Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band-Amalie Arena, Tampa Bay, Florida

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band-Amalie Arena

Tampa Bay, Florida

February 1st, 2023

Opening night of #Tour2023 has now come and gone. The band performed as everyone expected; engaging and energetic replete with a normal number of missed cues and sour notes.

Letter To You was surprisingly well-represented with six songs played and we heard two tracks from Springsteen’s recent soul covers album, Only the Strong Survive, including the 1985 Commodores hit, “Nightshift”. As far as catalog material, I can’t complain about any individual song choice (except “The Rising” which never did musically match the significance of its lyrics), but the overall selection of tunes had no real thematic flow; it’s lacking direction. The casual attendee probably didn’t mind, but frequent fliers, myself included did and will continue to notice if the setlist doesn’t evolve significantly. On the other hand, I thought we might have even fewer new tunes than the eight we heard, turning this into a nostalgic victory lap tour. That would have been depressing piled onto the Verified Fan/Dynamic Pricing/High TM Fees fiascos (and the tone deaf responses from both Bruce and Landau).

As noted by Chris Phillips & Co. in the Backstreets Magazine shutdown announcement:

“We’re not alone in struggling with the sea change. Judging by the letters we’ve received over recent months, the friends and long timers we’ve been checking in with, and the response to our editorial, disappointment is a common feeling among hardcore fans in the Backstreets community,” he wrote. “When I revisit that writing now, it reads like a cry for help; most discouraging was that six months went by with no lifeline thrown. What we have been grappling with is not strictly the cost of admission (“It’s not just about the money!” is a refrain we’ve heard from Backstreets readers) but its various implications. Six months after the on sales, we still faced this three-part predicament: These are concerts that we can hardly afford; that many of our readers cannot afford; and that a good portion of our readership has lost interest in as a result.”

I was so turned off by the tone surrounding the tour announcement and ticket issues that I would have skipped the opener if it hadn’t coincided with a chance to visit my snowbird parents who winter a mere 10 minute drive from the Hard Rock Casino. I drove a rented (not stolen😊) car from Toronto to Tampa, using backroads instead of highways wherever possible. I communed with nature in my weird car-based way, stopping for quirky attractions along the way, such as roadside BBQ in North Florida.

Everything went well, including a face-value GA drop that allowed us to score pit tickets the day before the show, but as good as the show was, there was still something missing. I was here and they were here, but so many folks with whom I should have been enjoying the show were not. Some sadly departed, some priced out, and still others who have simply drifted out of our lives. 

My personal relationship with a few songs was just as strong as ever (Wrecking Ball, Kitty’s Back, and a couple others), but the desire to a) quit my job, b) kiss my baby goodbye and c) join a rock and roll band as a professional audience member just wasn’t the same as it was when we were encouraged to board that train back in the 80s.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band cannot be anything less than great, but they are now, unfortunately, less great than themselves. Even if the difference is due to my own perceptions, those perceptions are my reality and maybe yours, too.

Review and Photos by Jeff Ross