AWD Arena, Hannover – 28 May 2013
There are always a few questions hovering at the back of my mind whenever I have a Springsteen concert marked on my calendar, especially when it is open-air, e.g. Will the weather hold? Will I be able to see what’s going on without having to crick my neck too much? Will Bruce and the band play my favourite songs?
Regarding the weather, I can tell you that there was none to hold prior to the Hannover concert unless you happen to have webbed feet in which case, paddle-on dude! So, when the only few hours of dry, bright weather arrived with the tour trucks and busses, one does have to assume that the maybe the sun really does shine on the righteous. The being able to see part was covered although in hindsight, maybe heels weren’t such a good idea…hmmm… and the favourite songs bit? Uh-huh… my silent wishes were somehow granted, said she smiling.
All of the above is the nut-shell version of a 3 hours 23 minutes, emotionally charged roller-coaster of a performance that left me, as in “me with 40-odd Springsteen tickets in my collection”, well and truly gob smacked. The set list seemed to drop out of the sky… it was as if Bruce’s song catalogue had been catapulted heavenward ala Angry Birds or by one of those air cannon machines that Coldplay used to blast cascades of multi-coloured confetti shapes over the audience at the same venue last September, and yeah… it was like Bruce performed the songs as they landed sort of thing… Land of Hope and Dreams, boof… No Surrender… boof-boof… We Take Care of Our Own, Wrecking Ball, My Love Will Not Let You Down (first audience request) – now THAT is what you call a hi-5! Followed by Death to My Hometown and Hungry Heart (the first of my silent requests)… small wonder Bruce’s gaze homed-in longingly on a tray of beer that was being carefully balanced by its gopher as he negotiated his way through the front of stage fan pit; thirsty man made eye contact with tantalisingly close plastic beakers which in turn made contact with thirsty man’s right hand and as Bruce glugged his way through a couple of null comma zweis (or maybe it was comma dreis), the (E Street) band played (dutifully) on. As one would expect.
Spirit in the Night signalled a walkabout in my direction! As Bruce approached, there was a bit of a surge from the people at the back and I found myself at the very front barrier, a serious Kodak moment that was captured by the film crew and shared with the entire stadium. Jake Clemons came out with Bruce for Spirit and together they performed on the little platform at the end of the stage-right runway. OK to be precise… Jake played his saxophone while Bruce sprawled himself out on the floor, face down, claiming to be feeling the effects of recently consumed null comma zweis!
At this point, someone held up a rather dramatically written sign asking for “Drift Away” offering his right testicle in lieu of the request. I guess this is a probably a boy thing but Bruce’s reaction was to collect the sign, strap on an acoustic guitar, practise the first few bars while simultaneously announcing the song to the band together with the fact that he really wanted the guy to go home with both testicles! Truly a magic moment in the history of Springsteen concerts.
The E Street Shuffle, Atlantic City, Jack of All Trades and The River followed and then silent request number two: Because The Night. I simply love this song and had a chance to see Patti Smith perform same at last year’s Bospop festival. The current arrangement that features Nils Lofgren in dervish mode as he plays the solo is particularly exciting to watch and as for him using his teeth to work the guitar strings, I sincerely hope Nils’ dentist wasn’t watching this!
Murder Incorporated, Johnny 99, Open All Night and Shackled and Drawn preceded Waiting On A Sunny Day or maybe this should be “Sonny Day” as per the youngster who had his moment, gently encouraged by Bruce who shooshed the crowd so the little boy’s voice could be heard round the stadium.
Radio Nowhere, The Rising and then Badlands with mandatory chant of course. Light of Day was minus the “I’ve travelled x-number of miles” arrangement but it still totally rocked.
Highlight/surprise/jaw-dropping moment-of-the-night #2 came with an acoustic version of… Roll of the Dice. What can I say? Nothing that would do justice to this, that’s for sure! Thank goodness for YouTube so you can see for yourself what a stunning version this was.
Born In The USA, Born To Run (silent request number three) and Seven Nights To Rock exploded one after the other – the intro to Seven Nights always throws me a curveball as it reminds me of From Small Things. Dancing In The Dark (with someone’s sister… sigh… one day Maggie… one day…),Tenth Avenue Freeze Out and to close an unbelievable show, American Land.
It took me the best part of three days to digest the content of this show and in terms of energy, this kicked Red Bull right out the park! It was the first time that Hannover (my adopted hometown) has ever been on the tour schedule and I can tell you that the fall out from the show the next morning on my local radio station, Radio 21, as well as the press reports, was sensational.
