'Strongest reaction we've ever received': Steven Van Zandt on the Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band tour

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If you've cheered Bruce Springsteen the E Street Band on their current tour, the band has heard you.

“This one happens to be a special one,” said Little Steven Van Zandt. He was a guest on Kyle Meredith’s podcast, which posted March 24 as part of the Consequence Podcast Network. “The audiences are reacting in a way I've never seen in America, OK, this is the strongest reaction we've ever received from audiences in America.”

The theme of the show, delivered in an upbeat and rocking way, is mortality — and realizing “how important living every moment of your life is,” says Springsteen from the stage as he tells of the passing of George Theiss, a member of his first band, the Castiles of Freehold.

His death has left Springsteen, 73, the last man standing from the band, and was the inspiration for the 2020 album, “Letter to You.”

Bruce Springsteen, left, and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt perform on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
Bruce Springsteen, left, and E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt perform on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

“The show is not a 'best of' show, it's more like a sample of each of our eras,” Van Zandt said. “It's an interesting choice Bruce has made. We haven't changed the set from the very first rehearsal. He just hit on what he wanted to do very early in the rehearsal process. The songs are not all from 'Letter to You' but they take on that theme. It's not exactly a linear, literal storyline from beginning to end, but it has that color of the theme that comes from the album. Especially 'Backstreets,' in particular, it takes on an entirely different meaning. Now it's about George Theiss.”

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Some fans on social media have bemoaned the “static” setlist, which has so far been rigid expect for one or two songs each night. Most previous Springsteen tours have featured a fluid setlist.

The band last played in the States in 2016.

“Yes, it is different. It is more like a Broadway show, more like a typical show of a rock band,” Van Zandt said. “Most rock bands don't change any songs. I know rock bands whose sets are laminated.”

On the current tour, “every song has a purpose,” Van Zandt said. “You're telling a story and every song has a purpose.”

The current tour features approximately 27 songs performed in about two hours and 45 minutes.

“Anybody measuring this show by the amount of songs and the time on stage ain't listening. You're not paying attention, OK?” Van Zandt said “You're some kind of accountant. Go play with numbers somewhere else. This ain't about numbers — it's about an emotional experience.”

The band plays Monday, March 27 at the Capitol One Arena on Washington, D.C. and Wednesday, March 29 at the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Local upcoming shows include Madison Square Garden in Manhattan on Saturday, April 1; the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Monday, April 3; two at the new USB Arena in Belmont Park, N.Y., on Sunday, April 9, and Tuesday, April 11; and the Prudential Center in Newark on Friday, April 14, to close the run.

The band then heads to Europe to play stadiums before returning to North America for stadium and arena shows.

Springsteen 2023 Tour Setlist

Average setlist according to setlist.fm

  • No Surrender

  • Ghosts

  • Prove It All Night

  • Letter to You

  • The Promised Land

  • Out in the Street

  • Candy's Room

  • Kitty's Back

  • Nightshift

Bruce Springsteen on the walkway, amid the crowd at TD Garden on Monday.
Bruce Springsteen on the walkway, amid the crowd at TD Garden on Monday.
  • Don't Play That Song (You Lied)

  • The E Street Shuffle

  • Johnny 99

  • Burnin' Train

  • Last Man Standing

  • Backstreets

  • Because the Night

  • She's the One

  • Wrecking Ball

  • The Rising

  • Badlands

  • Thunder Road

  • Born to Run

  • Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)

  • Glory Days

  • Dancing in the Dark

  • Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

  • I'll See You in My Dreams

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Chris Jordan, a Jersey Shore native, covers entertainment and features for the USA Today Network New Jersey. Contact him at @chrisfhjordan; cjordan@app.com

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Bruce Springsteen tour 2023 'a special one,' says Steven Van Zandt