Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Stade de France, 6-29-13
There is not much I can actually say about this show. Tonight I wrote the News report for Backstreets, which is more detailed than the reports I usually file for Brucespringsteen.net and there isn’t much I left out of the Backstreets report.
It was a Saturday night in Paris on a BITUSA anniversary and what you got was what we got the third night in Stockholm, a show for the people in the back row and the people on the side and the people drinking beer, and for the English couple we met walking back to the hotel from the Stade de France, who saw Rhianna last week and Bruce this week and sat in seats at the back of the venue. There was nothing extraordinary or incredibly special or mindblowing about this show. It was the kind of show I didn’t want to see when Bruce made the move to stadiums during BITUSA, which is why I never really saw a stadium show (more on that below). There were fun moments and great moments, and even great moments within the performance of BITUSA. But it wasn’t the kind of thing that makes us spend hours sitting on tarmac or queueing for days. On the other hand, I am pretty sure most people walked out of Stade de France thinking it was the best thing they’d ever seen, and that is why he played that kind of set and that is who he played it for.
On the other hand, the difference between that Bruce and the Bruce tonight is that the old Bruce would still challenge the people in the back rows. He would play acoustic sets in stadiums. He would do interesting things. Let’s remember that this is only holding him to the standard that HE SET. The standard that brought us here in the first place.
I disagree with everyone who says he is unengaged with the audience. I think he is very engaged with the audience. I just think he is worried about the larger audience as a whole and connecting with the person who has never seen him before than he is about connecting with the people who he already has converted into being a fan.
The worst possible offender of tonight’s set was ‘Pay Me My Money Down’. It would be fine if we just kept it about the music, because the horns are great, and the horns dancing are great, but whoever had the idea to add those ridiculous second line umbrellas to the stage for reasons that escape me completely except that yes, you could say that this particular rendition of the song was New Orleans-influenced (but you could probably say that about anything with an extensive horn arrangement in this style). But it was just so over the top and ridiculous I just did not know what to do or where to look (although I am fond of watching the horns surround Steve and mock-menace him). A Dutch fan I stood next to today said, “I really like the Seeger Sessions, it showcases Bruce as a musician, I just wish the songs were better,” to which I said a hearty AMEN.
But that changes nothing about the setlist tonight, which was as dry and rote and boring as you could possibly get.
The pre-set, on the other hand, was magic. We sat down when we entered the pit, and then there was an idiotic early stage rush, and then we tried to sit down again. I saw Gil walking out in front of the stage and had just said, ‘Hey, there’s Gil, Bruce must be here–” when we heard the guitar chords and were all PRE-SET, MOTHERFUCKERS! I think I would have paid the price of admission just to see that version of “Burning Love”. It was lovely to stand there with the Italians and the Spanish and the Dutch and the French and sing “This Hard Land” and “Growin’ Up.” It was wonderful to see our friends from Norway and the Netherlands and the extended family of 12 who drove to Gijon and then Paris and to finally meet Rene from Backstreets and learn that the Finns have a lovely and sarcastic sense of humor that would make them feel at home anywhere in New York City.
And tomorrow is another show. It could be another album or it could be something else entirely. There is no queuing tomorrow and for that I am thankful, because I could not stand there for another 12 hours for another set like tonight’s.
*[i say never really because I did see about 1/3 of one for free after sitting outside Three Rivers Stadium for most of the show, listening.]