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Bruce's latest "Letter to Us...," Part 2 - "The Rarities," from E Street Radio's Greg Drew

[Part 2 of 2]

September 20, 2023

photo by Rob DeMartin via

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here at last is Part 2 of a 2023 Tour deep-dive from Greg Drew of E Street Radio. (You can click here to read Part 1, if you haven't done so already.) Once again, Greg has been kind enough to allow us to share here his script and setlist for each episode from his double-shot of episodes of his Legendary E Street Band show, in adapted form. Enjoy!


Welcome to this month's edition of Legendary E Street Band. I'm your host, Greg Drew. Today's episode is Part Two of our examination of the "RIGHT NOW" - the songs being played on the 2023 tour. As you might recall, the last show focused on the songs that are being played regularly at every or nearly every show. Today, I'm going to play some of the more infrequent offerings from throughout the tour, starting with one I was lucky enough to witness.

Along with my partners in crime, Jim Rotolo and Vinnie Usuriello, I was in the lobby of the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ for a live pre-show broadcast on E Street Radio. Because we were starting the broadcast before they opened the doors for the general public, things were pretty quiet in the building and we were able to hear amp and mic checks coming from the arena. And then, lo and behold, we heard the beginnings of a soundcheck and rehearsal. As a fan of the '92-'93 era, I recognized the song immediately. I was delighted to hear Bruce singing one of the great self-deprecating songs of all time, and with the E Street Band, no less! May I remind you that a lot of rock stars REALLY aren't into self-deprecation...quite the opposite, in fact...but I digress. And, of course, I was instantly reminded of why I've been telling people for nearly fifty years that not only is this the best live show in rock, but a Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show is also one of the greatest live-entertainment experiences one can have. The fact that he threw in "Jersey Girl" during the encore is not that big a surprise, but opening with "Local Hero" [April 14, 2023 - Newark, NJ]? "LOCAL HERO?! " That's about as perfect as you can get.

After "Local Hero," you heard "My Love Will Not Let You Down" [July 13, 2023 - Copenhagen, Denmark]. That was the opening song in Jersey the first night of the US reunion tour in 1999 and has gotten a quite a bit of play through Europe. And while those two songs might lead one to believe that the shows are all love songs and laughs - no, no, no! These next three songs show that Bruce and the band still have the edge, the anger, and the rage that has endeared them to so many of us for so long. We'll begin with "Death to My Hometown" [July 8, 2023 - London, England], followed by "Darkness on the Edge of Town" [May 7, 2023 - Dublin, Ireland], and "Trapped" [August 11, 2023 - Chicago, IL].

I've included these next two songs as a pair (though the first one admittedly isn't an actual "rarity" on this tour) because they are so different from their album versions, and they spotlight the entire ensemble. "Johnny 99" [April 3, 2023 - Brooklyn, NY] has been transformed into a full band rave-up for a while now, but the addition of the horns takes it up another notch. And "It's Hard to Be A Saint in the City" [April 3, 2023 - Brooklyn, NY] also was performed in Brooklyn, where I have it on good authority it is very hard to be anything approaching a saint. It features that great Bruce-and-Stevie guitar duel, which I love, as well as some impressive work by the Professor, and Max killing it on the hi-hat. I guess if you play a song for fifty years or so, you can turn it into this.

A while back, I did an episode of this show entitled "The World's Greatest Bar Band," where I featured the band doing their best sweaty-Saturday-night-club work. There hasn't been a lot of that on this tour, but Boston was treated to an old standby. Complete with an appropriate Stevie garage-rock vocal, Bruce demonstrating his knowledge of sixties guitar riffs, an appropriately garage-y harmonica solo, and a bunch of humorous commentary, here's "Dirty Water" [March 20, 2023 - Boston, MA].

These next two songs feature some amazing solos by two of my favorite musicians. When Bruce pulled out "Racing in the Street" [June 26, 2023 - Gothenburg, Sweden], the entire band played it beautifully but the instrumental coda allowed Roy Bittan to once again remind people why he's one of the greatest players in popular music. And I know I speak for many when I say I was thrilled when I saw that Bruce had included "If I Was The Priest" [February 21, 2023 - Tulsa, OK] and in a couple of other shows, but what I wasn't prepared for was Stevie's extended solo at the end. Most of his solos are quite structured into the songs - "The Promised Land" and "Jungleland," for example - so to hear him get an extended chance to go off and play his ass off was marvelous. I hope these two songs make a reappearance in the States.

I have one more song for you, and here's why I've saved it for last... It's a song the band has played hundreds of times, if not yet more than a thousand times, in the nearly fifty years since its release. They hadn't been playing it on the tour's first leg; Bruce brought it out for the Madison Square Garden show. But there was no "going through the motions," no skating through the song you know the crowd is going to adore, no matter how well you play it. We've all seen that with classic bands playing their hits but not THIS band - NO, they brought their A-game. Great solos from Soozie and Steve, Charlie and Jake filling in admirably for Danny and the Big Man, Garry holding down the bottom end, and Max and Roy doing some subtle tempo changes to bring even more drama to an already dramatic song, all the while embellishing their already-great parts. And, of course, the Garden crowd provided the background vocals when requested. But for me, the biggest revelation of all was the man himself: Bruce singing the song as if he had just written it, it was new and fresh, not an old classic he was doing out of obligation. It was a vocal performance that, quite frankly, I'm amazed by, and I hope you find it as inspiring as I did. From the World's Most Famous Arena, here's "Jungleland" [April 1, 2023 - New York, NY].

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Legendary E Street Band's "The 2023 Tour - Part 2 (The Rarities)" edition will air two more times this week, exclusively on E Street Radio (SiriusXM channel 20) with its airplay scheduled as follows (all times ET): Thursday, September 21 - 6 pm Saturday, September 23 - 5pm SiriusXM subscribers also can listen on-demand/online via the SiriusXM app.


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