Bruce Springsteen – Murrayfield Stadium, May 30, 2023

Broooce! His first UK show in six years

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It is hard to tell where Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band end their main set in Murrayfield. “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” has stormed to a conclusion and the band appear to have left the stage. Then, you notice Springsteen strap on an acoustic guitar and harmonica holder and walk back to the microphone.

For the previous three hours, Springsteen has delivered a mammoth high-energy set, somewhere between stadium rock show and soul revue. Taking a lead from last year’s album of covers, Only The Strong Survive, Springsteen has continued to play to his own formative soul and R&B influences for this, their first tour in six years. With a few prudent adjustments, the E Street Band lean into their formidable brass section. As a consequence, this isn’t just a band back on the road after an enforced hiatus, but a band reimagining their music in dynamic new ways.

The show started with a run of songs – “No Surrender”, “Ghosts”, “Prove It All Night”, “Death To My Hometown” and “Letter To You” – delivered at speed and without pause. As magnificent as the spectacle is of Springsteen and his compatriots at full pelt, you might wonder where it is heading. Since the mid-Oughts, Springsteen tours have had their own unique characteristics, defined as much by circumstance as anything else: 2009’s Working On A Dream Tour was the first without Danny Federici; 2012’s Wrecking Ball tour was the first without Clarence Clemons, 2016’s The River tour wasn’t tied to a new album. Taken together, a loose narrative emerged, of a band coming to terms with grief and finding even deeper communion between one another and their audience as they played longer, deeper and heavier shows each year. So what kind of tour will this be, exactly..?


The answer comes about 40 minutes in. The opening salvo has given way to a second tranche of songs, loosely structured around themes of reckoning – including an incendiary “Candy’s Room”. On previous tours, Springsteen assembled setlists on the hoof, but he worked to a formalised structure for Springsteen On Broadway, which was scripted and the running order largely unchanged. He’s following a focussed, static setlist here, too: building blocks of songs around themes and pulling together threads from across his career. This third section, though, finds him going somewhere else entirely.

A 15-minute soul rave-up of “Kitty’s Back”, from The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle, moves on to a less frantic, but by no means less potent, place. If “Nightshift” was originally written as tribute to Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, for Springsteen, lines like “We all remember you / Your songs are comin’ through” are implicitly addressed to the spirits of Federici and Clemons. “Last Man Standing”, meanwhile, is dedicated to George Theiss, from Springsteen’s first band, The Castiles, of which Springsteen is now the sole surviving member. But sung to 70,000 people in Murrayfield, these songs become eulogies to the audience’s loved ones. We’ve all lost friends, Springsteen seems to acknowledge; a point he makes clearer a little later at the end of “Backstreets” where he repeats, “All the rest of you, I’m going to carry right here until the end.” Thinking about the title of his most recent album, Only The Strong Survive might be about resilience and a brave face, but in the context of this tour it could well also be about strength through unity; we are all in this together. This, it seems, is Springsteen’s tour message in 2023.

Springsteen’s great skill as a performer is his ability to cut through the spectacle to deliver moments of considerable intimacy, where the showman appears to make way for someone more vulnerable and earnest. He revisits this from a different angle on “Wrecking Ball” – where “hard times come and hard times go” – and again later, at the very end of the set.


But such meditations on life aside, the show hinges on the big set-pieces and crowd-pleasing moments. There are walks down to the front row; some terrific messing about between Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt; Springsteen ripping his shirt open to expose his chest; a lovely piece of intimacy with Jake Clemons, who gently leaned over Springsteen’s shoulder to watch him play a solo. And there were plenty of solos – with three guitarists, you’d imagine so – including one from Nils Lofgren during “Because The Night” that wouldn’t sound out of place in Crazy Horse. The final encore – “Born In The U.S.A.”, “Born To Run”, “Bobby Jean”, “Glory Days”, Dancing In The Dark”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” – is as good as it gets. But then he straps on an acoustic guitar and steps up for final song: “I’ll See You In My Dreams” from Letter To You. A tribute to his departed comrades, designed to succour and uplift, the song’s inclusion at the set close is clear: this is Springsteen’s extended family, everyone is welcome.

Murrayfield setlist:

No Surrender
Prove It All Night
Death to My Hometown
Letter to You
The Promised Land
Out in the Street
Candy’s Room
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Kitty’s Back
Mary’s Place
The E Street Shuffle
Johnny 99
Last Man Standing
Because the Night
She’s the One
Wrecking Ball
The Rising
Thunder Road

Born in the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Bobby Jean
Glory Days
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

I’ll See You in My Dreams


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