Night 2 Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, HK Areena, Turku, Finland, 8 May 2013
The opening number can sometimes tell you a lot about what the show that follows is going to be like, and “I’ll Work For Your Love” as a show opener is a very definite statement of intent. The return of Magic material had me doing the Snoopy dance on the inside, mostly because I would have looked very stupid doing it during the song. Of course, I got to make up for it one song later when the band walked out and slammed into “Long Walk Home”. Magic! If it takes a bunch of Finnish fans to get him to remember this album and how the songs are worth playing – there were more than a few “Long Walk Home” signs – I’ll start importing them to the US personally. (Fan exchange program!)
It wasn’t like I needed to be reassured that the show would go in the right direction with these two songs as an opener, but they could have been flukes and we could have gone down the same path as the night before. But “Ties That Bind” into “Out In The Street” is an obvious yet masterful combination, speaking to the new fans and the old fans and the fans who know a couple of songs but can dig Bruce walking around the stage and the general sentiment involved in both numbers.
The “Atlantic City” sign came out of the scrum around the center platform and worked beautifully. “Wrecking Ball” came in at the right time and while I might have swapped WTCOO for “Death to My Hometown” I’m just glad to have songs from that album still being performed on the tour it is named for.
“Hungry Heart” and by now the Finns are old hat at this crowd surfing thing; there was a throng there to catch him as he entered and they carefully and correctly steered Bruce back to the stage in record time. (Nils had tweeted about this earlier in the evening, and one of the leaders of the queue came out and read it to everyone when we were waiting to enter the building.)
And then, we came to the signs. Part of my heart sunk when he started collecting the signs, but then it kind of became obvious that he was collecting some of the signs to say thank you and to be polite and to acknowledge the fans who brought them as much as it was to grab a couple of ideas to augment the setlist with. I mean, maybe he would have brought out the tuba for “Wild Billy” but it was a very cool sign that deserved recognition and I’m glad that the fans got it. But the fans in Turku got the early material that they wanted to hear, “Blinded” and “Bus Stop,” both of which made me feel guilty for being a native English speaker as the fans around me who had been so vocal previously reserved their participation for the choruses.
When Bruce displayed the sign for “Ain’t Good Enough For You” I felt like I was going to blast off into orbit. There had been soundcheck rumors (which I tried not to hear) and then when we walked into the building, a friend right in the stage corner yelled that the lyrics on the runway were for that song. This was not the request I made to Bruce on Sunday in Stockholm and I had nothing to do with this request aside from being annoying with a bright yellow sign for it all last year (which Bruce saw three times and three times specifically gave me a very clear ‘no’ to). I am lucky; I was there in the Carousel House when the song was first played live; I loved it then, I love it now. If you’ve heard the version in Oslo, that’s more like a dress rehearsal; this was a fully prepared, very rehearsed and arranged song, and the crowd loved every single bit of it, every moment of it. Bruce gets to do his Jackie Wilson strut along the front of the stage, there’s a chance for a lot of interaction, what’s not to love about this song? The fans down front sang the chorus melody from the opening note, and there was no shortage of people to yell “Jimmy Iovine” into the mic at the appropriate interval. Maybe now that it’s rehearsed and the crowd so clearly dug it – even the casual fans in the club level! – that it could take the place of other songs with extensive crowd participation? (No names, no names.)
I had just recovered from the previous number when Bruce stalks purposefully out onto the center platform looking for a very specific sign. I was taking a drink of water and am grateful that I finished swallowing before Bruce held up the sign. I’m glad Bruce up the sign for “Wages of Sin” because even though I knew he was playing “Wages of Sin” and the words were running through my brain, if he hadn’t held up the sign I would have been standing there saying, “It sure sounds like he’s playing ‘Wages of Sin’ but that can’t actually be possible, so I must have passed out from dehydration or something.”
I held my breath. I closed my eyes. I opened them again. I watched Max hitting the cymbals with the mallets like he was a percussionist in an orchestra. I could feel Roy’s piano, weaving its way through Bruce’s vocals. I am most amazed I think at how Bruce hit the exact right emotional tone, the right tension, as though he’d performed the song dozens of times before. “Wages of Sin” always felt like a movie soundtrack to me and I wish I had been less stunned by the whole thing, and more able to just breathe and take it all in. Everyone was just magnificent: Roy, the horns, Max, Steve and Garry standing inward, facing Bruce, wanting to be sure they got this exactly right.
They got this exactly right.
“The River” was the perfect song to follow it up, because it resonates so hard in Europe, they sing it like they sing “Thunder Road”. So no momentum was lost, everyone’s attention that might have wandered during an unfamiliar song that had never been played before was immediately back on the stage. People around us took out their phones and called their friends. It was a big deal. It is a big deal.
