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Tunnel of Love Express
Tour by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Start date February 25, 1988
End date August 3, 1988
Legs 2
Shows 67
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band tour chronology
Born in the U.S.A. Tour
Tunnel of Love Express
Human Rights Now! Tour

The Tunnel of Love Express was a concert tour featuring Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band that took place in 1988. It followed by four and a half months the release of Springsteen's 1987 album, Tunnel of Love.



One of the few Springsteen tours to be formally named, the "Express" part came from the shorter duration of the tour - roughly half his typical length - and the shorter stays in any given location, generally just one or two nights.

The United States leg of the tour took place in arenas, starting on February 25 at the Worcester Centrum and continuing for 43 shows. There were five-night stands in two major markets, at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and at New York's Madison Square Garden, whose shows closed the American leg on May 23. The European leg commenced on June 11 at the Stadio Comunale in Turin, Italy, and continued for 24 shows in arenas and stadiums, concluding the tour on August 3 at Barcelona, Spain's Nou Camp.

Most unusual of the European shows was one in East Berlin on July 19, 1988, some 16 months before the Berlin Wall came down. Some 160,000 people were in attendance at the Radrennbahn Weißensee, practically one percent of the German Democratic Republic's entire population.[1] Much of the concert was broadcast live on both state television and radio, with Springsteen being extolled by the state as a working-class American who "attack[s] social misery and injustice in his native country." Before playing Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom", Springsteen stated in phoenetically recited German, "I want to tell you, I'm not here for or against any certain government, but to play rock ’n’ roll for you East Berliners ... in the hope that one day, all barriers will be torn down." GDR officials took advantage of a tape delay to delete Springsteen's words.[1]

The tour became the first one in which Springsteen did not play his home state of New Jersey; spectulation that he would play a special series of dates there upon his return from the European leg proved unfounded.[2]

The show

Springsteen's concerts from his beginnings up through the massively popular Born in the U.S.A. Tour had been a linear progression of basically the same show, scaled to greater and greater heights. Apparently having achieved all he could along those lines, with the Tunnel of Love Express Springsteen sought to change directions.[3] The Tunnel of Love Express was, as rock author Jimmy Guterman later wrote, "a tour intended to disorient."[4]

First, the entrance of the band onto the stage, heretofore a casual affair, was now elaborate and stylized. It was set up to mimic fairgoers entering a carnival ride,[3] with Springsteen assistant Terry Magovern playing a tickettaker at the gate near an ominous sign that said, "This is a dark ride".[5] Roy Bittan was already on synthesizer as an extended intro to "Tunnel of Love" was played. Band members entered the stage two by two, each sharply dressed: Max Weinberg and Danny Federici, Garry Tallent and Nils Lofgren, The Miami Horns (an addition to the band that would be both highly visible and audible). Next came Patti Scialfa in a tight mini-skirt, big hair and carrying a bunch of balloons; a foreshadowing. Once in their positions, band members would start up on their parts in the song.[6] Penultimately, Clarence Clemons, with a single rose between his teeth. Springsteen appeared last, dressed in a jacket and white shirt that emphasized the greater formality of what was about to come.[3] Once present, the band's traditional positions on stage were flipped:[4] now Clarence Clemons on the right, Roy Bittan on the left, and so on. A small thing, but declared by Springsteen in interviews to be evidence of his desire to shake things up.

The music of the show itself was a departure, and the show overall more subdued than in the past.[3] The moody "Tunnel of Love" to open was not unexpected, but the second slot — which in past years was filled by well-known rousers such as "Badlands", "Out in the Street" or "Prove It All Night" — now was ... "Be True", an obscure B-side to the underperforming 1981 "Fade Away" single. And so the show's theme was established — an examination of relationships, often of the failed, sour variety. Theatrics were up throughout: A tortured rendition of the Biblical "Adam Raised a Cain", sitting on a park bench with Clemons in a long prologue to "All That Heaven Will Allow", throughout the horn section swooping and swaying and doing every bit of stage shtick known to horn sections.

Plenty of songs from Tunnel of Love appeared, as would be expected, and the audiences would be reasonably familiar with them, as the album had been out for a while. But obscurities continued. The first set saw "Roulette", a previously unreleased-but-discussed-among-the-faithful number about the Three Mile Island accident. The second set saw "I Am a Coward", a remake of Gino Washington's little-known 1964 local Detroit hit "Gino Is a Coward",[7] and "Part Man, Part Monkey", a never-before-heard, Springsteen-written quasi-reggae ode to the Scopes monkey trial by way of Mickey & Sylvia's "Love is Strange".[7] Audiences were bewildered. Gone completely were several of Springsteen most popular numbers and prior concert warhorses: "Badlands", "The Promised Land", "Thunder Road". The main set closer, a position long held by "Rosalita" until booted out during the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, was now held by the roadhouse-flavored, Springsteen-written-but-not-recorded "Light of Day" (it would hold this position for band tours through the end of 2000).[6]

Springsteen performing at the Radrennbahn Weißensee in East Berlin on July 19, 1988.

