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A guide to Bruce Springsteen’s long-awaited return to Vegas

The wait is over, 4,230 days later.

Bruce Springsteen last played Las Vegas on Aug. 18, 2002, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

He’s done seven tours since, performing hundreds of shows, playing everywhere from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Oslo, Norway.

And yet every time, Vegas was left off the list.

Why?

Only The Boss knows, but maybe he’ll share a little insight when he finally takes the stage locally once again at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Because it’s been so long since Springsteen hit town, we put together a handy concert guide to help prepare you for his return.

Wear comfy shoes

“Life is a marathon, not a race,” a wise man once said.

Actually, it was Dr. Phil who coined the phrase, but let’s not split (brick-thick facial) hairs.

Point is, Bruce Springsteen gigs have long been known for being, well, long — and this is a good thing. It’s like the rock ’n’ roll equivalent of the all-you-can-eat breadsticks at Olive Garden, sans the carbs and shame.

Now, The Boss isn’t turning in the kind of record-setting, four-hour-long shows he did back in 2016 during select dates of his “50 Gallon Drums of Redbull and Fistfuls of Trucker Speed Tour.” (OK, it was actually “The River Tour.” Again with the nitpicking!)

But he still performed for a solid three hours and played over two dozen songs a night on average during last year’s “Springsteen and E Street Band 2023 Tour,” the next leg of which launched Tuesday in Phoenix.

Be prepared to pace yourself as the show comes to Vegas — when Springsteen plays “Prove It All Night,” he’s speaking literally.

Maybe bring a hanky as well

Three tunes in, he finds himself in fate’s crosshairs.

“Time is my hunter,” Springsteen sings over stirring, cresting guitars on “Burnin’ Train,” from his most recent studio album, 2020’s “Letter to You.”

“Take me and shake me from this mortal cage,” he adds a few refrains later as if watching the sand in an hourglass pile up — and reckoning with it in song.

It’s a theme that pervades the record, which looks back on a life closer to its end than its beginning.

“One minute you’re here,” Springsteen sings on the album-opening song of the same name. “Next minute you’re gone,” setting the tone for a reflective yet rousing record, in which emotions and guitars ring out loudly in unison.

This same spirit of remembrance informed Springsteen’s most recent tour, which had its tear-jerking moments.

During “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” for instance, images of late band members Daniel Federici and Clarence Clemons, who died in 2008 and 2011, respectively, were displayed on video screens.

The show then ended with Springsteen alone onstage, performing an acoustic version of “Letter” closer “I’ll See You in My Dreams.”

“Death is not the end,” Springsteen sings on the tune.

Speaking of which …

Get ready to ‘Twist and Shout’ (maybe)

It’s like a vampire’s bite, a great song.

It can grant a measure of immortality to those who made it, a gift of timelessness even after their time on Earth has expired.

That’s what the Commodores’ 1985 hit “Nightshift” is all about: a stirring tribute to soul titans Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, both of whom died the year before, a reminder that even though they’re gone, their voices will never follow suit.

Springsteen delivers a poignant, impassioned reading of the song on his 2022 covers album, “Only the Strong Survive,” continuing a theme of reflection that began on “Letters.”

The song was a set list staple during Springsteen’s touring last year, played almost nightly, along with the band’s well-traveled take on the Patti Smith Group’s “Because the Night,” a fan favorite for decades now.

Cover tunes have always been part of the Springsteen live experience, and the band’s most recent outing included — at various dates — airings of Jimmy Cliff’s “Trapped,” The Weavers’ “Pay Me My Money Down,” Ben E. King’s “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” The Top Notes’ “Twist and Shout,” Moon Mullican’s “Seven Nights to Rock,” Tom Waits’ “Jersey Girl” and The Standells’ “Dirty Water.”

But out of all these songs, it was “Nightshift” that the band performed the most, playing it at all but two shows.

“Gonna be some sweet sounds / Comin’ down / On the nightshift,” Springsteen intones in his take on the tune. “I bet you’re singing proud,” he notes at song’s end, leading by example.

Expect a few surprises and lots of standards

Like those tramps in “Born to Run,” Springsteen set lists were once defined by impulsiveness.

Sure, there have always been staples, those classic cuts that are as much a part of the Springsteen live experience as the sweat on The Boss’ brow.

But from one show to the next, you never quite knew what to expect song-wise, as Springsteen and company were fond of mixing it up.

These days, the band has settled into more of a solidified set list for a given tour.

Of the 26 songs Springsteen played on average during each date of his previous outing, half of them were performed every night, with another 10 aired at most shows.

This still leaves room for variance and a few surprises.

Vintage cuts such as “Atlantic City,” “I’m on Fire,” “Ramrod” and “Night,” to name but a few Springsteen chestnuts rarely played in recent years, all popped up here and there.

But mostly you’re going to get a lot of songs you know by heart, from “Dancing in the Dark” to “Badlands” to “The Rising.”

And as for all those “Glory Days”?

Yeah, they’ll pass you by.

But not just yet.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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