Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Bishop Danced," Or How I'm Trying To Stop Whining And Just Enjoy The Moment

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band closed out the first leg of their U.S. tour last Sunday in Newark. It was an epic show, even by ESB standards. Two moments specifically have been hot topics this week- a performance of "The Weight" for the late Levon Helm and a performance of "Bishop Danced," a song never performed after 1973. Let's talk about the latter.

Friends have been Facebooking and texting about "Bishop Danced" since the second the first chord was struck this past Sunday evening. Plenty of "OMGS" and "I don't believe its!" But are these expressions of joy or confusion?

I was surrounded by hundreds of excited (?) people in 2003, and none of them knew just why they were screaming at Giants Stadium. 

"It's Cynthia." "What is this?" "Cynthia!" "OMG!" "What is this?" 

Bruce had been opening with different, deeper tracks during this run of shows, and this particular night, it was "Cynthia," found on the "Tracks" boxed set. I get it. "SURPRISE!" But "Cynthia" just ain't good. Most of the people in my section weren't quite sure why they were happy. It was a fleeting thrill, one that may have been sustained if the opener had been "Night" or "The Ties That Bind," or even a familiar cover.

At the show I attended on April 6th, the band dusted off "Lion's Den," another so-so song from the "Tracks" boxed set. As soon as it registered I thought, "It'll be over in 5 minutes." And if I was in Newark, I would have felt the same about "Bishop Danced." We're talking 5-10 minutes a night, so really, why complain? But I can't help feeling a killer "Drive All Night" or "Kitty's Back," or (insert here) would have trumped the 8 second "never did this before" thrill.

One Facebook acquaintaince looks at this way:

"With every one of these rarities there is at least one true-blue fan in that crowd whose all-time favorite song is "Bishop Danced" (or another rarity) and the gift of hearing it live is monumental. And I love that Bruce and the band will throw us fans that."

She makes a good point. And really, who am I to assume that 25,000 people would rather hear "Drive All Night" than ""Bishop Danced?" I know I'd rather hear "Bishop Danced" than "Bobby Jean."

I've always been fascinated by artists and their set list choices. Why do something one night and not the other? Or worse, why keep playing "Waiting On A Sunny Day?" Why? WHY?!  (oops...sorry.)

Here is my dream set list for Bruce & The ESB:

Code Of Silence
Sherry Darling
Candy's Room
Atlantic City
Highway Patrolman
Girls In Their Summer Clothes
Racing In The Street
Pink Cadillac
Because The Night
Tougher Than The Rest
Rag Mama Rag
Brilliant Disguise
The E Street Shuffle
Valentine's Day
Growin' Up
Kitty's Back
Pretty Flamingo
Raise Your Hand
Drive All Night
Born To Run
Thunder Road

Bruce...if you're reading...



bglobe313 said...


Thanks for the continued posts about Springsteen. It is too easy for people to take him for granted.

I'm not going to comment on your ideal set list, but will note briefly my feelings on the following:

1. "Bishop Danced" as performed in the 1970s is a pretty bad fake-folk song. "Thudercrack" and "And The Band Played" and "Zero and Blind Terry" were all better and pointed in a better direction for him.

2. Agreed on "Waiting on a Sunny Day." Bruce S. would love that to be a great feel good song, and it's just not that great. But still a TON better than that "showstopper" (literally!) "XXX Me Off at Mary's Place." Ugh.

3. And I think you may have been one of those who saluted "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" as one of the absolute best recording he has ever done. (I recently learned from the book by Scott Miller of Game Theory/Loud Family fame that he loves it!)

Thanks. Love the essays.

Ace "Grouchy McDouche" K.

JB said...

Bishop is a curio... funny lyrics. The only version I've ever heard, the one I taped off the radio many years ago, is just the Boss with his guitar and Danny on accordian.

If I'd have been at that show, hearing it would have felt like a shout-out to the late Mr. Federici.