The encores began with Springsteen's signature song, "Born to Run", recast completely, slowly played solo by Springsteen on acoustic guitar and harmonica, albeit with the band standing behind him,[6] sometimes with an audience sing-along of "whoa-whoa's" at the end. After this, Springsteen finally retreated into normalcy, presenting top hits such as "Hungry Heart" and "Glory Days" and even, in the second encores, resurrecting a couple of veteran numbers dropped midway through the Born in the U.S.A. Tour, "Rosalita" and the "Detroit Medley" — but in the end those last too would be gone by the latter stages of the American leg, and the second encore would be filled with more regional obscurities such as The Sonics' "Have Love, Will Travel" and unlikely attempts at Roy Orbison's "Crying".

Set lists were unusually static during the tour (perhaps due to not having to play multiple shows in a venue, although some of the faithful were travelling to multiple cities to see the tour).

Bassist Tallent would later say,

The Tunnel of Love Express tour was unlike anything we'd ever done in that so much of it was staged. The band had fixed positions onstage; unlike every other time we performed live, there was really no spontaneity. We had our parts and needed to stick to them if the show was going to make any sense.[3]

During latter shows on the European leg, setlists began to change, with occasional surprise additions.[2]

Art imitating life imitating art

In addition to everything else, what was different about the Tunnel of Love Express was Springsteen's first go at explicit sexuality. From the opening "Tunnel of Love", where he and Scialfa sang cheek to cheek at the same microphone, to other numbers. A centerpiece of the second set was an eight-minute reworking of one of The River's casual rockers, "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)". Now it was recast into rockabilly mode, with a half-spoken, half-sung introduction detailing a youth's frustrations up to the iconic car parked with a girlfriend on a lovers' lane. Out come the horn section, sans horns, to do synchronized dancing[7] and sing call-and-response. Out come Scialfa and two women from backstage, three temptresses for the six assembled men. Around they circle each other, as Springsteen sings "You Can Look", resting the microphone below his belt in between lines. Finally the song winds down, as Springsteen and Scialfa stare at each other. Springsteen goes back to the drum kit, where a tray full of water and a sponge are. In tours past, this was a classic moment of Springsteen the relentless showman; he would sponge off his head, gulp down water and spray it over the stage, revitalizing himself to keep on playing for a few more hours. Now, however, he took the sponge, pulled his pants out by his belt buckle, and squeezed the water down into his crotch. Perhaps tame by the standards of Prince or Madonna at the time, but for Springsteen and his audience, a line had been crossed. When asked what he called this part of the show, Springsteen always replied, "The Aristocrats."

Critical and commercial reception

Due to the limited number of dates in each city and the continuing popularity of Springsteen from the 1984-1986 period, tickets were hard to come by. This was in the era of the "ambush sale", when often no advance word would be given of when tickets were going on sale (or bracelets for the rights to get tickets were being distributed). Thus, for example, in the weeks preceding the New York area shows, several dozen fans would gather at major Ticketmaster outlets on Saturday mornings, listening on portable radios with the idea that something might be happening right then. Most often, nothing would happen, and a rock radio disc jockey would then confirm that no tickets were going on sale that day.

Reviews of the Tunnel of Love Express were generally favorable.

Broadcasts and recordings

The first set of the July 3 show in Stockholms Olympiastadion was broadcast live on radio to an international audience. It followed tour practice except for the addition of Bob Dylan's "Chimes of Freedom" at the close, as Springsteen announced his upcoming participation in Amnesty International's Human Rights Now! Tour later that year.

The Chimes of Freedom EP, released in August 1988, included that rendition, as well as documenting three other song performances from scattered dates on the Express, including the radical simplification of "Born to Run".

Band members


E Street Band

The Miami Horns



  1. ^ a b Alterman, Eric (2001). It Ain't No Sin To Be Glad You're Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen. Back Bay. ISBN 0316039179.  pp. 247-248.
  2. ^ a b Derkins, Susie (2002). "Bruce Springsteen". Rock & Roll Hall of Famers. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 0823935221.  p. 75.
  3. ^ a b c d e Santelli, Greetings From E Street, pp. 76-77.
  4. ^ a b Guterman, Runaway American Dream, p. 173
  5. ^ Dave Marsh (2002-09-30). "To Case the Promised land". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  6. ^ a b c Guterman, Runaway American Dream, p. 174
  7. ^ a b c Guterman, Runaway American Dream, p. 175


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