If you've been following the Bruce Springsteen tour, you know he's been collecting signs from the crowd in a little game of Stump the E Street Band.
Among the songs he's played along the way are "I Wanna Be Sedated," "London Calling" and ... "Hava Nagila"? Yes, believe it or not.
God bless the people of Pittsburgh. After flipping through the dozens of signs tonight at the Mellon Arena, he shouted, "We've never played this song before!" When he turned it around, it was "Like a Rolling Stone" and off went the E Street Band into an epic version with a crowd sing-along of "How does it feeeel?"
Springsteen has rarely touched a song by Dylan, a towering lyrical influence on him, and certainly never played one before in Pittsburgh, so consider yourself charmed to be there.
Bruce Springsteen's unofficial Mellon Arena setlist:
It went along with the whole anything-goes nature of this tour, which may have started as a vehicle to promote "Working on a Dream," but changed gears when no one seemed all that into it. Being the resilient type and one of the world's great entertainers, Springsteen recognized that and made a new plan.
"We're going to take the fear out there and build a house of love!" he declared last night. So, at the core of his set was a sprinkling of songs that deal with "Hard Times," including a gospel version of that Stephen Foster classic during the encores. Earlier he did the grinding "Seeds," a song about a family that goes South only to find the oil boom gone bust, and a rollicking "Johnny 99," about an unemployed auto worker who goes a little crazy with a gun. In Pittsburgh, he subbed out "Ghost of Tom Joad" for an emotional version of "Youngstown," providing a rare showcase for guitarist Nils Lofgren to shred.
The only nods to the new record were the title track, "Kingdom of Days" and the oddly epic Western tale "Outlaw Pete," which he gave the hard-sell. It was more like the "Darkness on the Edge of Town" tour with a double-shot of "Badlands" and "Candy's Room" opening the set and later the title track (by sign request) and "The Promised Land," which in my book is one of our country's most empowering anthems.
That house of love he set out to build manifested itself in the party treat of "Good Lovin'," a natural for the E Street Band, and in the thrust of "She's the One," but also in the transcendent set climax of "Lonesome Day" and "The Rising," a pair of songs that chronicle the trauma the country suffered in the past decade with a ray of hope.
That hopeful vibe carried into the encores, which included "Land of Hope and Dreams," the always-welcome "Thunder Road" and a visit from Houserocker Joe Grushecky and son Johnny on a ragtag "Glory Days."
As usual, Springsteen was relentless and superhuman. Take "Born to Run." It's a song he's played in every show since the mid-'70s and by this point, you'd think he'd be burned on it. But looking up at the screen, you could still see that fire in his eyes -- that it all still matters, and there's no such thing as going through the motions.