Little did I know that this would be part one of a Springsteen Summer Trilogy that would take me to Leipzig and Werchter, respectively. But it was and it did and I came away from those shows with even more musical treasures firmly embedded in my soul.
Red Bull Arena, Leipzig – 7 July 2013
It was almost 25 years to the day since Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played in this part of the world. On 19th July 1988, Leipzig was still part of the German Democratic Republic but for whatever reason, the authorities relaxed the rules about censorship “from the west” and gave permission to a political youth wing allowing them to book Bruce and the band. That summer day, in nothing more than a bog-standard few acres of field, some 300,000 East Germans witnessed a 4-hour, 32 song show, a truly historic occasion for all concerned both on and off the stage.
The Red Bull Arena stands testament to the development that has taken place since the wall separating east from west came down in 1989 and the stadium was built because Leipzig was chosen as one of the German FIFA host cities for the 2006 World Cup. Since then it has seen many a great concert as well as other significant sporting events.
We were treated to three tour premiers in Leipzig; Roulette as the opener followed by LuckyTown and a little later, You Never Can Tell. We also got a double-whammy of Sherry Darling AND Hungry Heart but the absolute highlight of the Leipzig show for me was, Back In Your Arms, a song I would describe as a “hidden Springsteen treasure”. I first heard it on the 1996 Blood Brothers video (yes, video!) and I remember being totally tangoed by it’s narrative then. The song was included in the 1998, 66-track-four-disc-box-set, Tracks, an incredible collection of B-sides, re-worked versions, demos and rare, never-before-released material and a serious must-have for any Springsteen fan’s collection. I was curious to see what Wikipedia made of the word “treasure” and I found this: concentration of riches, often one which is considered lost or forgotten until being rediscovered.
I would say that kinda sums up, Back In Your Arms, and rather than try to describe the emotions I felt or the depth of feeling that came out with every single syllable Bruce exhaled into this perfect summer evening, I will instead, direct you to the YouTube link where you will find the full, uninterrupted version for your pleasure. Just before he sang it, Bruce went on the hunt for an audience sign request muttering to himself that he was sure he had seen this earlier… thank goodness he didn’t give up until he found what he was looking for.
Bruce dedicated Born in the USA to anyone in the audience who was old enough to have been at the momentous 1988 East Berlin show and with this, he brought the entire Red Bull Arena to its feet. I honestly can not remember ever hearing such a powerful version of BITUSA, and of course as it segued into Born to Run, the momentum continued and gathered breakneck pace through the rest of the encores until the last note of the acoustic Thunder Road drifted off to join the stars that were already in situ overhead.
A. Spectacular. Show.
TW Classic, Festival Park, Werchter – 13 July 2013
The final part of my Springsteen Summer Trilogy took place at the TW Classic, a one-day rock festival in Werchter, about an hour’s drive away from Weert, Bospop’s base. It was a tough call compromising a Bospop day but as it certainly felt like the majority of central Europe was attending festivals one way or another on this particular weekend, maybe it didn’t matter too much which one you were at, as long as you were at one!
Picking my way carefully through a large mass who were already parked and enjoying the early performances from Balthazar, Blondie and Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite, I was certainly aware of Santana’s music playing in the background thinking maybe it was some cover band I’d never heard of… it was only when I tuned-in to the strains of “Maria Maria” that I actually stopped long enough to glance at the big screen and realised that I was actually listening to Carlos Santana! Note to self: check out the entire line up in future, not just the headliners! Keane were also part of the festival line up and by the time they were done, the pit area in front of the stage was jammed packed with eager fans waiting for the Springsteen show to commence.
You simply can’t compare a 60,000 strong festival show to a more “intimate” 40,000 strong stadium show but Bruce, as always, had his audience enthralled from the opening off-stage notes of Spirit in the Night and of course, the nanosecond he became visible, the place simply erupted. Songs five and six on the set list were audience requests that were attached to a giant stuffed bear and a giant stuffed duck – the bear requested Jailhouse Rock and the duck wanted Man’s Job – what the duck??!!
Ben Harper came out and joined Bruce on Atlantic City and added his own touch to this Nebraska classic. It felt a little to me like this show was racing along at an unusually faster than normal tempo and I’m guessing this was probably due to curfews. So, just when I was beginning to think along the lines of been there, done that, seen it sort of thing, the ultimate Bruce moment happened.
