Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, RDS Arena, Dublin, 18 July 2012
The rain had stopped and the skies had cleared and we heard the guitar before we saw Bruce coming out onstage, strumming “This Hard Land,” solo acoustic, for Dublin. “This Hard Land,” and suddenly no opening song could possibly be any better for any place, and we knew this one was going to be a keeper.
Just in case we weren’t sure, he led with the powerhouse, reeling in the crowd: “No Surrender,” “Two Hearts” (with extra oomph from Stevie), “Ties That Bind,” so that when he went into WTCOOO, the crowd were already eating out of his hand. “Badlands” next sealed the deal, and made me wonder if he would start to phase out “Wrecking Ball” (which has grown on me at this point, because it remains a great musical composition and is performed well every time).
When he hit “Something In The Night” next, Glenn leaned over and said “It’s Paris all over again.” It wasn’t Paris — it was outside, it was twice as big, and it was still light out — but it was everything night one wasn’t (and night one was still a fine, fine show). Night one was overwhelmed by the distraction of Hyde Park and the needing to make a statement without making a statement, of wanting to make a point without having to issue a press release, and I think it got in the way just a little. People in the crowd loved the business with the switch (and the people near us told us they hoped he did it again tonight so they could see it) but there was definitely a price.
Bruce hits a chord, I say “Adam” and Glenn confirms it. “Adam Raised A Cain,” you would think this wouldn’t work in the light but it works, with a blistering solo that had him pounding the body of the guitar in satisfaction when it was done. You were ready for a cigarette by the time Bruce decided to bring out “Wrecking Ball,” “Death to my Hometown” and “My City of Ruins”. It was during the roll call that something clicked and I realized that the Apollo Medley had been AWOL since Paris, since he can’t work the crowd in the stadiums and it just doesn’t play. This then led to me thinking how sad I was that Michele Moore didn’t get more to do onstage.
This would be very funny to recall later.
Tonight we did not queue, we came into the pit just after the queues had been let in and found a likely spot about even with Patti’s mic, about 20 rows back. The key was that the people in front of us were short. Things were fine, until we started chatting with the women in front of us (who had travelled down from near Belfast) and they informed us that the two tall people in front of them had their daughters in tow, and had told everyone around them that the girls would be on their shoulders for the entire show. The ladies soon moved right in front of the parents, but then we had to maneuver ourselves. Eventually, I went to one side, where we were now between the parents and a bunch of 20 something dudes who had smuggled in at least four bottles of vodka.
I chose to just make friends with the drunk guys, and it was the best decision we could have made. They were fans, they had been to the shows in 2009, they had dragged their non-fan friend with (who wanted to talk with us about Jay-Z and Kanye instead). They weren’t assholes, they were just 20-something dudes who wanted to party at the Springsteen show. They became our staunchest allies against the parents, who were later defeated soundly by the three 20-something girls who wanted to jump up and down and sing every single song the entire night, and they moved up right behind us. The ringleader kept apologizing for bumping into us and we kept telling her that it wasn’t a problem and that she was amazing. (She was.)
“Spirit” was wavering a little, it was not the most focused introduction, but it was a fine “Spirit In The Night’ nonetheless. Unfortunately, due to Jake’s unfortunate incident (he sneezed and had a back spasm, was wheeled out onto the stage and was confined to a stool on the horn riser for the night) he couldn’t join Bruce for an exploration down at the front. Instead, Bruce sang to him from there:
“Jake, are you back there?”
“How’s the back?”
Bruce cracked up, and went back to join him in solidarity.
(Later, Drunk Guy Who Liked Kanye leaned over to Glenn and said, “What’s the name of the guitarist with the bandanna?” “Steve.” “I like him.”)
A sign commemorating a fan’s 100th show resulted in “Jackson Cage,” which Bruce had to have been thinking about in advance in a segment that included “Jackson Cage,” “She’s The One,” “Jack of All Trades” and “Atlantic City.” When the drumbeat started for the latter, Glenn turned to the drunk guys and said, “Hey, who wanted to hear this one?”
“What is it?”
“It’s ‘Atlantic City’!”
A great HOORAY went up and the culprit came forward and put his arms around two of his friends and his face lit up so bright it made you just a little misty. And we sang about the Chicken Man together, two kids from Brooklyn and a bunch of kids from Dublin, and it was amazing.
