Why Bruce Springsteen Fans Are Mad About His Current Tour
For decades, Springsteen has been known to alter the songs he performs from one concert to the next. It’s part of the reason he’s developed a passionate fan base that follows him to gigs all over the country. Dedicated fans know they’re not likely to see the same show twice. At least that used to be the case.
For his 2023 North American tour, Springsteen has stuck to very similar set lists every night. NJ.com broke down the statistics, noting that “the band had played 65 different songs across 63 concerts on this tour.” In contrast, Springsteen’s 2016-17 tour celebrating the anniversary of The River found him playing 144 different songs in 75 dates.
Why is Bruce Springsteen Playing Fewer Songs?
To be clear, Springsteen's concerts are still as long as ever, on average clocking in at a little less than three hours. But the variety seen on previous tours just hasn’t been there. The reason may be connected to his successful run on Broadway.
During his 267-show residency on the Great White Way – which ran from 2017-21 – Springsteen consistently used a structured set list. He did switch things up in 2021 following an extended break in performances, but for the most part, the concerts were identical, much like a traditional Broadway stage show.
It seems possible, perhaps even likely, that the experience altered Springsteen's perspective on set lists.
Why Are Fans Frustrated With Springsteen?
Even though Springsteen remains as popular as ever, fans have taken to social media to share their frustration over the predictable shows.
“Who would want to hear the same set list again and again and again,” wrote one fan. “He's better than this.” Another noted that Springsteen used to promote himself “as somebody who ' ... after the first few songs, throws the set list away.' Stop with the deflection. The only story he’s telling is, 'Pay me my money.' He's on autopilot now.”
Indeed, money is another contributing factor to the Springsteen discouragement. Tickets to the rock legend’s North American tour have been difficult to come by, and the prices of some shows have been astronomical. Earlier this year, the Boss endured blowback from fans who were outraged by the “dynamic pricing” method used by Ticketmaster for the concerts. Some tickets were priced at thousands of dollars a piece. “If there’s any complaints on the way out, you can have your money back,” Springsteen said at the time of the ticket price debate. Due to the predictable set lists, some fans are complaining.
Watch Bruce Springsteen Perform 'Born to Run' During His 2023 Tour
E Street Band Defends Springsteen’s Set Lists
Springsteen’s backing group, the E Street Band, has defended their leader’s set list decisions. Earlier this year, guitarist Steven Van Zandt suggested those whining over the song choices need to “get the bleep out of here.” “Anybody measuring the show by the number of songs or the amount of time spent onstage ain't listening!” Van Zandt explained to radio host Kyle Meredeth.
READ MORE: When Steven Van Zandt Quit the E Street Band
“You're not paying attention, OK? You're some kind of accountant or something. This ain't about numbers — it's about an emotional experience. And this one happens to be ... I think, a special one. And the audiences are reacting in a way I've never seen in America. It's like a Broadway show. Why? Because you're telling a story and every song has a purpose.”