Bruce came out to start the encores on his own, carrying an acoustic guitar. When he announced that he was going to sing Follow That Dream, I was rooted to the spot. I have never heard Bruce’s version of this Elvis song performed live but back in ’96, I had an option on a British Airways flight to New Jersey and if I’m honest, I was a little unsure about making the trip on my own. While I was pondering on the pros and cons of making this almighty solo adventure, I put on a cassette someone had sent me and the first track I heard was: Follow That Dream.
By the end of the song, I had made my decision. I called British Airways, confirmed my flight and everything you see on this website has happened as a result of that trip.
Werchter was a relatively short show as far as the usual Springsteen standards go, consisting of a mere 26 songs but for me, Follow That Dream eclipsed everything else from Werchter and brought my personal concert trilogy to a fairy tale end. As I tucked the memories away, I simply smiled to myself and said a silent thank you to Bruce for unwittingly starting a chain of events that has impacted my life in so many ways.
Hampden Park, Glasgow – 18 June 2013
I wasn’t at the Glasgow (my real hometown) show but I’m very happy to say that I know a family who was. I met Shirley, Derek, Peter and Stephanie Dunn for the first time in 1999 in New Jersey. Back then, Stephanie was a tender 7 year old and her brother Peter was 10. Parents, Shirley and Derek, had decided to take the family on a Badlands’ “Bruce Trip” to see some of the Reunion Tour shows scheduled for Philadelphia; that was how we met and we have been friends ever since.
Glasgow had been a “lucky town” for Stephanie in the past as Bruce had chosen her sign request for Pink Cadillac in 2009. So, when I saw the picture Stephanie sent me from the family’s spot at the front of the Hampden Park pit shortly before show time, I sent a smiley wearing sunglasses back, telling them all to have a blast.
What I didn’t expect was the next picture that landed in my What’s App showing Stephanie’s “selfie” with Bruce – on stage!
Then the proverbial floodgates opened as the rest of this magic-in-the-night-and-yes-dreams-can-come-true story unfolded about how Stephanie danced, played and sang with the E Street Band.
Two days later, The Wrecking Ball tour landed in Coventry and when it came to Dancing In The Dark, the first girl Bruce pulled out in response to her, “Can I dance with Stevie?” sign, was the other young girl in the Asbury Park picture above, Sophie Bailey, who had her turn to be an honorary member of the E Street Band.
I mean, what are the odds of something like this happening??
When you look at the (rocky) ground Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band has covered during the last 2 years of touring, the feat must surely be a contender for the Guinness Book of Records. And when you look at the set lists for each of the howevermany shows they have played, you will see something unique in every single one.
Of all the reviews I have read, there is one line that stands out from the collection of endless superlatives that have been written about this tour that amused me somewhat; it referenced the horn section as being “a five-piece brass section that added girth and heft” – ?!? Dear Glasgow Herald’s Entertainment Editor – this was a Springsteen concert… not the Royal Highland Show!
Falling on a non-show night, Baillie Walsh’s rockumentary, Springsteen and I, was shown in cinemas around the globe on July 22nd. It’s basically a collection of home-made tributes from fans trying to explain the emotional intricacies of what Bruce’s music means to them… some of the fans even attempted to summarize the phenonomen in three words. A few people have asked me why I wasn’t part of this movie – I assume they were joking! But the truth of the matter is, it would take a lot more than 3 words for me to summarize what Bruce Springsteen’s music means and has meant to me ever since that morning back in 1975 when I woke up to hear Born To Run on the Noel Edmonds BBC Radio 1 breakfast show.
Or would it??
Maybe if I really tried… how about: Follow That Dream?
If your heart is restless from waiting so long
If you’re tired and weary and you can’t go on
If a distant dream is callin’ you
Then there’s just one thing you can do
Follow that dream wherever it may lead
Come on follow that dream to find the love you need
Come on follow that dream
Now I’ve been searching for a heart that’s free
Searching for someone, to search with me
I need a love, a love I can trust
Together we’ll search for the things that come to us
In dreams, wherever they may be
Come on follow that dream to find the love you need
Come on follow that dream
Now every man has the right to live
The right to a chance, to give what he has to give
The right to fight for the things he believes
For the things that come to him in dreams
As I was driving home from my local cinema after seeing the film – yes, Cinestar Garbsen was on the list along with the likes of London, Paris, Rome and New York – I switched on the radio and heard… For You.
Even though it was the Manfred Mann version, I think that sums everything up nicely and what a totally fabulous summer of music it has been.