In the case of the latter, the request came from a sign that featured an Elvis Costello style "wheel of hits," which Bruce brought up yet another audience member to spin. After a couple of false starts, the wheel finally landed on "Steve's Choice," prompting an evil grin from guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt and one of those ultra-rare song choices that hardcore Springsteen fans salivate for.
For such a rarely played track, the E Street Band nailed it too. Let's hope that "Steve's Choice" becomes a tradition.
"Drive All Night," from the 1980 double album The River has probably been played less than a dozen times in the 30 plus years since its original release, and less than half that since Jake Clemons inherited the sax spot in the E Street Band. But in a moment that would surely have made Uncle Clarence proud, Jake filled those very big shoes with a stunning, pitch perfect solo.
In a show which saw Bruce referencing ghosts often - particularly on a stunning "My City Of Ruins" (which has come full circle back to its original theme about dying Jersey Shore communities, devastated once again now by Hurricane Sandy) - Springsteen also paid tribute to the ghosts of fallen E Street comrades Clarence Clemons and Danny Federici. The spirits of both men hung heavily over the Rose Garden all night, but particularly so during both "My City Of Ruins" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."
Other highlights from the wildly unpredictable setlist included "Land Of Hope And Dreams" as the show-opener (the song usually closes out the main set, or is played during the encores). On a rare, solo version of "If I Should Fall Behind" (and another sign request, this time from a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary), Bruce turned in one of his strongest vocal performances of the night.
"Jack Of All Trades," one of the more rarely played tracks from Wrecking Ball, and a cranked sounding "Johnny 99" were also standouts. Interestingly, "This Depression" and "Reason To Believe" were both sound-checked for what one would assume were the same slots. Both sounded great for those of us lucky enough to hear them waiting in line for the GA section on the outer concourse of the arena.