At the E Street Band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month, guitarist Steven Van Zandt noted in his acceptance speech that the group owe much to Bruce Springsteen‘s “relentless striving for greatness, his insistence on our constantly evolving music excellence, and his continuing writing of songs of a unnecessarily high level of quality, that is both historically unprecedented and profoundly inspiring.”

The “unnecessarily” was an interesting word choice — it insinuates that his fans are so loyal, they’ll roll with him no matter what. Or, that no matter how good his new music is, it’s unlikely to make the cultural impact that his albums did in the ’70s, ’80s, or even in the ’00s with The Rising. Van Zandt could also have added that Springsteen’s shows are also unnecessarily high quality. At this point, who would begrudge him if he stuck to fan favorites and kept his shows to two hours?

No one. But that’s where the “relentless striving for greatness” comes in. He’ll use the classics in concert, but he doesn’t rely solely on hits. And as the E Street Band wrapped up their latest tour at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., on Sunday night (May 18), he still pushed the band by throwing tour premieres into the setlist, along with rarities and one song that he never played live and learned on the spot.

The opening was catered to the obsessive fans: out of the first seven songs, six were tour premieres and the other was a cover of Van Halen‘s “Jump.” Opening the show by popping a bottle of champagne and playing a pair of Human Touch songs, “Roll of the Dice” and “Leap of Faith,” he followed with “Jump,” and then the Born in the U.S.A. outtake “Frankie.”



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