Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, 11 July, 2012, Synot Tip Arena, Prague, Czech Republic
If you want the good review of Prague, go to Backstreets.com and read Glenn’s, as it’s far more concise than I could possibly manage. We arrived in Prague from Paris, deliberately skipping Zurich so we could have extra time in Prague. That meant that when we found out that there was a queue at the arena on Monday, we could head down and get numbers and spend the next two and a half days on the outskirts of Prague, sitting in a parking lot and waiting for GA line check-ins, riding a tram and waiting for GA line checkins, buying chairs at the Tesco Extra (Americans, think: Super Target) and waiting for check-ins (best 249 Kr we ever spent), applying sunscreen, hoarding water bottle caps, and – waiting for check-ins.
I was #12. I had imagined that I was going to end up on one of the corners or one of the sides of the center runway, but the line went well and the first members of the line (sisters Victoria and Claudia from Spain, who were there with their parents, who sat with them in the line but were just going to the back of the pit; when I expressed my pleasure at their parenting skills, they explained that their parents got the daughters into Bruce in the first place, so it was their fault) went to the side of the center runway. As things shook out in that split second that you have to make a decision, I ended up on the front of the center runway.
You have to understand this never happens. I spent a lot of time with my elbows on the stage during Rising but since then, I have no luck with the lottery system and as a result, buy a lot of the side stage/behind stage seats because at least I know I am in and I can see. Despite being stationed behind the stage right monitor, I didn’t have a lot of room to take notes, nor the presence of mind to do so. It took a lot of effort to take the photos that I did take, because when Bruce Springsteen is standing over you dripping sweat, you aren’t thinking ‘Gee, I should take my camera out.” You are thinking things like ‘He always looks so much older closer up” and “There are grey hairs in his eyebrows, I don’t remember those” and “There are polka dots on the back of his vest, I have never noticed that before” and “How on earth does he have a tshirt under a button-down under a vest and that tie.” I wish I had taken a closer look at his boots (they have silver studs on them). There were, admittedly, plenty of views of his ass but he loses so much weight on tour, and having had him crowdsurf over me before (we were the first victims!) I know it is basically bony at this point.
It is overwhelming being in the front of the runway. It is easier in the stadium because there is some distance, but it is still very much this sense of ‘here is this person I see all the time in photos, and now he is right here, and I am touching his guitar and I am smacking his hand as he walks by and sticks his hand out’. It takes you back. It makes you feel young. It is exciting, and anyone who tells you that it isn’t is 1) lying 2) jaded and should take a time out. It is rock and roll. It is electric.
When “Spirit In The Night” started, I leaned over and told Glenn, “Take lots of photos.” (He obliged.) I expressed earlier my dislike for the new gospel intro and outré to the song, but tonight it was tighter and crisper and had to admit that it worked and I liked it. Once again, Jake and Bruce picked up their Paris 2 shtick and brought it to the center steps, and then down at the end of the platform. (When Jake got there, I said something like, “Don’t worry, Jake, we won’t bite.” He didn’t look convinced.)
“This Hard Land” was somehow perfect for the crowd and the setting, just like the acoustic “Ghost of Tom Joad” as the intro also fit beautifully. I loved hearing Bruce talking about hanging out with Vaclev Havel; we had spent part of Monday following a walking tour of the important landmarks of the Velvet Revolution. “Atlantic City” was one of those odd “I am singing a song about a town in New Jersey most of these people have never been to and will never go to, thousands of miles away from it.” “My Love Will Not Let You Down” was one of those moments that you go to see Bruce Springsteen in Europe for, where you become one of the hundreds of people bouncing up and down with their fists raised, singing the words in whatever their particular language is.
