Show #2, September 1981
With The River Tour, Springsteen established a pattern that essentially holds true to this day. The first leg of the two-year tour features a fairly established set list, and focuses on the recently released album. The second leg takes the band through Europe, and after a break of a month or two a second leg through the States begins, one with some variations in the set list – typically a couple of new songs, and occasionally some oldies that speak to whatever is on Bruce’s mind at the moment.
On the second leg of The River tour, a good portion of the slower, quieter material was dropped: “Drive All Night,” “Stolen Car,” “Wreck on the Highway”… Taking the place of those songs were songs that began to chart the slow, gradual emergence of Springsteen as a political artist: “Follow that Dream,” an old Elvis song that was turned into a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy; “This Land is Your Land,” which a few years later would become a much more overt political statement when Bruce began to explain the origin of the song as a response to “God Bless America”; “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” Creedence Clearwater’s great protest song; and “Trapped,” with lyrics and music by Jimmy Cliff but a song that sounded as if Bruce could had written it himself:
Seems like I’ve been playing your game way too long
Seems the game I’ve played has made you strong
When the game is over
I won’t walk out the loser
I know I’ll walk out of here again
I know someday
I’ll walk out of here again
Also making its debut on this leg of the tour was “Johnny Bye Bye,” which over time would go on to become one of the best known Springsteen songs that never appeared on an original album. Also, in what I’m almost sure was a tip of the hat to The Clash, who had just covered the song, “I Fought the Law.”
I saw this show with my friend Craig and his wife-to-be Becky, both of whom lived in San Diego while attending UC, San Diego. Craig and I had been kindred spirits for some time, having met in seventh grade and quickly realizing that we shared many of the same interests and points of view – both sports fanatics, both political junkies, both music fans with similar tastes. This show was the culmination of a very fun week which included outings to the Del Mar race track, the Torrey Pines Golf Club (where I embarrassed myself by hitting a player with an errant shot and managing to lose one of my rental clubs during the course of the round), and seeing “An American Werewolf in London” for the first time. But not only that, seeing the legendary “Rabbit of Seville,” the greatest Bugs Bunny cartoon of all time, as a short prior to the main feature. Don’t ask me how/why I remember this stuff; I just do.
As for the concert, I remember a lot of things really well. We had great seats; the entire band except for Bruce was wearing coats and ties (they went through that strange phase during this tour); the raucous celebration of the crowd when Bruce sang the “down San Diego way…” line in “Rosalita.” Also, I remember focusing right on the Big Man during the saxophone solo in “Jungleland,” and marveling at how Clarence could hold that note for so long while seeming not to break a sweat.
And of course, I remember it being a great show. No surprise there.
Thunder Road / Prove It All Night / Out In The Street / Darkness On The Edge Of Town / Follow That Dream / Independence Day / Jackson Cage / Trapped / Two Hearts / The Promised Land / I Fought The Law / The River / This Land Is Your Land / Who’ll Stop The Rain / Badlands / Hungry Heart / You Can Look / Cadillac Ranch / Sherry Darling / Growin’ Up / Johnny Bye Bye / Point Blank / Candy’s Room / Ramrod / Rosalita / I’m A Rocker / Jungleland / Born To Run / Detroit Medley / Quarter To Three