Haynes, his contemporaries lost to war.


Photograph by Ken Rosen

Until this point in the show, the "setlist" (if we can call it that) was still the same as in the original run, but when Patti Scialfa took the stage, Bruce took us off-road. The pair still performed two duets together, and an unintentionally abridged "Tougher Than the Rest" ("Oops, I think forgot the last verse," he realized in time to circle back to it) was still the first. But where they used to perform "Brilliant Disguise" together, they now performed "Fire," setting it up with an acknowledgement of their 30th wedding anniversary.

Now, I'm "one of those ones," as a friend put it yesterday: I admit to growing more than a bit uncomfortable with the lyrics of "Fire" over the years, for the same reason that a song like "Baby, It's Cold Outside" has aged poorly. No means no. But "Fire" worked perfectly in this spot, because it was performed as a duet. Much like "Brilliant Disguise" (which it replaced in the show), "Fire" transforms when sung by two people instead of one, in this case becoming a song about the undeniable chemistry that brings them together despite all efforts to hide their desire. (I still missed "Brilliant Disguise.")

The surprises continued with the displacement of "The Ghost of Tom Joad" in favor of "American Skin (41 Shots)," the only one of the evening's substitutions I actually suspected might be coming, given the events of the last year.


Photograph by Eason Jordan

From there, the show returned to its previous setlist, with "The Rising" still speaking for itself, and "Dancing in the Dark" still serving as a reminder to find our joys where we can.

"Land of Hope and Dreams," though… I struggle to find the words to describe the power of Bruce's performance last night. This has been my favorite Springsteen song since the first time I've heard it, and I've heard it many times in many arrangements. But never like this. Bruce summoned his warmest, purest, most passionate vocals of the night, with an arrangement that seemed like it couldn't have possibly been acoustic (though, of course, it was).

"Land of Hope and Dreams" was always the emotional climax of the show for me, but when Bruce sang it last night, it didn't just fill the theater — it filled the last four years.

I knew that "Born to Run" was coming next to close the show. Or at least, I thought I did. But Bruce had one last surprise in store for us, and I was completely unprepared for it. I think he might have been unprepared for it, too.

In his final spoken piece of the night, Springsteen expressed how thankful he was for the opportunity to perform his show again this summer, because it affords him the opportunity to visit with his father again on a nightly basis. That was his favorite part of the original run, he admitted — the nightly visitations with his ghosts. Not just his father, but with Clarence as well.

At this point, already teary-eyed, Springsteen's voice broke. As he named his ghosts — his father, Clarence, Danny, Walter, Bart, family members dead and gone — Bruce openly wept, sniffing and wiping his eyes. He concluded the piece with a simple but husky "I miss them," and we held our collective breaths (those of us who weren't audibly sobbing), willing Bruce the strength to get the words out.

And it occurred to me in that moment that while we'd often heard and seen Bruce speak and sing about his loss, we'd rarely seen him reveal his grief. On that stage last night, a human being surrendered to his grief in full public view, and it was the bravest thing I've ever seen anyone do on stage. And then he performed the final song the night: Letter to You's "I'll See You in My Dreams," which gave the show the emotional capstone it had always deserved.


Photograph by Ken Rosen

The new finale was a breathtaking way to end an unforgettable evening, marred only by the awkward references to Bruce's "magic trick" and favorite tree that now had no antecedents, due to his heavy revisions for the new staging.

Based on opening night, Bruce's reappraisal of his Springsteen on Broadway book proves to be both the highlight and the challenge of this revival. Every one of the new and revised scripted segments were outstanding on their own. But the problem is that Springsteen on Broadway was written at a particular time, in a particular voice… and the author has lived more since then. The shift in voice and style often took me out of the moment, where the original held my rapt and full attention throughout. At times, it seemed like the show should have been titled, Bruce Springsteen Performs Selections from Springsteen on Broadway.

