In this heady Rock and Roll concert going life that I live, I have started to get to a point where there are not too many artists that I have a real longing to see. I am not talking about new artist who have jumped on the scene with a cracking album, or someone who a mate recommends because they caught them in a small club and they are about to explode. No, I am talking about greats of the music business. The Icons. So truth be told, maybe there is one or two rock icons still on my list still, but not many.
It was late last year, off the back of a European summer tour where this performers concerts were going for over 3 hours at a time, and some were upward of 4 hours that I decided that it was my time to see The Boss. Bruce Springsteen. BRUUUUUUUUUUUUCE - and the wheels were set in motion. A year on and as luck would have it, I will get to see Bruce twice this year, first off would be in Solna, Sweden and the other would be in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
We arrived on night two of three of Bruce’s sell out concerts at Friends Arena in Solna, on the outskirts of Stockholm, where 55,000 people were filing in and taking their seats. What I noticed straight away was that this crowd was very much heading towards fever pitch, with the Mexican wave circling the Arena and everyone being involved and wanting to be involved. This was very different to a lot of the low-fi concerts that I attend regularly. I mean there was slow clapping, and clearly what they wanted more than anything else on the face of the planet was the Boss.
Not long after the lights lowered and the crowd erupted as one as the E Street band began to appear, all 16 members took their places (most notably being Max Weinberg, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren) and the greatest roar from the crowd came for Bruce as he walked on stage, guitar in hand and proceeded to jump right into “My love will not let you down”.
Watching the great man it is hard to believe he is 63. The way he can thunder across the stage from end to end time over time again can continues to belt out the hits never once appearing to be gasping for air is truly amazing.
The man appears to have a huge amount of charisma and you just can’t help but smile and enjoy the way which he interacts with the crowd. He gets down to them as often as he can, giving high-fives, handshakes or just letting them touch him in any way shape or form. And it is easy to see why someone like the President of the USA would want to have him around campaigning for him, I mean there are times when you watch Bruce and he looks like he has all the charisma of a politician but he probably has 1000 times more musical ability.
Over the course of the next few songs Bruce reached into the crowed pulling out a sign for “I’m a rocker” and then got the band to play that song. He also thanked the Swedish crowed for all the love over the years, and at one point he ran into the crowd and was given a beer and proceeded to drink it, returning to the stage telling the guy “I owe you one”.
(Photo courtesy of brucespringsteen.net)As “Hungry Heart” came to an end and with everyone on their feet, Bruce announced that for the first time ever the band and he would now play the album “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, from start to finish. The true Bruce fans ( and I think there was a lot there) were just about beside themselves, as this announcement was off the back of the previous night’s show when midway through the show he and the E Street Band played the album “Born to run” from cover to cover.
It was in this main section of the concert that I started to notice a few things about the band that I think I had never given enough credit to watching these guys on a DVD. Firstly Max Weinberg is an amazing drummer and I never ever saw him miss a beat (pardon the pun). Also both Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren are ridiculously good guitarists and they bring a huge amount of showmanship and theater to the front half of the stage. Lastly I was blown away with how good Bruce’s guitar playing skills were, and when the time came, Bruce shredded that guitar. I mean he doesn’t play like that on every song but when the time presents itself he does everything that he needs to.
Also during one song off the album the crowd took out there mobile phones, turned them on and waved them in the air. This had been something that used to happen in shows 20-30 years ago except people used cigarette lighters at that time. The participation level of the Swede’s was amazing and the way these phones lit up the stadium was very impressive.
Following the end of the “Darkness on the edge of town” album the band kicked into “Open all night” just to make sure everybody was sparked back into life. Then from song 20 -23 (“Shackled and Drawn”, “Waitin' on a Sunny Day”, “Radio Nowhere” and “The Rising” ) the band really cooked in only the way the E Street Band can with all members getting a work out, but it was the 24th song of the evening that I had come to see. This song I felt I had been waiting all of my adult life to hear “Thunder Road”. That unmistakable harmonica opening stanza raises the hairs on the back of my neck every time I hear it and on this night in Sweden it nearly reduced me to tears…..at this point I thought I had died and gone to musical heaven.
(Video courtesy of magnerix)
What ever happened next for me would just be icing on the cake. Bruce and the band charged into “Seven Nights to Rock” in true E Street fashion and then followed that up with, “Born to Run” and “Dancing in the Dark” to an adoring crowd, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and finally “American Land”.
And it was in this final set of songs that produced some great Rock and Roll moments, firstly the moment when Bruce got a young lad out of the crowd, gave him a guitar and got him to “play” along with the band and secondly on the big screens there was a tribute to the late Clarence Clemons whist his nephew played the same saxophone parts that Clarence use to play. Both were equally touching, and some may say a little cheesy….but somehow it still felt right. As the last song came to an end Bruce made sure that everyone had left the stage before he did and there were lots of pats on backs and handshakes before his final wave to the adoring crowd and then he was gone.
So my evening had been filled with fantastic rock poses (think Bruce holding his guitar in aloft in the air in one hand) and many iconic E Street Band moments that I had only ever seen on DVD or read about in magazines. And it is true, they didn’t sing everything I wanted, they missed “The River” and “Born in the USA” but I still felt that after just over 3 hours of live music and I was pretty bloody content. And who knows in a couple of months’ time, when I see them again they may just sing those too.
Some more photo's courtesy of brucespringsteen.net (all credit to http://www.jolopezphotography.com/)