Everyone loves “Because The Night,” I’m convinced, and it worked, it worked even going into “Darlington County,” which we sang like we had never heard it before, cheering every mention of New York City. “Sunny Day” had the camerawoman following Bruce around, and Bruce turning and mugging into the camera, to which my reaction was, “A Mr. Hewson for you on line 3. He says to stop stealing his bit.”
The band were set up for something when Bruce changed direction and everyone left and he headed for the piano, and with the initial exploratory chords I realized we were getting Sign Show Delay Syndrome, and hoped that our Dutch friend from the night before was still in the audience somewhere, as the sign for “The Promise” came to fruition. That was the one moment I wished that the drunk guys were just a little quieter (but they did try to talk quietly, at least) and I’m not sure everyone knew the song (okay, I am actually pretty sure about this) but that moment of Bruce trusting the audience was amazing, and they equally trusted him and gave him that moment to play something they might not have known.
The initial chords of “The River” resulted in the loudest crowd roar yet, and great jubilation in our section of the crowd, young and old. Drunk guys pounded each other on the back, yelling, “This is the best song in the world!” Glenn got corralled into their group during the singalong part, which is the best compliment they could have given us (well, besides continually offering us vodka mixed with various things).
“Backstreets”! No, seriously, “Backstreets.” Arms in the air, random people jumping up and down in excitement, the spotlight on Bruce, guitar aloft in salute, even if people didn’t recognize the song they knew it was an important moment. Everyone shut up. Everyone paid attention. The dancing girls swayed quietly, the drunk guys stood and stared at the stage.
When the next song was “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” my first thought was “Wait, we’re at the end of the show?” My second thought was, “Holy crap, how about that Promise/River/Backstreets segue.” But there were a lot of those tonight, those deliberate sequences and placings, it was a night where Bruce was firing on all cylinders, but most of all, in terms of craft and tension and pacing and tone.
“Born In The USA” had everyone going nuts all around us, jumping and dancing and yelling and screaming. I thought, “David Brooks is an asshole.” I thought, “David Brooks never stood with a bunch of kids from Dublin singing Bruce Springsteen songs.” Then I stopped thinking and started jumping up and down with the girls. “Born To Run” and the stadium lights come to life and we are all singing together, everyone around us, every single word of every single line. I do not know how anyone anywhere could ever get tired of “Born To Run.” “Glory Days” was exactly what the crowd wanted next, and then it was time for “7 Nights To Rock”. No one really knows “7 Nights” but as I have posited in the past, what makes it a good encore number is that it’s not tired and worn out and it’s easy to pick up on the chorus, which is what everyone around us did, leaving us to sing the lines about the Lion’s Den and the Chatterbox. Then we all danced together for “Dancing In The Dark,” jumping up and down one more time, as we consider whether we are heading towards the exit during “Twist and Shout” or whatever is going to be next.
Whatever is going to be next, except Michele Moore is off the riser and standing next to Bruce and I think that there is no way on God’s green earth that they could be planning to perform “Rocky Ground” right now, in front of a stadium, but Max starts hitting the rim of the snare with the drumstick and Bruce starts talking and I wonder how this is going to work and if everyone is going to start talking or leaving or somehow break the magic, but the magic holds hard, and Michele starts singing and then people quietly join in, singing the chorus, nodding their head, cheering in recognition. The fans know the new songs almost better than the old rarities, they know USA most of all but they know the new record too, and they are happy to hear the new record, because they have also heard just about everything they had wanted to hear. It is still beautiful and powerful and my favorite thing since Tunnel. They do the rap crowd thing of waving their arms in the air during Michele’s spoken word part. The horns are lovely. The horns are under-appreciated. The horns are the best thing since sliced bread.
We consider heading out during “American Land” but everyone is having too much fun so we stand and clap along, maybe there will be “Twist and Shout,” maybe there will be something else (it is time for something else, I think) but “American Land” is it, and the band are leaving, and we wait patiently for Jake to be helped off the riser and into the wheelchair and wheeled down the ramp, and Bruce waves goodbye. We are not rushing towards the exit to get a jump on the crowd, because we are shaking hands with the ladies from Belfast and bro-hugging and shaking hands with the drunk guys, and the dancing girls are hugging us and telling us that they hope to see us in America some day.
It was a fine, fine way to end the European run.
Thank you all for coming along on my European trip. I appreciate the comments and the Tweets. As a reminder, I 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. You can also find out about my novel over to the left of this page. Thank you again for your support!