Check Out Bruce Springsteen’s First Performance of “If I Was the Priest” Since 1972
Springsteen recut the strange song for his 2020 album “Letter To You” after it assisted him in getting his first record deal.Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed in the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, only hours after the band announced the dates for a North American Summer stadium tour. Springsteen sang “If I Was the Priest” for the first time in more than 50 years ten songs into the set. Here is a fantastic fan-shot video of the occasion.
Springsteen claimed to have written the song. “I was 22. 50 years back. I’m still confused as to what the fuck it’s all about.
“If I Was The Priest” was written before the E Street Band was established. Springsteen performed it twice during auditions: once in February 1972 for managers Mike Appel and Jim Cretecos and once in May 1972 for CBS Records. The last known live performance of the bizarre song took place on May 2, 1972, at New York’s Gaslight Au Go Go, a performance put together at the last minute to impress CBS executives. The song didn’t make the cut for Greetings From Asbury Park. It’s likely that he performed it a few more times that year before removing it from his live repertoire, but records from this time period are spotty. In any case, this was the song’s longest break between live performances in Springsteen’s discography.
Allan Clarke of the Hollies covered “If I Was the Priest” in 1974 as “If I Were the Priest,” but Springsteen would not release the song as an official release until 2020, when he chose to record it again with the E Street Band for Letter To You alongside “Song For Orphans” and “Janey Needs a Shooter,” two other archival songs.In an interview with The New York Times, Springsteen said, “It’s exciting to go back and see how wild and free my lyric writing was at a given point, and to be able to take that and bring it into the present with the band, and sing it in my voice right now, was a bit of a pleasure ride.”
The Houston event was significant for being the first one of the 2023 tour to open with a song other than “No Surrender” before breaking out “If I Was the Priest.” Instead, they chose the Born to Run track “Night.” After a brief Covid sabbatical, Steve Van Zandt made a comeback, however Nils Lofgren was sick and had to miss the performance. The E Street Band hasn’t performed in a public setting without Lofgren since 1981. After missing the previous two performances, violinist Soozie Tyrell was also present. Since joining the group in 2002, she has never missed a performance until this point.
On February 16, the tour will resume at the Moody Center in Austin, Texas. Hopefully the entire E Street Band will be able to perform on stage before then. On April 14, the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, will host the conclusion of this leg. Before returning to the United States in August for a stadium tour and a run of fall arena gigs, the band spends the majority of the summer in Europe. At the Chase Center in San Francisco, California, it ends on December 8.