Having said that, if given the choice I would probably rather hear anything from your dream setlist than Bishop.

cmealha said...

And what's wrong with Bobby Jean?
Peace & love.

Sal Nunziato said...

Bobby Jean is a bit monotonous and in concert, it somehow becomes twice as long.

Scott said...

Awesome set list, Sal. Can't help but notice that the only fairly recent song on the list is "Girls in their Summer Clothes". All the rest are at least 15-20 years old, huh?
Nothing from Devils and Dust or Wrecking Ball? Tsk tsk...
Stuck in the past, old man? Haha! JK

Sal Nunziato said...


I think the "Wrecking Ball" stiff is still in my mind.

I also left out "Man's Job" and "Surprise, Surprise," in an attempt to preempt some possible tongue-lashings.

allen vella said...

I like Bobby Jean, always feels good to me...and I want to be at that show with your set list, now that hits it, no slow spots for much as a ESB fan I consider myself to be, I'm not hip to all the rarities, certainly wouldn't be able to id one upon first any case I have rarely been disappointed in a Bruce show...and even though I may not "love" a song played in concert, I'm (almost)always happy to hear what the artist deems setworthy...just another new moment to enjoy. would have loved to been at Newark...

JB said...

Umm... forgot that particular version of Bishop was on Tracks, too.

BTW I have a soft spot for Cynthia. I was dating a girl named Cindy when Tracks came out. Unlike the girl in the song, Cindy didn't walk on by. She helped to heal me from my divorce, and I'll always be gratful for that.

And now I'm married to a nice Jersey Girl whose only fault is that Bruce hasn't written any songs mentioning her name.

Troy said...

I am an active member on one of the Bruce online communities (Live Daily), and I think that most of the postings and freak-outs about playing a song like Bishop Danced come from people who have seen an excessive number of Bruce shows. And if they’re not at a particular show, they are likely following the setlists on line, in real time during the show. Many are getting calls or texts from people at the show, and the newest technology has actually allowed people to use their cell phones to record/broadcast parts of the show to streaming websites where everyone else can watch from their computers.

While it is true he does mix up the setlists, for each tour he does have a core structure. After about a half dozen shows on any given tour, a lot of these people are talking about how they are sick & tired of such-and-such song already. And they compare the shows they saw to shows someone else on the board saw. And then they look for the rarities like Bishop to talk about how their show was unique or special. I don’t know how many of them actually have some special affinity for a rarity like Bishop, but I’m sure there are some; for others it is just a bragging point. I remember back on the Devils & Dust tour that some woman on the board went ape-shit that Bruce had played Darkness outtake “Iceman” for them in Pittsburgh or Philly or wherever, and that they were clearly Bruce’s favorite audience ever. She really tried to ram it down everyone’s throats. I had to go back to Tracks to even remember what Iceman was, and when I did, I realized it was actually a pretty dull song.

I love your dream setlist, and can’t argue with any of it, really. I might drop Night, Pink Cadillac, Pretty Flamingo, and Candy’s Room, and substitute Prove It All Night (would wet myself if he played it like he did in ’78), My Love Will Not Let You Down, Back in Your Arms, and a full-band Incident on 57th Street. But that’s just me.

Another great post today. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hello all…no please remain seated…

Great post. But, Sal, I have an assignment for you. You must add Stolen Car to your dream setlist and delete something to make room for it. Whatever you choose is fine – I’m a reasonable man. But add it you must.

On a separate note let me prattle on a little about setlists. I’m a big Stones fan and have seen them many times over the years starting on their ’75 tour. After a few concerts, I began to really root for them to play some obscure songs and sort of started to dread hearing one more version of, say, Miss You. A few years back I got tickets to a couple of shows at Madison Square Garden. The second show my seats were down low, but behind the stage, and I remember thinking “This sucks but at least I’m here”.