“Youngstown” next was like greeting an old friend, and when my co-conspirator leaned over and said, “‘Murder, Inc.’ next,” I thought he was just being optimistic. But as Nils was bringing his closing solo down to the end, Bruce continued to encourage him to raise it back up again a little, then a little more, then a little more. Bruce changes guitars, and stands there hitting the body of his guitar as Nils finishes one more wave, then another one. And then as soon as Nils is done, Bruce slides right into the intro to “Murder, Inc.” and the pit went apeshit. It was hot. It was steamy. It was intense. It was an astonishing run of songs, and then just when it’s starting to end, Bruce and Steve face off for the gunfight at the OK Corral just like old times. It was one of those moments where Bruce finishes his solo and looks Steve right in the eye with that “HERE, NOW” look, and then Steve meets his gaze and pulls off the kind of guitar work we know and love him for. They went back and forth and back and forth and you just didn’t want it to end. The Reunion Tour came back to Finland for one night.
“Johnny 99″ caused me to ask the question that occurs to me from time to time, which is: who, exactly, does mix Tanqueray and wine? (Also in that vein: engines don’t have keys, and a one-legged dog couldn’t actually GO anywhere). It seems so funny that at one point I was so adamantly against the zydeco Johnny 99 and then I remember, I love it now because of the E Street Horns. And I love the jump blues version of “Open All Night” for the exact same reason: we have this amazingly talented group of horn players who can play the shit out of anything and take it to another level. They can rock and swing and boogie and also, actually, physically dance, and have a sense of humor and clearly have fun doing their job, but do their job as horn guys and blend into the background.
“Shackled and Drawn” was a chance to drink some water, and when that’s what I’m using this song for, it’s been one hell of a night, because I love the chance to use the singers on this particular number. It’s also one hell of a night when I am actively applauding the child brought onstage during “Waiting On A Sunny Day.” This was a 11 or 12 year old Finnish kid who must have somehow gotten ahold of Bruce, because he clearly knew what this young man was going to do. The kid took a piece of paper out of his pocket, which Bruce then held up for him, exchanging it for the microphone. This was apparently a rap about the E Street Band and the price of being on the rail was that I could not actually hear what he was saying. But hey, something cool and unusual and positive and not a party trick for once!
I will never get a decent shot of Bruce throwing the guitar to Kevin.
“Lonesome Day” was fresh and felt like an old friend; I had a big wave of Rising tour deja vu come over me. “Badlands” was bringing us into the home stretch, it was the last lap — and then “Racing In The Street,” the final dedication of the night. It was an odd place for it, and although it was wonderful and beautiful and powerful like it always was, it was almost odd to have it not be the emotional cornerstone of the set.
“Born In The USA” thunders out of the stage and the rail vibrates and I wish I had ear plugs. Everyone is on their feet, the arena is echoing like a stadium, Garry holds his bass straight up in the “10 years down the road” verse, as though in salute.
House lights, and here we are in encore territory now. The New Tenth is still thorny, Bruce forgetting Max as he rushed through the intro – we all yelled, YOU FORGOT MAX and then just laughed. I think he is trying to do too much in that short space, introduce the band and then hop on the piano and then cue the horns.
[The horns. Having the horns on Tenth Avenue Freeze-out will never stop being a source of joy and wonder and happiness. Every time I hear those horns I am hearing them for the first time, when I brought home my first copy of Born To Run and heard that indescribable, beautiful sound. To be able to hear them play that riff night after night after night (sorry) is one of the reasons I do this as often as I can. I am that 14 year old girl every time I hear the intro horn riff to "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out."]
The tribute video seems different yet again, shortened in new places, but then something went wrong tonight during ‘this is the important part’. I do not want this dropped from the set until Bruce wants to drop it from the set but I think it could use just the tiniest bit of work to make it go smoother.
Bruce turned around at the end of “Tenth” and I watched him say the words “American Land.” Although I was miserable for a few seconds it was absolutely the right thing to do at that moment for this audience, for the people upstairs who don’t know “Wages of Sin” and might not be able to name every member of the E Street Band, their energy carried the show tonight as much as the diehards down front did. This was a show where Bruce read the audience exactly right, where he paced the setlist exactly right, where he called audibles exactly right, where he varied material and albums and rarities in one of the most masterful ways I have ever witnessed — and then proceeded to deliver the material with power and aplomb and some of the finest work I have ever seen from this version of the E Street Band.
We walked outside a little after 10pm and the sun was low in the horizon with the kind of color I have never seen before. I took a deep breath of the very clean air, and said, “Hey, I’m in Finland!” Then I said, ‘Wages of Sin’!” And then I was very, very glad the HK Areena only had 11k seats and the tour snob in me needed to see a show in a venue that small.
Thank you, Finland.