Bruce Springsteen

Show Review: Bruce Springsteen in Tulsa

Show Reviews

“Good evening, Tulsa! Now that we’re here, we’re living on ‘Tulsa Time!'”

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Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band flat out delivered the goods Tuesday night in Tulsa with a scorching 3 hour, career spanning 27 song setlist, like only Bruce and E Street could.

I’ve been a fan and followed Bruce Springsteen since high school. Despite being a deeply entrenched metalhead for most of my formative years, I slowly found myself captivated by the live video of Springsteen’s “Rosalita” from ’78 that was in heavy MTV rotation in the early 80s. I was also highly influenced (though I doubt she knew it at the time) by my English teacher Ms. Milstead, whose rolling bookcart was a shrine of Bruce magazine cutouts and memorabilia. She knew I was intrigued, and loaned me enough cassettes to finally push me over the edge. Somehow I ended up seeing the first of two Houston dates on the Born in the USA tour, and I was officially hooked.

One of the early things that endeared me to Springsteen and E Street was the attention to detail given to the set list by the band, as well as the statisticians. Their fastidious approach rivals even those of the Grateful Dead archivists. So, while the tour sets out with a fairly standard setlist, there’s additions and subtractions to be found each night with a stray rarity, or maybe a song with a regional influence, mixed in. Or sometimes, a song’s placement is inspired from one of the signs fans bring hoping to get a request performed. That’s how “If I Was a Priest”, a song that actually pre-dates E Street, and never recorded until his current album, ended up being busted out for the first time in 50 years in Houston last week. “I wrote this when I was 22. I still don’t know what it’s about. That’s good. You never quite figure the good songs out,” Springsteen laughed as he introduced the song in Tulsa. Maybe he hasn’t quite figured it out, but I was struck by how impressively Bruce and E Street made that 50 year old song sound like it’s been in the rotation the whole time. That’s the magic of the E Street Band right there.

In Tulsa, there was a total of five songs from the Born to Run and Letter to You albums, closely followed by four each from Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born in the USA, three from Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle and two from the newest offering, Only the Strong Survive.

While you can’t satisfy each and every fan, the bulk of the set is hard to find fault with, especially when it’s played with such an exquisitely impassioned delivery from every single person on that stage. You’ll rarely see so many smiles from a group of musicians playing together for this long, but that’s exactly what you see from The E Street Band. They’re having fun, and it something you feel in their music. It was certainly fun watching that dynamic in Tulsa. The band uses a honed professionalism to make every person in the arena that night feel like they’re a part of the show. As such, I had lots of highlights and one big revelation, that being, I apparently don’t listen to Born in the USA nearly enough. The error of my ways became clearer and clearer with each subsequent song. From the rocking opener of “No Surrender,” to the second “Darlington County” of the tour, to the tour debut of “Bobby Jean,” I’d forgotten just how good those songs are, and how well the hold up today. Well, except “Dancing in the Dark.” That one’s always been a personal favorite.

Some of my other highlights included member of The E Street Choir, Curtis King, dueting with Springsteen for the classic Commodores cut “Nightshift” out on the small runway stage. Also, the blistering solo Nils Lofgren delivered for “Because the Night” which simply put the song on another level. “Johnny 99” and “She’s the One” sounded fresh and revitalized, and of course there was “Rosalita” and then “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” with its big screen shout-outs to fallen friends. How could they not be?

But I also found highlights in some songs I hadn’t heard as much before. With a brief, simple story, Bruce is able to present a lesser known song to an audience hopeful for non stop hits, and make it an unexpected highlight. Introducing “Last Man Standing,” Springsteen reminisced on the first band he’d been a part of. His sister’s boyfriend at the time, George Theiss, upon learning a young Bruce had been playing guitar for about six months, invited Springsteen to join his band, The Castiles. “The band was named after a shampoo,” he says with a laugh, “Names were a lot less important back then.” Of the experience he continued, “I embarked on the greatest adventure of my young life: I joined my first real rock ‘n’ roll band.”

Now, all these years later, Springsteen is the only surviving member of his first band. It’s obviously a humbling experience, but as he often does, Bruce finds a wisdom to be learned and shared, saying, “It’s just about the job we choose before we even know to call it ‘work,’ it’s about the passions we follow as children. At 15, it’s all tomorrows; it’s all ‘hellos,’ and later on, it’s a lot more ‘goodbyes.’ But it makes you realize how important living every moment is.”

Hell, I guess the whole damn show was a highlight, and again how could it not be? As I stated earlier, I’ve been a fan for quite a long time at this point. I still haven’t grown tired of seeing these songs played live with such emotion and truth. I haven’t grown tired of watching Bruce interact with his fans, walking into the crowd, or tossing the harmonica he just played to a younger fan, or constantly digging in his pockets for those never ending guitar picks he repeatedly tossed out. It’s bigger than the sum of its parts for sure. There may have been a lot of hub-bub about ticket pricing and such leading into these shows. I can assure you, once the band took that stage, all of that was forgotten. You got your money’s worth and more. Simply put, Bruce and The E Street Band is the best band playing on any given night. Lots of dates remain, with more being announced. Don’t miss your chance.

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Enjoy our previous coverage, here: REVIEW: Bruce Springsteen’s “Only The Strong Survive” Is An Exceptional Labor Of Love

The E Street Band is:
Bruce Springsteen.
Steven Van Zandt
Roy Bittan
Garry W. Tallent
Nils Lofgren
Soozie Tyrell
Charles Giordano
Jake Clemmons
Curt Ramm
Barry Danielian
Eddie ManionOzzie Melendez
Clark Gayton
The E Street Choir is Anthony Almonte (also on percussion), Curtis King, Michelle Moore, Lisa Lowell and Ada Dyer

Setlist for 2/21/2023 Tulsa at the BOK Center:
No Surrender, Ghosts, Prove It All Night, Letter to You, The Promised Land, Out in the Street, Candy’s Room, Kitty’s Back, Nightshift (Commodores cover), If I Was the Priest, The E Street Shuffle, Darlington County, Johnny 99, Last Man Standing (Solo Acoustic w/ Barry Danielian on Trumpet), Backstreets, Because the Night, She’s the One, Wrecking Ball, The Rising, Badlands
Encore: Thunder Road, Born to Run, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), Bobby Jean (Tour Debut), Dancing in the Dark, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (w/ Band Introductions), I’ll See You in My Dreams (Solo Acoustic)




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