Sparks Fly Again on E Street

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: State Farm Arena – Atlanta, GA – February 3, 2023

IMG_3803Before the 2023 international tour got underway, it had been six years since Springsteen and the E-Streeters played their last show together. Given this fact and the recent ticket fiasco, there was much divided social media chatter amongst the Springsteen fanbase about expectations for the show and of course the reaction to the pricey tickets.

Likewise, message boards after the first two shows (Opening night was February 1 in Tampa, FL.) were mixed with positive, lukewarm, and negative reactions to the shows. And from those offended by the ticket cost who stayed away, there was no forgiveness.

While I personally took offense about having to spend $425 for a decent seat, I overcame my reluctance and refused to let the cost get in the way of the chance to see my favorite artist whose performing future is anything but certain at age 73. The prime question however at the top of my list was whether a Bruce Springsteen show would still provide the most joyous three hours that one could ever spend. Well, it didn’t take long into Friday night’s 2:45 set to declare that the answer was a resounding “Yes.”

After the excitement of watching the E-Street Band slowly take the stage, things kicked off with a powerful “No Surrender” which is making a brilliant debut as a show opener. It was followed by “Ghosts” which firmly established the fact that Letter to You is Springsteen’s best record of the 21st Century. It also provided the night’s first glimpse into the show’s theme of recognizing immortality and living for the moment.

IMG_3812After playing a few old chestnuts, a few other things became apparent. Unlike some of his aging peers, Bruce has a powerful voice and can still sing! And the E Street Band is still on fire. They were in top form although I for one think that there is no need for nineteen musicians some of whom simply get lost in the mix. And for a 73-year-old man, Bruce was lively and energetic although there was no jumping on the piano or sliding across the stage like he did in his younger days.

The 28-song setlist was well constructed with a fine balance of old and new songs including six from Letter to You in Tampa and five in Atlanta. And while Bruce ignored the 50th anniversary of his debut LP, Greetings from Asbury Park¸ he didn’t forget that it’s follow-up LP, The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle was also released later in the same year by covering three of its songs.

There were fans of course bickering about the setlist with some old timers wanting some “tired” songs dropped from the show. To this I question how something can feel overplayed after six years of silence! Also, let’s be considerate of how many first timers there are in the crowd who deserve to hear the classics. And I’d like to think that those who complained about not hearing “Jungleland” would likely be whining about not hearing whatever song it replaced.

One begging question about the setlist was how Bruce’s recent soul covers record, Only the Strong Survive, which received a mixed fan reaction, would be represented. I for one think Bruce managed this perfectly by playing only two songs back-to-back in the middle of the set. My hunch is that his take on The Commodore’s “Night Shift” will survive nightly with the follow-up song however possibly changing in future shows. Overall, these songs sounded fine, and their presentation avoided the kitsch of those dreadfully over-rehearsed lip-synced videos that previewed the record.

IMG_3831Expectations of course are that the shows will get longer as has happened in past tours and that new songs will rotate into the nightly set list. From Tampa to Atlanta, there were only two changes with “Brilliant Disguise” being replaced by “Darlington County” (likely due to the absence of Patti Scialfa for backing vocals in Georgia) and the addition of “Thunder Road” to close the regular set while dropping “Burnin’ Train” as the encore opener. One wonders however if the latter was accidental since “Burnin’ Train” remained on the written setlist and Bruce seemed to have confused the band and got no response the first time he counted down a “one-two” opening call for “Born to Run.”

Overall, the show benefited from a general conciseness within the songs. His past practice of dragging numbers into the 10-minute range with various types of excursions was not missed. However, the spoken intro to “Last Man Standing” was a highlight of the evening. Before his solo acoustic rendition of the song, Bruce told tale of being the last living member of his first band, The Castiles, after the 2018 death of his old friend George Theiss. It was a beautiful moment reminiscent of the sincere intimacy of Springsteen on Broadway.

IMG_3845The encore segment was full-force including Bruce donning a black leather “Wild & Innocent” jacket that someone threw in from the crowd as he pranced through the audience during “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” The show ended with another somber reflective note in an acoustic rendering of “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”  

It was an enjoyable evening which I look forward to repeating next Friday in Dallas, TX with a less expensive ticket. The focus of attention I paid to the performance kept me from dwelling on what I think is simply too much to have to pay for an evening’s entertainment for anyone. However, I have no regrets for what I spent for attending the show or in purchasing the recordings of the entire tour which I look forward to hearing. I am thankful I am able to afford these things but feel sorry for those who could not afford to. Maybe Bruce could make some amends with a Netflix special like he did for the pricey Broadway show.

IMG_3835PS – Upon getting home last night I read the sad news about the demise of the fabulous 43-year run of Backstreets, the erudite once fanzine more recently website of everything Springsteen. A casualty of part burn-out and part the consequences of the recent ticket prices, it’ll be hard to see it go, and I give them thanks for all that they have done.



  1. Nice to hear Bruce and the E Street Band still deliver a nice show. I didn’t have any serious doubts about it!

    That said, I’ve seen two great shows of Bruce (most recently a 4-hour gig in August 2016 during The River Tour) and have made the difficult decision to sit this tour out. While I love live music and think Bruce is a compelling artist, I simply can’t justify paying hundreds of dollars for a ticket when telling my family we need to be more careful about spending.

  2. Badfinger (Max) · · Reply

    I haven’t see Bruce since 2000 so I would like to see him again. He always delivers….

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