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The Best Surprise Moments From Bruce Springsteen’s Three-Night New Jersey Stand

Few experiences in rock compare with seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in New Jersey. That’s why fans from all over the globe descended on East Rutherford’s MetLife Stadium on Aug. 30, Sept. 1, and Sept. 3. Anticipation ran high because seven years ago they delivered some of the most memorable nights in history of the band at the same venue, culminating with a four-hour extravaganza that spotlighted Springsteen’s first three albums.

At that point in time, Springsteen was still grabbing signs from the audience and playing “Stump The Band.” The set varied wildly from night to night. He’s taken a very different approach with this tour. Most likely drawing from his Broadway experience, he’s using his songs to tell a thematic story about friendship, loss, grief, and how “age brings perspective and the fine clarity one gets at midnight on the tracks, looking into the white lights of an oncoming train.”

To accomplish this, he’s carefully crafted a set and varied it little throughout the tour. And while he largely stuck to the basic structure throughout the MetLife run — including powerful moments like “Last Man Standing” into “Backstreets” that are the heart of the show — he also cracked it up at times to make room for big surprises. The final night had the most deviations, including seven of the eight songs on Born to Run. Here are ten of the highlights.

“Sherry Darling”
All three nights eschewed the standard tour opener of “No Surrender” by kicking things off with “Lonesome Day” into “Night,” but he’d done that earlier on the tour. Night one didn’t feature a unique moment until nine songs in when he broke out “Sherry Darling,” which they hadn’t played since the end of The River tour in February 2017. It was a joyous rendition that had the entire stadium singing along.

“Atlantic City”
Three songs later, he brought out “Atlantic City” for the third time on the tour. It was an intense arrangement that brought the 1999/2000 tour to mind, and he paired it with “Johnny 99” for a great Nebraska two-shot. It briefly felt like an alternative world where the fabled electric version of the album came to pass.

“Darkness on the Edge of Town”
The second night’s printed setlist called for “Letter To You” to follow “Prove It All Night,” which has been standard all tour, but Springsteen called out a rare audible with “Darkness On The Edge of Town.” The “I’ll be on that hill” final section has rarely sounded quite as intense.

“Spirit in the Night”
The biggest surprise of the second night took place nine songs in when the group kicked into the familiar opening of “Spirit In The Night” from Greetings From Asbury Park. Much like “Sherry Darling,” it’s a song created for a hot New Jersey evening. Everyone in the stadium sang along to the tale of Crazy Janey, Wild Billy, G-Man, Hazy Davy, and Killer Joe.

“Seven Nights to Rock”
This tour has featured an unusually small number of covers with the exception of “Nightshift,” which is a perfect showcase for veteran backup singer Curtis King. But near the end of the second night, right after “Rosalita,” they played “Seven Nights to Rock.” The 1956 rockabilly classic was originally recorded by Moon Mullican, but it’s been an E Street Staple since the Rising tour in 2003. This was the second time they played it this tour.

“Two Hearts”
The final night at MetLife featured the most unique setlist of the entire tour. It’s the only night all year where he didn’t play “Ghosts” or “I’ll See You In My Dreams” from Letter to You, leaving behind only the bones of the standard set. The first surprise came four songs in when they played “Two Hearts” for the first time all tour, featuring the “It Takes Two” coda that was standard at the start of the reunion era in 1999.

“Something in the Night”
Two songs later, out came “Something in the Night.” Songs from Darkness On The Edge of Town have been at the center of Springsteen shows for the past 45 years, but this is one you only hear on selection occasions. The old-timers in the audience were thrilled to take another drive down Kingsley Street.

Almost nothing gets a Springsteen audience screaming like pianist Roy Bittan and violinist Soozie Tyrell kicking into the opening of “Jungeland.” Prior to the last night at MetLife, the Born to Run epic had only been played this tour at Madison Square Garden. Jake Clemons delivered a note-solo sax solo at MetLife that would have been his uncle Clarence very proud, and the chilling “poets down here” coda brought the entire stadium to a hushed silence. It was magical. The only thing that could have possibly improved it would have been if they’d started it with “Meeting Across The River,” meaning every single track on Born to Run would have been played at some point throughout the night. Still, seven of eight Born to Run songs isn’t too shabby.


“Detroit Medley”
The “Detroit Medley,” where the E Street band mashes up “Devil With The Blue Dress,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “C.C. Rider,” and “Jenny Jenny,” has been a staple of E Street Band shows going back to 1975. It’s a relative rarity these days, and this was only its third appearance this year. It feat seamlessly in the spot between “Rosalita” and “Dancing in the Dark.”

“Jersey Girl”
Every single show of this tour has wrapped up with Springsteen playing an acoustic version of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” from Letter To You. It closes out the narrative of the night about saying goodbye to old friends, and accepting that loss is a part of life. But the finale at MetLife was an especially joyous affair where nobody felt like saying goodbye, and “I’ll See You in My Dreams” might have felt out of place, especially since he didn’t play “Ghosts” earlier in the evening to set up the theme. (He played a mere two Letter To You songs at this gig. At opening night in Tampa, he played six.) Instead of ” I’ll See You in My Dreams,” we got “Jersey Girl” for only the second time of the tour. (The first was in Newark.) It had everyone singing “sha la la la la, la la la la” as they headed to the exits.

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