“Working On The Highway” was ubercharged tonight, extra pelvis thrusts (no doubt the result of two sides of the runway being completely female for a refreshing change).The cowboy hat was pink, handed up by Sarah who had the sparkly hat in Paris. Bruce puts it on and models it for the crowd, turning to face the video camera operator who puts him on the sidestage screens so he can see himself. (This was preceded earlier by the “I’m Sexy And I Know It” sign, which got the desired result of Bruce pulling it up and hamming for the crowd.)
This is where I really need to praise the improvement of the video footage over the last few tours. This is the first time that I feel like it enhances the show and isn’t a distraction, where it gives you what you need to look at when you need to look at it. There are crowd shots but there aren’t too many and they don’t shoot fans singing along at the expense of something they should show onstage.
I love turning around and watching the crowd, but could not believe that they were sitting down. They would play two more songs, and I would turn around again, and they would still be seated in the stands. But there is nothing Bruce Springsteen loves more than a challenge, whether it is rain or heat or power failures or people sitting on their hands. He could have played it safe and played a string of “Bobby Jean” and “No Surrender” and “Lonesome Day” (which is what would have happened on previous tours) and he didn’t . This is amazing. This is remarkable. (This is also neither of those things because this is Bruce Springsteen.)
This was my first “Shackled and Drawn” with Cindy down front, and she is absolutely amazing. I wish Bruce could figure out more ways to use the E Street Choir (and for fuck’s sake please bring back “Rocky Ground” already). “The River” is a natural in Europe, they love this song so, so much. “Land of Hope and Dreams” gets better every single time I hear it, the arrangement has gelled and they can just play the fuck out of it now.
“Thunder Road” is clearly going to be the song that gets me this tour, the universality of it, the singing it with every person around you, of every age and from more countries than you would ever imagine. “Born In The USA” was another stellar version, exorcising the years of bad synthesizers right out of it. The crowd loved it. I never sing “Born In The USA” back home because I don’t want anyone to think I am one of those people who doesn’t understand what it’s really about, but it was easier to do in Europe.
By the time he pulled out ‘Seven Nights To Rock” we had broken curfew and I was starting to wonder where I was going to find more energy. (I found it.) “Tenth” was without an audience walk now that we’re in the stadiums, so he came to the front of the center platform, standing there with the mic in the air as we yelled CLARENCE and BIG MAN and other people just cheered it all, all around us.
The encore was hysterical, Bruce asking Stevie and Garry if they know what time it is, and they all go along with the shtick of shaking their heads and pointing to their wrists and no, Boss, I don’t know what time it is, and then Bruce says, “We can’t go home, it’s too early,” and — of course you knew what it was, “Twist and Shout”. You want to go to Europe to dance to “Twist and Shout” in a stadium with European fans, you want to jump and dance and do the frug (okay, we tried, there wasn’t a lot of room). We shook our asses as hard as we could, we bumped butts with each other, we waved our hands in the air and generally made complete idiots of ourselves, and I never wanted it to end, I wanted it to go on all night.
The front of pit crowd was incredibly international. Particularly visible was an enormous Polish contingent (who knew my very Polish neighborhood back home in Brooklyn!), the folks from Greece who were at the beginning of the queue (and who were responsible for the “My Love Will Not Let You Down” sign request), and enough residents of the Tri-State area to have found ourselves in a spirited debate earlier in the day regarding the northernmost WaWa in New Jersey and the quality of the coffee at the 7-11 next to the Windmill in Long Branch. We met some fans from Finland while waiting for the tram (people would get on and hold up their hand with their GA number on it like some kind of secret sign).
At the end of it all, you stand there and watch the band leave, and then watch Bruce turn to wave again, and salute the crowd, and then you stand there and shake your head and think, THAT JUST HAPPENED, and then you hug everyone around you and exchange email addresses and find your way out of the stadium, another incredible night for the memory books.
If you are new to the blog, I’ve been writing for Backstreets for the last 10 years, am reporting on this leg of the European tour, and am working on an upcoming ebook about the European shows. You can sign up for my mailing list at this link if you’d like to get very occasional notices about my new Bruce writing.