Bruce Springsteen Pays Tribute to David Bowie With 'Rebel Rebel' Cover at Tour Opener

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
Bruce Springsteen performs with the E Street Band in the first stop of his River Tour 16 concert on Jan. 16, 2016, in Pittsburgh. 

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band gave “The River” its due during their North American tour opener Saturday night at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. But they didn’t forget about David Bowie.

The group opened the encore portion of the 34-song, three-hour and 20-minute show with Bowie’s 1974 single “Rebel Rebel,” before which Springsteen told the crowd that, “We want to take a moment to note the passing of our good friend David Bowie.”

Springsteen noted that Bowie “supported our music back in the very beginning, ’73,” including covering “It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City” and “Growing Up” and even inviting Springsteen to Philadelphia while Bowie was recording his “Young Americans” album. “We’re thinking of him,” Springsteen said before the band launched into the song. 

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Springsteen had tweeted a tribute to Bowie earlier in the week, and the band reportedly also worked on versions of “Suffragette City” and “Changes” during late-week rehearsals in Pittsburgh. 

The salute was one of many highlights during the show, which opened with the outtake “Meet Me in the City” from The Ties That Bind: The River Collection box set and featured The River in its entirety for only the second time (it was first played Nov. 8, 2009 at New York’s Madison Square Garden). Springsteen told the crowd that “I wanted to make a record that was big enough so it felt like life, or an E Street Band show. I wanted a record that contained fun, dancing, jokes, good comradeship, love, faith, sex, lonely nights and, of course, tears. And I figured if I could make a recording that was big enough to contain all those things maybe I could get a little closer to the home I was searching for.” He also offered introductions to several of the album’s songs, such as “Independence Day,” “I Wanna Marry You” and “Stolen Car.”

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Springsteen and company finished the night with a selection of staples such as “Badlands,” “Because The Night,” “Backstreets,” “The Rising,” “Thunder Road,” “Born To Run” and “Rosalita.” During “Dancing in the Dark” he brought a fan onstage who held up a sign asking him to “Be My Last Dance Before I Get Married” – and then read the Save The Date card she handed him out loud. The show finished with the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” which included a snippet of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River.”

The River Tour continues Tuesday in Chicago and currently has North American dates booked through March 17 in Los Angeles. More shows in both North America and Europe have been widely rumored, but none have been formally announced yet.