Night 3 Review: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Friends Arena, Stockholm, 11 May 2013
I reviewed this show for brucespringsteen.net. If you loved tonight’s show you should go read that one.
I am not sure when, exactly, I started to lose hope in tonight’s setlist. I was happy to see “The Promised Land” in a spot befitting it, opening the set. “Out In The Street” made sense as the second song on a Saturday night. I couldn’t bitch about Wrecking Ball songs being high in the set given how much I bitch about Wrecking Ball songs not being in the set.
Thinking about it now, I believe the real moment that my hope balloon deflated was the beginning of “Spirit.” My word, if you’d told me in 1999 that I’d be bitching about “Spirit In The Night” being performed every night I would have told you that you were high. I think it was when I rattled off, “The E Street Band has come thousands of miles tonight and we need to know the answer to just one question: When are you going to find another song to put in this spot?” before Bruce even had a chance to open his mouth.
[It's not even me complaining about shtick because I like shtick. Or at least I like pretty much every hokey thing Bruce Springsteen has ever done (okay, there are some articles where I bitched about the tree and the bear on the BITUSA tour, grumbling that Bruce was no longer letting us use OUR IMAGINATIONS when he told stories). I believe in the basic premise that if the man asks for a train, you give him a train, or you are at the wrong concert.]
A stadium Born In The USA show is still such an odd experience for me. I skipped those shows back in the day not because I wasn’t a fan or couldn’t get tickets, but because the music I loved wasn’t in stadiums. That was for, like, the Rolling Stones, and it was a spectacle and less a concert than more an opportunity to spend time in the same basic location as the artist you went to see. I saw two arena shows and then kind of shrugged when the stadiums came along, figuring I’d catch up later at some point. Nothing can compare to the Springsteen frenzy of the 80s but standing on the rail tonight, I kind of wondered if this was what it was like, in some fashion (sorry).
I will be exceedingly precious and state that I care far less about the emotional integrity of the presentation of Born In The USA than I do Born to Run or Darkness (or anything else, but let’s be real, he’s not going to do The River or Greetings or WEISS ever again). I care less about the emotional integrity but I think it was preserved the best in, of all things, “Glory Days”. It FELT like we were in the back room at Maxwell’s a little bit, it was cheesy and hokey and over the top and everything that BITUSA was back in the day. It was, surprisingly, my favorite part of the album performance tonight.
People around me were going completely crazy for every song on the record and there are people in the crowd tonight who will never have another chance to hear some of those songs, and I was happy for them. Absolutely. Completely. I don’t even have a problem with an album show per se, I just have a problem with what Bruce does around the album shows. For some reason this is hugely challenging to him. It’s tempting to say “and tonight he didn’t even try” but I think tonight he tried to put together a big stadium show for a Saturday night and he succeeded at that 100%. I just don’t know why he felt he needed to do it on the third night in Sweden where there were 900 people queued by 4 p.m. and the most popular song I saw a sign for was “The River”. I know, that’s the pit, and the pit is not the rest of the stadium, but this is Sweden, where every newspaper had a special Springsteen section in it this weekend, and they all referred to him as “Bruce”.
His connection with this country and these people is really something, which is exactly why, after delivering 45 minutes of your biggest hits ever, you could turn around and pull out something different. I’m not even expecting “Wages of Sin” or anything on that level. But even “Ramrod” instead of “Twist and Shout” or “The River” instead of “The Rising” would have been a marked improvement. I expected to get some River-era material tonight for sure. I would have even welcomed more material from Magic; hell, I would have welcomed grabbing the sign request from the center platform for “Girls In Their Summer Clothes”. There were just so many missed possibilities tonight.
I am still not very sure what happened, or how this show went off the rails. At first I thought, it’s the syndrome where night 2 is better than night 3. Then I thought, he’s had too much time off and fell out of the discipline of extended soundchecks. I worry that he is tired; I know everyone will vigorously tell me that that is not true and I am wrong but he just looks more tired than he did last year, and it feels like his energy is on a slightly lower level. (I say that knowing that ‘lower level’ for Bruce Springsteen is higher than most people on a good day.)
Good things: Steve is engaged and active on a level I have not seen in years; it is fantastic. The horns are an absolute delight to watch and listen to. The band is playing on a very high level and it’s not like the performance was dull or lazy or lacking, it was just not the most exciting setlist ever.
I had a great spot on the rail; I met a bunch of great, interesting people. The queue was reasonable although the trek to the stadium was a pain in the ass and I am very glad to be done with that. (Who builds a new stadium and has shows there before there is transit even remotely adjacent? The Swedes!) I loved Sweden. I loved Finland. The fans here are awesome, and I am very sorry I did not come here sooner to see shows. I am going to remain optimistic that Bruce will work out the kinks in the setlist and that Copenhagen and Herning will be great shows and the rest of the summer tour will go on in fine form.
Thanks to everyone who found me and thanked me or complimented me or got me to sign a book. It is still the weirdest and most awesome thing.
See you in a couple of weeks.