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Someday we'll look back on this, and it will all seem Bunny - One sweet Easter-Sunday-Night setlist!

artwork by Stephen Winchell

April 1, 2024

Greetings from San Francisco, CA. It's Easter Monday, and jaws are still dropped 'round these parts, since last night actual jawbreakers, chocolate-peanut-butter eggs, Peeps, and jellybeans were thrown from the stage to audience-members at Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band's second show of a two-gig stand in the city's Chase Center. But by far the biggest Easter Sunday treat for fans was the MUCH "wider song selection" that Springsteen's been hinting at recently, in a major holiday-themed setlist shakeup. TEN, count 'em TEN tour debuts, with six of them being songs that Bruce Springsteen had never performed previously onstage anywhere, with or without the E Street Band, in a tour-record-setting thirty-two-songs-total set.

The Easter Sunday fun - and the first-time-ever performances - started right out of the Golden Gate, with Bruce and the Band arriving onstage in bunny-ears to deliver a rocking, rollicking performance of the Gene Autry classic "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," adapted using the arrangement from Bay-area children's-music band The Hipwaders, who also got to meet Springsteen and his band during yesterday's soundcheck. Immediately afterwards, Springsteen threw off the rabbit-ears and quickly counted off "One! Two! Three! Four!" to have Max Weinberg launch into the deep, heart-pounding Bo-Diddley-like beats that introduced the first-ever Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band performance of The Strangeloves' classic "I Want Candy." Quite an Easter-themed opening double-shot of super-sweet covers, for sure.

What came next, of course, also was led by a Max Weinberg intro, though this time on cymbals: "Candy's Room," last played on this tour in Foxborough, Massachusetts' Gillette Stadium on August 26, 2023. Then came an ever-so-brief moment for the crowd, on its feet and loudly cheering but also still rather eggshell-shocked, to catch its collective breath.

"Good evening, San Francisco!," Bruce exulted, "And Happy Easter to all who celebrate! It is indeed Easter Sunday 2024, and the mighty E Street Band and I have some extra-special things planned for tonight. Now it's no secret that I've always had a bit of a love-hate thing goin' on with my Catholic upbringing, so tonight's show still will reflect some of that, but most of all we're here to celebrate with everyone the arrival of spring, renewal, the ultimate value of love and life over death, and of course... CANDY! Are you ready, band?"

The candy theme then continued with the premiere live performance of "Candy's Boy," the cowbell-heavy alternate version of "Candy's Room" that wasn't released officially until 2010's box-set The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. After that came what some fans online already have started referring to as "the Jesus six-pack," starting off with two back-to-back world-premiere Easter-themed covers of material by artists who already have strong historical connections to key Springsteen songs and performances of the past: a cover of Tom Waits' "Chocolate Jesus" (providing the perfect segue from the topic of candy to the topic of Christ) followed by a cover of Patti Smith Group's "Easter."

Then came a great expanded E Street Band version of the Civil-War-era spiritual "O Mary Don't You Weep," sticking closely to the hybrid-gospel arrangement of Springsteen's Seeger Sessions recording. The last time Bruce performed this song onstage with E Street Band was almost a decade ago, at the 2014 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Between Soozie Tyrell's klezmer-tinged fiddling parts, and the references to not just Jesus, but also Moses, Pharaoh, and Noah, you could feel that Springsteen was purposefully opening up this special night not just to those celebrating Easter, but also to everyone who'll be observing Passover later this month.

The second half of "the Jesus six-pack" consisted of three of Springsteen's own songs that reference the Prince of Peace, starting with Letter To You's deep-cut "If I Was The Priest," which apparently some in the crowd thought was an especially big deal. (Meh; to each... The song was last performed on this tour in Tulsa, OK on February 21, 2023.) Then came "Jesus Was An Only Son," another tour premiere and a song never before performed with the E Street Band, and finally "It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City," with Bruce and Stevie Van Zandt again providing those Jesus-vs.-the-Devil-guitar-duel-through-the-steam-of-the-street fireworks, last performed almost a year ago in Brooklyn, NY on April 3, 2023.

Things then reverted somewhat to "business as usual" as the setlist dialed back a bit to some of what have become the more standard songs and structures of this tour. "No Surrender" was followed by "Ghosts," Prove It All Night," and "Letter To You," but Springsteen still wasn't quite done with shaking up the setlist for this special evening. The next song up was "Worlds Apart," last performed more than two decades ago on August 28, 2003 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, which has since met the wrecking ball, of course. "Worlds Apart" expanded the spiritual scope of this special show even further to include a non-Judeo-Christian perspective, and addressed powerfully that "ultimate value of love and life over death" of which he spoke earlier in the evening. "Let love give what it gives" indeed.

