Recently I asked my friend Steve to breakdown Bruce Springsteen's possible setlist for the upcoming Superbowl. You see Steve is a huge Boss fan. I am not. So my Springsteen setlist for the Superbowl would have been, "Born in the USA," "Pink Cadillac," and "the one where he talks about Jersey." Since my last choice encompasses roughly 80% of his catalog, I decided to forgo a post and call in an expert. Here's Steve...
My good friends here at the Popcorn Trick have awakened me from my winter slumber with a challenge based upon this Sporting News blog post. What songs will Bruce Springsteen play during the Super Bowl halftime show? As a go-to Springsteen “expert,” I’m at least as qualified as Donovan McNabb is to lead a two-minute drill. But I am not devoid of Springsteen-cred either. So while you never really know what to expect from a Springsteen setlist, I’ll try to venture an educated guess.
First, let’s take a quick look at halftime shows since the return of the focused, single-act performances – basically the past four years. Post wardrobe-malfunction, if you will. We’ve had McCartney, the Stones, Prince, and Tom Petty each playing 3 or 4 songs over about 15 minutes. Macca went all classics, but he didn’t have a new album to push at the time – same thing with Petty last year. The Stones played their two biggest hits sandwiched around one new song from the album they were promoting in ‘05. Prince being, you know, Prince, went with a medley of his own hits and oddly chosen covers (CCR, Dylan, Foo Fighters) in what somehow came together as probably the best halftime show in recent memory.
So, that said, let’s say that Bruce has 15 minutes maximum to work with. He will be pushing a new album, Working On A Dream, which drops just a few days before the Super Bowl. The “chatty” aspect of Springsteen espoused by The Sports Guy and Grzegorek is overblown. While true of a full Springsteen show, Bruce also knows how to get down to business and I expect him to fully maximize his allotted time with music, not talk.
Overall, I see this playing out in one of two ways. One is the traditional set, a la McCartney or Petty, with Bruce rattling off three or four bangers with possibly a new song thrown in. But I wouldn’t put it past him to go the Prince route either and bust-out a raucous non-stop 7-or-8 song medley with some R&B covers and some originals – maybe some hybrid of his famous “Detroit Medley:”
I think there are some songs that are easy to eliminate no matter what format he chooses. The sweeping, lengthy epics are out – Jungleland, Rosalita, NYC Serenade, Kitty’s Back, Incident, etc. All too long on their own and not conducive to a medley format either. The biggest 80’s hits are out too: Born In The USA, Dancing In The Dark, Glory Days, Brilliant Disguise – these just don’t feel like where he’s at these days and while they still pop into the occasional setlist, I don’t see any of them fitting into the halftime show format.
I do agree with Grzegorek that “Born To Run” is almost a sure thing, and I’ll go a step further and call it almost the guaranteed closer. It’s not only his biggest hit, but it is energetic and iconic enough to get even the corporate boxes and the 6 Arizona fans up on their feet. I even see it playing out as it does at every Springsteen show – house lights on full blast and at a rapid-fire pace:
I don’t think one of the new songs is as sure a bet as it would be with some artists, but I’m going to lean toward him playing a cut off the new record. I don’t think it will be the title track, though, and so my pick would be “My Lucky Day” – it is the best and most upbeat of the three tracks that are already in wide circulation and, well, it kind of fits the Super Bowl mood, no? I mean it’s sure as hell the Cardinals’ lucky day, right?
Figure on those two tracks consuming slightly over half the time and that leaves room for two more quick ones. I think both will be classics from the back catalog, eliminating newer material from The Rising and Magic. I think “Badlands,” “Prove It All Night,” and “The Promised Land,” all from Darkness On The Edge Of Town, are possibilities as are a couple tracks from The River such as “Hungry Heart” and “The Ties That Bind.” I think he’ll try and touch on as many different albums as he can here and avoid a double-shot off the same record. So my official guess at The Boss’ playlist is:
1. My Lucky Day
2. Prove It All Night
3. Hungry Heart
4. Born To Run
So there you have it. An over-analyzed stab in the dark that will probably be completely wrong. What if he came out and went 180 degrees the opposite way and just brought the whole mood down with, say, “Nebraska,” “Wreck On The Highway,” and “The Ghost Of Tom Joad?” That would throw the place for a loop. Incidentally, my dream 15 minute setlist would probably go something like: “E-Street Shuffle” > “Jungleland” > “Ramrod,” though that would be pushing the time limit for sure. Anyway, enjoy the Super Bowl (can we use that term legally or do we have to pay royalties to the NFL), the halftime show, the commercials, puppy bowl, the beer, the food, and whatever else gets you excited on a February Sunday evening.
Agree? Disagree? Have your own fantasy Springsteen setlist in place? Let us hear about it in the comments!