November 7, 2023
It was just one day after the official 50th anniversary of his now-classic second album The Wild, The Innocent, & The E Street Shuffle and, to paraphrase a lyric from one of that album's outtakes... Thundercrack! Bruce Springsteen was back... to performing live, that is. He was a surprise, unannounced addition to last night's musical lineup for the 17th Annual Stand Up For Heroes Benefit, presented by The Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival. He looked and sounded great, indicating that he's continuing to recover successfully from the illness that forced him back in late September to postpone all of his remaining scheduled tour dates in 2023 (one of which would've kept him from playing Stand Up For Heroes 2023 last night, if it hadn't been postponed.)
Bruce first showed up on stage during John Mellencamp's set. They performed together with Mellencamp's backing musicians a great version of "Wasted Days," one of the songs that Springsteen recorded with Mellencamp for Mellencamp's 2022 album Strictly A One-Eyed Jack. Last night's performance of "Wasted Days" marked the first time that Mellencamp and Springsteen publicly performed the song together.
Later, Bruce opened his own set with another song he'd never performed live previously: a solo acoustic version of "Addicted to Romance," the song that he wrote for Rebecca Miller's film She Came To Me and recorded with Patti Scialfa. Although last night's version didn't include Patti's beautiful backing vocals or Bryce Dessner's orchestration, it remains such a heartwarming song at its core, so clearly it easily passed the "Does-it-work-with-just-a-guitar-and-a-voice?" test.
He then followed up with yet another world-premiere live performance: "The Power of Prayer," from Letter To You. This double-shot of live premieres, both delivered strongly in such beautiful solo acoustic versions, raises hopes that material like this might make it into solo-acoustic or even full-band performances at least occasionally once Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band resume their tour next year.
"Working On The Highway" and "Dancing In The Dark" closed the mini-set on an appropriately upbeat musical note (even if the lyrics of those songs aren't quite as upbeat as their music is.) At one point during "Dancing..." Bruce got a bit closer to his microphone than intended while doing the "I'm-going-off-mic-for-a-bit-to-sing-even-more-directly-to-you" move he perfected during Springsteen On Broadway. But other than that slight misstep, nothing major seems to have gotten in the way of making this a triumphant, exciting return to live performing for Springsteen, one that's filled with much potential and hope for both him and his fans.
Fan-shot videos of all songs performed last night by Bruce Springsteen are below, presented in their chronological order of performance...and including, of course, all of those dirty jokes he also likes to tell each time he plays Stand Up For Heroes. (Hey, it is meant to be a night of comedy and music.) Finally, on a serious note, please click here for The Bob Woodruff Foundation's website, where you can donate to the Foundation and also connect for support if you're a veteran who needs it. Welcome back, Bruce!