PHILLIPSHALLE, DÜSSELDORF June 16 2005

vs.

COLORLINE ARENA, HAMBURG June 30 2005

The Phillipshalle in Düsseldorf has to be one of the most uninteresting buildings ever created for concerts – it looks a bit to me like something you mind find used for storing aircraft – added to which, it also has no obvious traffic control for patrons wishing to actually leave the place by car. I saw one of the “Tom Joad” shows here and even after 10 years, it still took a solid hour to get out of the car-park after the show…very definitely not my idea of fun but hey-ho, it’s only rock and roll, right?

The Colorline Arena in Hamburg is, on the other hand, very modern and superior in every way, right down to joining the mainstream traffic after the show. It is located directly across the road from the larger AOL Arena where Bruce appeared two years ago almost to the day, had this tour’s show not been postponed. So yes, even before the first note had been struck in Hamburg, the contrasts between the two venues were already apparent.

Other things I noticed included:

Düsseldorf: every seat was occupied.

Hamburg: there were a fair amount of empty spaces.

Düsseldorf: you could have heard a pin drop while Bruce was performing.

Hamburg: I heard a bottle drop while Bruce was performing.

Düsseldorf: the tactic Bruce executed by pulling back a little from the microphone, thereby reducing the volume just enough to make you listen a little harder, quite literally had the audience moving as one towards the stage, like we were being sucked into the performance. It was a spellbinding experience from where I was sitting.

Hamburg: same tactic, different reaction as per the impression I got that nobody around me seemed to really notice the change in volume unfortunately – for them that is!

Düsseldorf: the audience seemed to be totally in-tune with what was happening on stage.

Hamburg: the woo-wooers together with the hand-clapping element in the audience seemed to be very much out-of-tune with what was happening on stage.

To be expected? In a word, probably.

And not just because of the culture difference between the northern and central areas of Germany or the number of Dutch fans in evidence in Düsseldorf. No, I believe it was a backlash from the way the Hamburg and Berlin shows were postponed at such short notice. And without a realistic reason, who could blame the disgruntled few? Even though Bruce did offer an apology in German at the start of the Hamburg show, I’m not sure how much of it was understood.

The set lists for the shows speak for themselves and I doubt if I could add any superlatives to what has already been said about the incredible –and sometimes not easily recognisable – arrangements songs like Reason To Believe were given.

Others like Highway 29 or Incident On 57th Street were easily recognisable and simply wonderful in their stripped-down versions. Spare Parts on the other hand was so powerful, to the point where a guitar string gave up the ghost, I really thought the E Street Band had snuck on stage such was the mightiness of the delivery.

But if I had to pick just one highlight from each show, here are my choices:

Düsseldorf: I’m On Fire – never in a month of Sundays would I have imagined hearing this song begin with a whistling intro ala Roger Whitaker followed by banjo riffs! But that’s the way, uh-huh-uh-huh, we got it.

Hamburg: Janey Don’t You Lose Heart – was dedicated – very sincerely I may add – to Tracy Nurse and, was such a wonderful surprise. I’d need to do some serious research here but I’m fairly sure “Janey” is not one of the more “standard” songs from the tour.

At both shows, the last few notes of The Hitter seemed to signal the start of the stage-rush which to be perfectly honest, broke the spell Bruce had worked so hard to create as far as I was concerned. It’s funny, because I don’t actually remember any “stage-rushes” during the “Tom Joad” tour… at least, not while the show was still in progress.

For sure, each show had its “moments” for me and Bruce certainly showed his abilities and talents in a way that was both mesmerising and so full of passion. In that respect, it was a privilege to have been there.

As for a lasting impression from this tour, the image I will carry around in my head is of the wonderful silhouette shots of Bruce that were projected onto the back wall of the Phillipshalle. Think of the posters from the ’99 tour and you’ll know what I mean… and they seemed to say it all… one man and his guitar, ever so slightly larger than life.

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