7 great shows from the Bruce live archives to check out
“So this is what a crisis of faith feels like.”
That’s what the leading Springsteen fan site, Backstreets Magazine, tweeted on July 23. Because for many fans of the Boss who have followed him for decades and seen him perform dozens (or even hundreds) of times, July 2022 felt like … well, like a betrayal.
The Springsteen fan community started salivating on July 12 when U.S. tour dates were announced. Memories of great shows from recent and long-past tours resurfaced and were relived. Excitement and anticipation for 2023 shows were crackling in the air like fireworks.
But dreams of once again seeing Springsteen and the E Street Band live were thwarted when tickets for some U.S. dates went on sale July 20. Faith in the ticket gods was rewarded with mind-boggling sticker shock as Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing and verified resale programs took center stage.
A mid-floor ticket for February 1 in Tampa, Florida – the first show of the U.S. tour – quickly reached $4,400. As of this writing (midday July 24), a verified resale ticket in the first row off the floor two sections back from the stage was priced at $11,290. Plus fees. Though to be fair, you could move from the center of the row to the end of the row and grab a seat for a measly $2,966. Plus fees.
The two grand that’s practically in the singer’s pocket in “Meeting Across the River” would probably get him and Cherry nosebleed seats at best.
A lot of the blame has fallen on Ticketmaster, which claims that only 11% of the tickets are part of the dynamic pricing program. New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell Jr. declared on July 21 that “Ticketmaster sees popular events as an opportunity to soak regular Americans.” He called for the federal government to break up Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which merged in 2018.
A lot of blame has fallen on Bruce & Co., too. Sure, Ticketmaster’s dynamic pricing model sucks. Ticketmaster and the artist reap the rewards instead of the scalpers, but fans are still faced with absurd prices. Bruce & Co. undoubtedly signed off on Ticketmaster’s plan. Backstreets covered the Bruce side of the issue extremely well in its July 24 news update.
As of this writing, Springsteen’s silence on the issue has been as deafening as the griping from the fan community.
But enough griping: Let’s celebrate the music! Because no one – and I mean no one – leaves it all on the stage and then some like Bruce Springsteen and the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band.
So keep that $11,290 in your pocket and mosey on over to the Springsteen page on Nugs, which has nearly 200 live Springsteen shows available, each to be had for a fraction of a Ticketmaster fee, each chronicling a remarkable evening in the singular history of arguably the greatest live performance rock and roller of all time.
Here’s a buyer’s guide to what I think are the seven of the very best that Nugs has to offer.
September 19, 1978 (The Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ) See the setlist
Nugs has some great shows from 1975-1978 available, but this is the very best. The vinyl bootleg of this one, “Piece de Resistance,” defined Springsteen’s sound and stage energy for me and countless other fans for decades. A 24-song epic from the “Darkness on the Edge of Town” tour that many call the greatest Springsteen show of all time. It’s difficult to argue otherwise.
December 31, 1980 (Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY) See the setlist
Another show that easily falls into Springsteen’s all-time Top 10, and that for nearly three decades held the record for the longest Springsteen concert in history: 3 hours and 48 minutes. This New Year’s Eve extravaganza packs 38 songs into the evening – a feat never surpassed, and only matched two other times in his career. Be sure to crank “Auld Lang Syne” at top volume next New Year’s Eve.
July 3, 1988 (Stockholms Stadion in Stockholm, Sweden) See the setlist
The often overlooked “Tunnel of Love” tour contains some of Bruce’s most powerful performances. Highlights of this stunning 35-song set include “Boom Boom,” “Chimes of Freedom,” “Paradise By the C,” and “Who Do You Love?” – and closing a show with “Sweet Soul Music,” “Raise Your Hand,” “Quarter to Three” and “Twist and Shout” could only be more epic had he included “Detroit Medley.”
November 24, 1996 (Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, NJ) See the setlist
The “Ghost of Tom Joad” and “Devils and Dust” tours left the full E Street Band home and gave fans a more intimate Springsteen experience. This Jersey outing from the Joad tour nevertheless features E Streeters Danny Federici, Patti Scialfa and Soozie Tyrell accompanying the Boss on nearly half the setlist. And how can you go wrong with hearing “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)” in Asbury Park?
April 22, 2008 (St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL) See the setlist
March 20, 2008 from Indianapolis (also available on Nugs) was founding E Streeter Danny Federici’s last performance with the E Street Band, but this first show just five days after Danny’s passing and one day after his funeral is a remarkable tribute. Try holding back a tear as you listen to the poignant “Blood Brothers” opener or the Federici showpiece “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)”.
October 20, 2009 (Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA) See the setlist
“The Price You Pay,” which hadn’t been played since May 27, 1981, signaled that the last dance in the Spectrum would be a truly special night. Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” (a sign request) blows the roof off the dump, E Street Band founding drummer Vini Lopez sits in for “Spirit in the Night,” and a blistering “Rocky” tinged “Rosalita” closes out the show in fine Philly style.
September 11, 2016 (Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA) See the setlist
Given that it was the first time since the release of The Rising that Springsteen had performed on 9/11, and given Pittsburgh’s proximity to Shanksville, where Flight 93 crashed, the four songs from The Rising that followed the “New York City Serenade” opener brought goosebumps and tears aplenty to the crowd. Another highlight: Steel City favorite Joe Grushecky and son Johnny join Bruce on “Light of Day.”
If you buy all seven of these shows on CD from Nugs, it’ll cost you $182 – and if you can find a ticket for the March 16, 2023 show in Philly at that price, ping me over on Twitter @LOHADdotcom, I’d love to know about it.
AUDIO: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band “Meeting Across The River” Passaic, NJ 1978