But even that, alone, would rightfully be cause for celebration, as Springsteen leads the way in relighting the lamps on Broadway after 15 dark months (as the New York Times reports today: "On Saturday, Springsteen on Broadway became the first full-length show to take the stage since the Covid-19 pandemic forced performances to shut down in March 2020.") And there's every reason to believe that, as this 31-show residency continues and Bruce gets his stage legs firmly under him once again, those seams I mentioned will be more and more difficult to detect.


Photograph by Ken Rosen

As of its 2021 opening night, how does the new edition compare to the original Springsteen on Broadway? Less cohesive and rougher around the edges, but also far more emotionally powerful. As a work of art, the revival doesn't hold a candle to the original; as a rite of communion, it completely transcends it.
- Ken Rosen

In the Crowd: Pete Buttigieg, David Fricke, Jon Landau, NJ Governor Phil Murphy, Ridley Scott, Steven Van Zandt, Brian Williams

Press: "Bruce Springsteen Reopens Broadway, Ushering In Theater's Return" —nytimes.com

"Bruce Springsteen turns the lights of Broadway back on. And the effect is electric." —washingtonpost.com

June 25
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Preview #2 of Springsteen on Broadway 2021: Dress Rehearsal.

June 24
St. James Theatre
New York, NY

Setlist: Growin' Up / My Hometown / My Father's House / The Wish / Thunder Road / The Promised Land / Born in the U.S.A. / Tenth Avenue Freeze-out / Tougher Than the Rest* / Fire* / American Skin (41 Shots) / The Rising / Dancing in the Dark / Land of Hope and Dreams / I'll See You in My Dreams
*with Patti Scialfa Springsteen

Notes: Preview #1 of Springsteen on Broadway 2021: Friends & Family. The first appearance in the set of "Fire," "American Skin (41 Shots)," and "I'll See You in My Dreams" (see June 26, opening night, for further details)



- photograph by Eason Jordan

May 13
Stone Hill Farm Barn
Colts Neck, NJ

Setlist:
Tom Joad Pt. 2 (acoustic)
Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) (acoustic)
Across the Border (acoustic)
The Ghost of Tom Joad (acoustic)

Notes: Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's daughter, presented Bruce Springsteen with the 2021 Woody Guthrie Award Prize in person, while fans around the country could watch this virtual acceptance event online. The program was live-streamed from Springsteen's now-familiar Stone Hill Farms barn in Colts Neck, New Jersey, for members of the Woody Guthrie Center, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and produced in conjunction with the Bruce Springsteen Archives & Center for American Music.

Nora, co-founder of the Guthrie Center, prefaced the handover with a knowledgeable and sincere appreciation of Bruce's work, its importance, and how she viewed his work through the lens of her father's influence. Visibly moved by Guthrie's tribute, Springsteen accepted the statue and gave her a big hug, and he began to speak of Woody's influence.

Nora and Bruce talked one-on-one, and their award "speeches" were casual and warm — hanging out at the bar, quite literally. Later, music historian Robert Santelli (who also hosts the Springsteen Archives' What's Up on E Street? online series) gently facilitated further conversation between the two, and then things were left to just Bruce, to play some music.

After the conversation, Bruce picked up the black Takamine and played four songs himself: two of his, two of Woody's.

"Tom Joad Pt. 2" — Guthrie's influential composition that Bruce had worked into his set a few times on his own Ghost of Tom Joad tour — was masterful and commanding.

"Woody's immigration song… our immigration laws are a mess to this day," was Springsteen's simple introduction to "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)." Springsteen first played "Deportee" nearly 40 years ago; it's one he also hasn't sung since the Joad tour, and it was deeply moving — even, it seemed, for Bruce himself.