"Worlds Apart" was followed appropriately by "The Promised Land," which was followed by "Nightshift." Then it was really candy time. "Sugar, Sugar," the bubblegum-pop classic that first was a hit for pseudo-group The Archies, is a song that Springsteen himself actually has performed onstage a few times over the years, though for extremely small audiences, at some of those Stone Pony benefit shows for his children's schools back in the early 2000s. But last night's performance, not surprisingly based on legendary soul singer Wilson Pickett's recording of the song, was Bruce's first-ever performance of the song with the E Street Band, enhanced greatly by the E Street Choir and E Street Horns. It was sweet soul music all the way...literally, as everyone onstage was provided with a basket full of chocolate rabbits, candy eggs, jellybeans, marshmallow Peeps, and the like. All of the singers onstage, and any other musician with a free hand at the moment, proceeded to toss various items from their baskets into the crowd while Bruce and Curtis King, Jr. topped off the performance by trading off back-and-forth "Pour a little sugar on me!" lines, Sam-and-Dave style.

"Last Man Standing," "Backstreets," etc. followed, with Springsteen again sticking to the basic plan he recently stated on E Street Radio, about the second half of his show's setlist being "built so solid that a lot of it will stay." It turned out to be a very smooth blend, since the special Easter-themed song-choices for last night fit nicely within the show's regular overarching themes of finding healing, resilience, and renewal in the face of aging and mortality.

Nevertheless, Bruce had one more setlist surprise up his sleeve during last night's upbeat encores sequence. It wasn't another overtly Easter-themed one, either, but something just as special - if not more so - for the city by the bay. "Hey, Steve!," Bruce shouted as "Dancing In The Dark" ended and the band held those closing notes, "We can't leave here tonight without tippin' our bunny ears to one of San Francisco's greatest bands of all time, right? One! Two! Three! Four!" And for the first time ever onstage, Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band delivered their own version of Sly and the Family Stone's immortal "Dance To The Music." Quite simply, fellow Springsteen fans, you haven't lived until you've heard Garry Tallent bellow out in the deepest voice he can muster, "I'm gonna add some bottom, so that the dancers just won't hide," Charlie Giordano exclaim, "You might like to hear my organ; I said a-ride, Sally, ride!" and Ada Dyer soulfully command, "All of the squares go home!"

And thanks to and, it won't be very long until you'll be able to do just that. We also soon will be honored to supplement this special Letters To You concert report with a great set of photos taken by Danny Clinch, Pam Springsteen, and Frank Stefanko, each of whom was in the house and shot last night's show exclusively for us. We're just waiting for all of their developed film to get back from Fotomat. Stand by...

mashup of Frank Stefanko's and Kai Z. Feng's photography

first posted at Patti Scialfa's Instagram page on Easter Sunday 2016

Setlist from San Francisco, CA 3-31-2024 (Easter Sunday 2024)

(tour debuts highlighted in bold font)

1. Here Comes Peter Cottontail (Gene Autry cover, using Bay-area children's-music band The Hipwaders' arrangement) (never played before)

2. I Want Candy (The Strangeloves cover) (never played before)

3. Candy's Room

4. Candy's Boy (never played before)

5. Chocolate Jesus (Tom Waits cover) (never played before)

6. Easter (Patti Smith Group cover) (never played before)

7. O Mary Don't You Weep

8. If I Was The Priest

9. Jesus Was An Only Son (never played with the E Street Band before)

10. It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City

11. No Surrender

12. Ghosts

13. Prove It All Night

14. Letter to You

14. Worlds Apart

15. The Promised Land

16. Nightshift

17. Sugar, Sugar (candy-distribution moment; The Archies cover, based on Wilson Pickett's version) (never played with the E Street Band before)

18. Last Man Standing

19. Backstreets

20. Because The Night

21. She's The One

22. Wrecking Ball

23. The Rising

24. Badlands

25. Thunder Road

26. Born To Run

27. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

28. Glory Days

29. Dancing in the Dark

30. Dance To The Music (Sly and the Family Stone cover) (never played before)

31. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

32. I'll See You In My Dreams


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