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The boss gives it his all

MUSIC | Bruce Springsteen’s impressive 2023 tour

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The boss gives it his all
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By the time that you read these words, Bruce Springsteen will be two-thirds of the way through the first leg of his 88-date 2023 world tour.

With a set list ranging from 26 to 28 songs and a running time of 2½ hours, the shows qualify as herculean even by the Boss’ legendary road-warrior standards. That Springsteen is 73 and the members of his E Street Band a median age of 72—and that neither he nor they sound any worse for wear—puts what they’re doing in a class by itself.

True, they’re accompanied by a horn section, background singers ­doubling on percussion, and Jake Clemons (the nephew of Springsteen’s late sidekick Clarence Clemons) on sax. But it’s Steve van Zandt, Nils Lofgren, Roy Bittan, Garry Tallent, Patti Scialfa, and Max Weinberg who provide the muscle.

You don’t have to attend the performances to hear what’s going on. For $14.99, you can buy high-quality MP3s of every show from the music-streaming site nugs.net. And whether you grab one or several (to experience some of the dozen or so numbers that have been played only once or twice), ­prepare to be impressed.

That Springsteen and band are giving it their all makes sense: The stakes for them have never been higher. First, there’s the need to ­justify the average ticket price ($262). Second, given the performers’ septuagenarian status, there’s a good possibility that this tour will be their last. So why not throw in hearty renditions of such 50-year-old nuggets as “The E Street Shuffle” and “Kitty’s Back”? To leave audiences wanting more when there might not be more would be cruel.

So would depriving them of a steady stream of classics. Aside from a few cuts from Letter to You (2020) and last year’s collection of soul ­covers Only the Strong Survive, the hits just keep on comin’. So what if “Brilliant Disguise” (the 29th-most-performed song in Springsteen ­history), “Hungry Heart” (the 10th), and “Born in the U.S.A.” (the seventh) have been conspicuous by their absence? The tour is young.

Also, Springsteen’s occasionally overbearing left-wing politics have yet to rear their head. While Pink has told pro-lifers never to listen to her music again, Springsteen has deigned to perform—twice—in the land of Ron DeSantis (albeit in cities located in counties that went for Charlie Crist). Meanwhile, his March 25 date at the Greensboro Coliseum makes his boycott of North Carolina over its short-lived 2016 “bathroom bill” seem like distant history.

A handful of band members have missed a gig or two after testing positive for COVID, but even the unvaccinated, who just two years ago were excluded from Springsteen’s one-man Broadway show, may attend. And judging from the unmuffled cheering and audience participation captured by nugs.net, fans are forgoing masks.

What better way to celebrate a pure product of the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Arsenio Orteza

Arsenio is a music reviewer for WORLD Magazine and one of its original contributors from 1986. Arsenio resides in China.



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