Those were more concert experiences. The sets would change. This is a locked-in piece of music and script that I’m going to be performing pretty much the same on a nightly basis. It’s a solidified piece of work. And I think the intimacy of the venue is going to really affect it, to make it quite a bit different from the acoustic tours. Though I don’t know if I’d be doing this without the experience of doing them. When I recorded “Nebraska” back in the ’80s, I didn’t tour on it because I wasn’t sure if I could.
Are you using video?
Basically it’s a one-man show. There’s no production beyond the stage, some lights and some very high-quality sound. I thought anything beyond the song and the story ended up feeling too rigid and distracting. It happens every time we go to do a tour, you know?
You did a VH1 Storytellers with some extensive spoken interludes [in 2005].
That would be the closest thing to what I’m doing now. When I did the VH1 thing, Elvis Costello came up to me later and said, “Gee, it created some third entity.” And that’s what I’m interested in doing with the show. I’m playing familiar music, but I believe it will lead you to hear it with very fresh ears by the context that I set it in. I always make a comment that when things are working in art, one plus one equals three.
I think an audience always wants two things. They want to feel at home and they want to be surprised. And I go out every time to do those two things. I try to make people feel that they’ve come to some place that they’ve known for a long time, and then also try to surprise them with some new insights or new forms or new energy or just a new way of doing something. You’ve got to have that X factor. If you don’t have that, you’re dead in the water.
Do you go to Broadway shows?
We go on occasion. I saw “Hamilton.” I guess that was the last thing I’ve seen. It was great.
But you didn’t try to write a Broadway musical.
That’s tough! I salute the guys that have given that a shot. It’s not the same rules as pop music writing. It’s a completely different format, and I think it takes a set of completely different skills. It’s not like, oh, I’ll write 12 songs and kind of stick them together somehow. The guys I know who tried it really gave a good shot at it. My friend Sting, I thought, did a great job [with “The Last Ship”]. But it’s a different thing conceiving it from the…