2017 was a paradoxical year in Bruce history. If you look at the number of shows performed (74 altogether, not counting surprise appearances), you would think it would be one to remember. And if you live in Australia or New Zealand, or if you were one of the lucky few fans who experienced “Springsteen on Broadway”, it probably was.
And no disrespect to Australians, New Zealanders, and Broadway attendees, but for most of us, 2017 was the dullest year in recent memory when it comes to Bruce activity. Sure, the official live archive releases kept the monster fed, and it wasn’t many years ago that those alone would have made for a spectacular year. But to quote the man himself: “you get used to anything”, and as grateful as we should be for those releases, they just don’t have the same impact as a new album or going to a show yourself.
But instead of looking back on the year gone past, let us instead focus on the year ahead of us and what we wish would happen, knowing perfectly well that if only three or four of those wishes come true, we should be overjoyed.
A new album
While our list is not necessarily prioritized, the first item is surely near the top. Bruce, it’s time for a new album. It’s been nearly four years since the last album, and some would argue that High Hopes doesn’t really count since it was more of a compilation of unreleased songs and new versions of already released material than a brand-new album. In that case, the last album is 2012’s Wrecking Ball, which brings us uncomfortably close to the all-time record of time between studio albums (the 6½ years between The Ghost of Tom Joad and The Rising). Bruce and his associates have for more than two years talked about a new album being almost finished and ready to be released. Sorry, we no longer buy it. I mean, we’ll buy it if it’s released, but how good can it be, and how excited can Bruce himself be about it, if he leaves it on the shelf for two years? Not very, we’re afraid. So, look at the world, Bruce - there’s plenty to write about - and knock those 12 songs out that we crave just as much now as we did after 9/11.
Consider this a shout-out from the guy in the parking lot!
Wrap up the Broadway stand
Of course, we don’t want Bruce to cancel his already sold-out shows on Broadway. More power to those of you who are going. We are told you are in for an amazing experience. We also don’t want to rob Bruce of the experience of having a proper job for a while, but as the rest of us could have told you, it’s overrated. And what’s worse, whether or not it’s intentional, those shows are exclusive and elitist and create a lot of negative vibes among your fans that could have a lasting negative effect on your legacy. Many fans, including this one, simply can’t wrap their heads around, let alone pay for, $800 tickets. Where did that come from? Why are we suddenly not welcome? So, Bruce, please don’t add any more of those shows, on Broadway or elsewhere.
A live release of the Broadway show
As stated above, the Broadway shows are probably an amazing experience if you are lucky and rich enough to go. Bruce, you could make the rest of us a little happier by releasing a Broadway show as a live album and movie. We realize it won’t be the same as actually being there, but since that’s impossible, please just let us have a taste of what it was like. By all means, also release a Broadway Box that includes cd’s, a bluray, your autobiography, a documentary, and whatever else you fancy. We’ll buy it… unless it’s $800.
A Born in the USA box
Speaking of box sets, it’s time for the next installment of your classic album re-releases. Yeah, we know, Nebraska should be first, but something about a minimalist album like Nebraska released as an overblown box set just doesn’t feel right. Instead, throw Electric Nebraska on the Born in the USA box set as a bonus disc and leave it to Born in the USA to handle the overblown part that it always excelled in. Of course, in this case we use the word “overblown” in the most positive sense of the word. We wouldn’t want a Born in the USA box set to be anything less than sickeningly overblown. We want stadium shows on bluray, three cd’s of outtakes, a monster book with pictures of your bodybuilder arms in sleeveless shirts, two documentaries (one about the recording, one about the tour), heck, include a headband, too. We’ll wear it proudly!
The next installment of remastered albums
Sure, we wouldn’t mind both the Born in the USA box set and the next batch of remastered albums, but if the former takes a little too much time to put together for a 2018 release what with Bruce having a regular job these days and all, we’ll take the remastered box by itself. The first batch up to and including Born in the USA was just the beginning, we were told. All studio albums would be remastered in the same way as the first seven albums. We hope that’s still true, because Bruce’s albums have never sounded better than in those remastered versions. No one said when the next batch would be released. We kind of figured this last year would have been a good time in order for Bruce to release something physical with his name on it in 2017. Instead 2017 became the first year since 2004 when that didn’t happen. We can’t help fearing that releasing music in physical shape is now such a bad deal financially that these next remasters have been scrapped for good. Prove us wrong by putting them out in 2018!
A new E Street Band tour
We know, Bruce toured with the band in both 2016 and 2017, but E Street Band tours are the salt of our lives. Even if we can’t go to all the shows we want to, just following an E Street Band tour from behind our screens keeps us happy and makes us feel alive. We look forward to the next setlist. What will he play tonight? How will he top the last show? Again, with all due respect, the Broadway show does no such thing for those of us who can’t be there, adding to our feeling of having been excluded. And then there’s just the fact that the band is getting older and time is running out. They probably have a few more tours left in them, but the longer they wait between their outings, the harder it will be to get the machine running smoothly. A tour behind a new album with new and fresh music would be preferable, but we’ll take a “tour just to tour” any day.
A 1992-93 archive release
The archive series is fabulous. Not every release raises the same level of excitement, but overall, releasing a new show every month is one of the best decisions Bruce has made in years. We could list tons of shows we would like to hear in pristine quality, but one tour in particular has been overlooked, and we’d like to see that corrected in 2018: the 1992-93 tour with the “other band”. The tour has received its share of criticism both during and after it took place, but an official release of a 92-93 show could help fix its somewhat ho-hum reputation. Because at their best, those shows were not ho-hum at all. Particularly the fall 1992 shows – when Bruce stuck to his message and setlist - were focused and intense and deserve to be heard by more people. I personally yearn for an official release of the moody and majestic “Soul Driver”… with the guitar intro… please… pretty please….
A Bruce blog
Bruce has declared that there will be no sequel to his autobiography. That’s a damn shame. Our completely unbiased and objective opinion is that it’s one of the best rock biographies ever written. But instead of a sequel, how about Bruce utilizes his amazing writing skills by running a blog? He wouldn’t have to commit to write at any set interval. Just whenever he had something to say. A blog full of stories like the one about his Superbowl appearance or his playing with the Rolling Stones, which can both be found in his autobiography, would be a wonderful addition to his output. Tell us what it’s like to play on Broadway five times a week, share more stories about your life on the road throughout the decades, and talk about how that new album is coming. You decide, Bruce.
Have you seen what Neil Young has done? Have you seen his archive? Every… single… song he ever recorded in one gigantic online database, including recording info, timeline, etc. etc. For now you can use it for free. In time you will need to buy access to it, but still…. Imagine Bruce doing something like that. I for one would buy the lifetime subscription and spend most of my waking ours browsing it. So, Bruce, just a thought, and if you need help building it, you know where to find us!
Bruce’s continued happiness and health
This whole article probably seems like a spoiled fan’s ungrateful demands to an artist who has already given us so much. It is meant as no such thing. In the end, what we wish the most is Bruce’s continued happiness and good health. If it makes him happy and mentally healthy to go to work on Broadway five days a week and never release another album, by all means, that’s what he should do for the rest of his life. After all, if there were to be no more real tours, we could save up the $800 needed for the ticket in a year or two and we’d be there eventually. No matter what, reading his autobiography made it clear that Bruce is a fragile human being who needs to do whatever it takes to keep himself as far away as possible from the dark abyss that has at times surrounded him. May 2018 be a year of light and happiness for him. That’s what we really want.