Segueing into his own material, Springsteen sang a version of "Across the Border" that even through a computer screen effectively conveyed the song's elements of, yes, hope and dreams. "The Ghost of Tom Joad" closed the set so perfectly you'd kick yourself for not realizing it was the only possible choice here. As a story, it never gets old; as a song, it serves as record and warning and faith and prayer. All of which can describe any number of Woody Guthrie songs.
- Caryn Rose


January 20
Lincoln Memorial
Washington, DC

Setlist:
Land of Hope and Dreams (acoustic)

Notes: Just over four years ago, on January 12, 2017, Bruce Springsteen performed a private show at the White House, a farewell concert for President Obama and Vice President Biden. For his final goodbye in the East Room, Bruce closed that 15-song performance with one of his most stirring compositions, "Land of Hope and Dreams."

On January 20, 2021, Springsteen played the song again — offered as a solemn "prayer" to welcome the newly inaugurated Joe Biden as our 46th President, and Kamala Harris, the nation's first woman Vice President. After the four years that passed between these two performances, it's hard to think of a moment when this couplet rang more true:

Dreams will not be thwarted
Faith will be rewarded

As the cold open for Celebrating America, "Land of Hope and Dreams" kicked off a 90-minute prime time special serving as a capstone to the day's official Inaugural events. In another instance of coming full circle, Springsteen performed live on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, just as he had 12 years ago for the Obama/Biden Inauguration in 2009.

A marked difference underscored our changed circumstance: this time, Springsteen appeared alone at the Memorial — no choir, no fellow music legends, not even an audience. But his old friend Tom Hanks was there, socially distanced and waiting in the wings to host the special. Despite the pandemic, Hanks and Springsteen both travelled to Washington DC to broadcast live on location (most of the night's appearances originated from other cities, many pre-taped).

"Good evening, America!" Springsteen greeted viewers across the nation (and around the world) in a coat and scarf, a familiar, battered Takamine acoustic around his neck. "I'm proud to be here in cold Washington DC tonight, and I want to offer this small prayer for our country."

The lack of a crowd shifted focus to just the performer and the still majesty of his surroundings, lights illuminating the empty Washington mall and its monuments. Laid just as bare as his venue, the message of "Land of Hope and Dreams" was most prominent over Springsteen's spare acoustic accompaniment. Echoing lightly in the space, many lyrics resonated in a completely new way as he sang such lines — written more than 20 years ago — as "Tomorrow there'll be sunshine / And all this darkness past." 

"Land of Hope and Dreams," its title an apt description of "the country we carry in our hearts," has proven itself perhaps the sturdiest Springsteen song of the Reunion era. The first new composition he performed with the reunited E Street Band in 1999 became a statement of purpose for that tour, yet "Land of Hope and Dreams" went on to live many lives. It's been an encore staple for hundreds of E Street Band shows, and Bruce reworked the song for solo acoustic performances on the Devils & Dust tour and for the Sessions Band in 2006. It became such an integral part of the canon that, after years of availability only as a live recording (on 2001's Live in New York City), "Land of Hope and Dreams" was finally recorded and released in a studio version on 2012's Wrecking Ball.

As with the Celebrating America performance, Springsteen often reaches for the song on special occasions — for Jon Stewart's final Moment of Zen (on The Daily Show), for charity (at benefit concerts such as Flood Aid, Stand Up for Heroes, and The Concert for Sandy Relief), and for the sake of the Obama/Biden reelection campaign, at multiple rallies in 2012.

The aforementioned 2017 White House concert was a unique, one-off set, but it led directly to the Tony Award-winning, 236-show residency Springsteen on Broadway. Each night, the acoustic "Land of Hope and Dreams" held a place of honor at the end of the set, coming out of "Dancing in the Dark" with a summational benediction before the "Born to Run" finale.

In his Born to Run memoir, Springsteen described his intent behind "Land of Hope and Dreams" when he brought it to E Street Band tour rehearsals in 1999: "I wanted something new to start this new stage of the band's life with. 'Land of Hope' summed up a lot of what I wanted our band to be about and renewed our pledge to our audience, to point the way forward and, once again, become a living presence in our listeners' lives."

As bells of freedom ring a little more loudly this week, America embarks on its own journey of renewal. May the song serve this rededication just as well.
- The Editors

For previous dates,
see 2020 Setlists


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