So of course I’m rooting for obscure stuff, right? Pleeeaaasse play You Got the Silver!!! But…here’s the thing. Having seats behind the stage gave me an opportunity to sort of see what Mick and Keith see, albeit from a slightly higher angle. And, boy did it open my eyes. They played some obscure stuff that night and I was happy. Then they’d follow it up with an old warhorse. From the 1st guitar notes of the warhorse I could see everyone on the floor stand up and raise their arms in the air. Then I got hit with an absolute roar from the crowd. Wow. I never would have seen it or heard it if I was out front. And if I was mighty impressed in the 1st deck behind the stage I can only imagine what it felt like to the Glimmer Twins actually on stage. As a bonus, I had a great view of Charlie’s playing. Too cool.

I read an interview some years back with Keith Richards and the interviewer asked him, something like, aren’t you a little sick of playing JJ Flash at this stage in your career. Keith answered something to the effect that, given the reaction people have to those opening chords you’d have to be a real sourpuss not to be charged by it.

So, long story short…who knows what really juices the artist? If Bruce gets a “Sunny Day” jolt from the crowd and it refills his tank, well, who are we to deny yadda, yadda, yadda.

‘Nuff said. But I’m serious about Stolen Car, capece?


Sal Nunziato said...

Similar Stones story, though this is through a friend, as I wasn't there.

2002, I think, they played Roseland, and my friend had seats upstairs with the V.I.P. (very ignorant putzes).

Start Me Up, You Got Me Rocking, All Down The Line Hand Of Fate, Sweet Virginia. People going nuts. Then, they whip out "She Smiled Sweetly," which happens to be in my Stones Top 5...people walked out, or at least downstairs to either relieve themselves or get more alcohol. It didn't register, or they just didn't care.

(Just add Stolen Car. It's ok.)

bglobe313 said...


Further utterances.

1. Sal, "Surprise, Surprise" is best collaboration between Springsteen and Gomer Pyle ever.

2. JB, if you like "Cynthia" because you were dating someone named Cindy, do you know the Springsteen outtake "Cindy"? (Has that been officially released?) It's a pretty good and funny unrequited love song. I recommend it.


JB said...

Thanks Ace. I haven't heard "Cindy" yet but I'll keep my ears open for it...

bglobe313 said...

Hi JB,

In my (not so humble) opinion, the better version does not have the Clarence vocal, but from youtube here is "Cindy" with Clarence co-singing:

If I can find the other one, I'll link it.


The Patman said...

Sal, I'd buy a ticket to a show with that setlist.

A couple days ago I posted on my blog my Top 10 Springsteen songs. I'm a fan from the old days and my listed reflected that. #1 for me is the live 1978 version of Prove It All Night. Also on my list are gems like New York City Serenade. Thundercrack made the cut too, as did Trapped even though I know it's not his song.

Anyway, great setlist you put together.

James A. Gardner said...

Sal: What a set list! Yes, I'd pay good money to see that show, too. (I also think Photoshopping out Bruce's smoke on the cover of TRACKS was a good move, but that's another topic.) "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" reminds me of a song by someone else; should it? Can't put my finger on what it might be.

Peter Ames Carlin said...

Sal, did you say the 'Wrecking Ball' stiff? e.g., you don't like it? Or maybe you meant 'stuff.' The 'i' is very close to the 'u', on the keyboard, after all. I love the 'WB' stuff, and from the shows I've seen on this tour, in far-flung locations, they're always crowd faves. Especially 'We Take Care' and 'Death to My Hometown.' Whereas any song from 'Workin On a Dream' stiffed onstage. Thus the eight 'WOAD' tunes they had in the '09 tour's opening night soon became six, then four, then two, then one. That ain't happening this time around.

ps, James A Gardner, those Marlboros in that pic didn't belong to Bruce. He did't, doesn't and never smoked. So, y'know, just for the record.

Sal Nunziato said...

Stuff, Peter. Should be "stuff." I'm with ya, on Wrecking Ball. Love it. Loved it live. Even the songs I don't like as much, like "We Are Alive," I just loved.