top of page

Bruce's latest "Letter to Us..." - E Street Radio's Greg Drew dives into the 2023 tour's setlist

[Part 1 of 2]

July 26, 2023

photo by Rob DeMartin via

EDITOR'S NOTE: In a fortnight, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band will be onstage again back in the U.S.A. As this second North American leg of the 2023 Tour commences, several key expectations will begin to be fulfilled at long last. Chicago will get its first shows of this tour, and later in the year fans on the West Coast and in Canada will get a shot at their first shows of the tour. In September all of the shows originally scheduled for March 2023, but postponed due to COVID-19 issues, finally will take place. And of course, by the time that Labor Day Weekend 2023 is over, 50,000 people will once again have screamed their heads off somewhere in New Jersey...thrice!

With almost all of the tour's summer/early-autumn dates taking place in larger outdoor venues like ballparks and stadiums, there's been some significant and expected improvement in ticket-availability and pricing issues. (But that's not to say that our friend Donna Gray at Bruce Funds isn't still in need of whatever kind of support and assistance that you can provide in her ongoing efforts to "feed souls with the gift of rock and roll," as Donna puts it. Each and every Springsteen fan is strongly encouraged to check out the Bruce Funds website regularly and do whatever you can to help Donna get as many folks in need to a show this year as possible, especially if you happen to find yourself with access to an extra ticket or two.)

To coincide with the tour's imminent return to North America, Greg Drew of E Street Radio has come up with a timely double-shot of episodes of his Legendary E Street Band show. He's taking a deep dive into analyzing what Bruce and the Band have been up to on this tour from the moment they first hit the stage in Florida last February through the just-concluded European leg. It's the perfect prelude as we are now just around the corner to the next series of North American shows, and Greg has been kind enough to allow us to share here his script and setlist for each episode, in adapted form. Here's Part 1 of Greg's 2023 Tour deep-dive, with Part 2 due about a month from now. Enjoy:


Hi, I'm Greg Drew and welcome to another edition of Legendary E Street Band. Now, last month featured my retrospective on the Darkness on the Edge of Town album and tour. And earlier this year, I was lucky enough to do the "Bruce 50 moments in 50 years" special. So I figured, "Enough nostalgia." The boys (and girls) are gonna be back in town soon, so let's talk about Bruce and the band right now, as in the 2023 tour in all its glory. There's been a lot of talk - a lot of talk - about the setlist and its supposed lack of variety, and I think it's worth noting that in the first U.S. leg of the tour, the band played more than fifty different songs in the course of a couple of months, which is at least twenty more than most classic rock bands play in a couple of tours....or a couple of decades for some. But rather than complain about what isn't being played, I'd rather spend some time thinking about what is being played. So this show will focus on the "regulars:" songs that show up in most if not all shows. And I'll offer my opinion, and only my opinion, as to what Bruce is trying to get across to us in his latest "Letter to Us."

Clearly Bruce has been influenced by the success and acclaim surrounding his Broadway show; how could he not be? In that show, and I believe in this tour, he has some very specific thoughts and ideas he wants to get across to us. In typical fashion, the king of "the sad song with happy music" will sometimes shift messages from song to song. Just look at the usual five songs that opened most shows on the first leg of the tour...

"No Surrender" [Feb. 1, 2023 - Tampa, FL] - His way of reminding us that despite the many years since this song was released, he still intends to fight back against the ravages of time and aging and everyday life. Not a lot of AARP cover boys still promise such things. And musically, it features Nils doubling Bruce's famous guitar line in the intro and outro.

"Ghosts" [Feb. 3, 2023 - Atlanta, GA] - Unlike "No Surrender," it's clearly written from an older person' s perspective and features six voices singing together with Steve on 12-string guitar, where he stayed for "Prove It All Night" [Feb. 16, 2023 - Austin, TX], which followed with all its usual greatness. The version I'm gonna play features the great Eddie Manion filling in on the sax solo and Bruce's great guitar solo to close.

"Letter To You" [Feb. 7, 2023 - Hollywood, FL] was next, and that is unmistakably a message to us, the audience, followed by "The Promised Land" [Feb. 10, 2023 - Dallas, TX], one of his traditional songs of inspiration and hope - 73 years old and he still believes.Enough of my yappin' - turn up your radio and listen!

Not a bad way to begin a rock and roll show, wouldn't you say?

The next sequence that often follows is a couple of throwbacks to almost the beginning, at least to late 1973. A great couple of songs to feature the entire ensemble and a special treat for us..."veteran" fans. Here's "Kitty's Back" [Feb. 18, 2023 - Kansas City, MO] and "The E Street Shuffle" [Feb. 18, 2023 - Kansas City, MO].

The next section that I found particularly poignant and noteworthy was the trio of "Nightshift" [March 2, 2023 - Denver, CO], "Last Man Standing" [March 5, 2023 - St. Paul, MN], and "Backstreets" [March 7, 2023 - Milwaukee, WI]. Of all the soul songs from his newest album, which one does Bruce choose to play? The one that's a tribute to two of the all time great soul singers who died way too young. He follows that up with a song about being the lone survivor from his first band - done solo, no less - and then completes the package with one of my favorites: "Backstreets." Of course Max and Roy shine on it, as usual, but it was really the reimagined coda that made it so special and dramatic. Gone for now is the sad eyed girl who lied; the tag now is one more tribute to a departed companion, a loved one whom Bruce vows to carry in his heart. Personally, I've always thought the 1978 version of "Backstreets" was the best and most moving. Maybe because I'm also 45 years older now and have suffered my own share of losses, but I'm not so sure this isn't the best.

Of course, what would an E Street Band show be without a trip down Greatest Hits boulevard on the way to Encorevile? I've chosen three songs: "Because the Night" [April 1, 2023 - New York, NY] with its wondrous closing solo from the great Nils Lofgren; "She's The One" [February 16, 2023 - Austin, TX] with the Mighty Max keeping that rock solid Bo Diddley beat and another fill-in solo from Eddie Manion; and "The Rising" [April 1, 2023 - New York, NY] because after all the allusions to people's passing in earlier songs, we all could use a little rebirth, and where better for a rising than Madison Square Garden?

We've come to what were usually the final two songs of the show. Mr. Van Zandt might have said it best [in his March 2023 podcast conversation with Kyle Meredith:] "The audiences are reacting in a way I've never seen in America... It is more like a Broadway show." Why? Because "you're telling a story and every song has a purpose."

And there's no better way to conclude the story, night after night, than with what is still "the important part," and then a benediction for himself, for us and all the souls departed we miss so much. Here's "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" [April 5, 2023 - Cleveland, OH] and "I'll See You In My Dreams" [April 14, 2023 - Newark, NJ], and I will see you next month on the next edition of Legendary E Street Band.


Legendary E Street Band's "The 2023 Tour - Part 1 (The Regulars)" edition will air three more times this week, exclusively on E Street Radio (SiriusXM channel 20) with its airplay scheduled as follows (all times ET):

Wednesday, July 26 – 8am

Thursday, July 27 - 6 pm

Saturday, July 29 - 5pm

SiriusXM subscribers also can listen on-demand/online via the SiriusXM app.


bottom of page