Friday, 5 July 2013

Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band, Nijmegen, 22 June 2013

It’s not every day that you get to see a master at work. A legend of the game. A rock god, doing his thing for 60,000 adoring fans. So it goes without saying that I feel pretty privileged to have seen The Boss live not once but twice over the past couple of months.

Perhaps traveling to Stockholm and Nijmegen for his two shows makes me out to be a bigger fan that I really am and I am happy to accept the fact that there are plenty of bigger fans out there than me. But what I am a huge fan of, and what this blog can attest to, is live music. And when it comes to live music performers, certainly based on reputation alone, fewer are bigger than Bruce Springsteen. If you are looking for a benchmark in live music, I feel that both Bruce and his E-Street Band need to feature in your analysis.

Having now already seen them up in Stockholm, and having really enjoyed the night and the performance, I have to admit my expectations were somewhat lower this time around. I think in part this was in concern for just seeing the same show again and being less enthusiastic. But it was also partly due to the weather, which was looking like a typical Dutch summer evening of cold wind and rain. Just the kind of thing that gets me excited about standing in a muddy field with 60,000 really tall Dutchies.

Despite my accurate predictions about the weather and the amount of really tall Dutchies, this was a great night. And although there were obvious similarities, the whole show had a very different feel than what we had seen a month earlier. Standing in the huge crowd and watching the show reasonably far back gave a very different perspective than sitting up with the gods and looking down on the stage like we had done up in Stockholm.

At 19.30, on the dot, the strums of an acoustic guitar could be heard and out came Bruce, on his own, to perform a perfect opening song version of The Ghost of Tom Joad. This was a breathtaking opening song and in complete contrast to the all-band power opening of My Love Will Not Let You Down at the last show. He did get to that for the 3rd song, after the 18 member E-Street Band had joined him on stage. In the opening stanza of 10 songs, he only repeated this one and the new album tracks of Wrecking Ball and Death to My Hometown.

And more importantly for song 10, the harmonica came out and we got to hear The River, the main song we had wanted to hear that was not played at the previous show. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise and the man standing next to me had tears in his eyes – this was a fantastic rendition of one of his best songs.

Then Bruce delivered the message we had feared – tonight, as a very special treat, we would get to hear Darkness on the Edge of Town in full! Again! And although a different album would have been preferable, Darkness is a great album and it was enjoyable. Almost to make up for it we did get to hear Born in the USA as part of the encore and as the rain belted down and the whole crowd danced and sang along to everything he did you could not help but enjoy yourself.

At the end of two nights with Bruce, I had to reflect on my earlier statement – are Bruce Springsteen and (equally importantly) the E Street Band really the benchmark of live music that their reputation dictates? And if so, where is the benchmark? So I did some research and here are some interesting facts and figures:

The Stockholm show vs the Nijmegen show:
- Crowds of 55,000 and 60,000 respectively – a combined crowd of 115,000 people! To put that into some kind of perspective it is like playing 75 sold out shows at Paradiso and having just under 20% of all the people in Amsterdam come to the shows!

- They played for just over 3 hours in Stockholm and almost 3.5 hours in Nijmegen. That gave us 5 more songs in Nijmegen (34 vs 29);

- 20 songs were the same (10 of which were from Darkness on the Edge of Town);

- That leaves 14 new songs for the night and 9 we didn't hear again, for a combined 43 unique songs from Bruce over the two nights;

- 39 originals and 4 covers - 3 of the 4 covers were in Nijmegen.

2013 Wrecking Ball Tour:

These are some pretty amazing numbers and it got me looking into what he has been doing at his other shows this year. So far in 2013 he has played 31 shows, for which there are set-lists for 28 of them. Here is my quick assessment:

- Bruce has played 121 unique songs so far this year;

- 36 songs he and the band have only played once;

- 3 of which we got to see - Sherry Darling & So Young and in Love (NL), and I'm a Rocker (Swe)

- 7 songs get played almost every night - Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Badlands, Wrecking Ball, Dancing in the Dark, Waitin' on a Sunny Day, Born to Run, Death to My Hometown;

- 19 different cover songs, of which 11 have only been played on 1 night.

I have to say, these are astonishing numbers. Especially the fact that they have played 121 different songs so for this year, in just 28 shows! I don’t think many of the bands I go and see would have 121 songs in their full catalogue, even if you took out the covers. How many songs do the E Street band know? And how many lyrics can Bruce remember?

To try and put all this into some sort of perspective I thought I would look up a couple of Bruce’s peers. I took Leonard Cohen, who we were lucky enough to see last year and Bob Dylan who I am excited to be seeing later this year:

Mr Cohen can almost match Bruce in the length of his shows – averaging 3 hours a night, however he pretty much plays the same 25/26 songs every night. He then has another 5 that are consistently added on for longer shows. And another 10 that he has done once or twice this year – giving him a total of 40 different songs he has played in his 25 shows so far in 2013.

Not a bad effort at all for a 78 year old! But in a very similar number of total shows, 40 songs is still 3 times less than Bruce’s 121!

And Dylan? Bob is really not pulling his weight when you line him up against these two supermen of music. Bob has played a comparable number of 23 shows so far in 2013 and has played an almost identical set-list of 15 songs at every show. Add another 4 songs that are sometimes tagged on when he is the mood and you have 19 songs he has played this year.

The numbers don’t lie my friends!

In terms of sheer professionalism, stage presence, effort, energy and musicianship Bruce and his band have set a remarkably high benchmark. Of course there are plenty of other factors that make a live show great and stadium rock isn’t for everyone.

But I certainly have no complaints and the funny thing is, if the opportunity comes around again I don’t see any reason why I won’t be lining back up to see Bruce and his heart-stopping, pants-dropping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking, Viagra-taking, love-making –LEGENDARY - E - Street – Band!!


*video link and close up photos care of and 2013 set lists stats care of - thanks to both great sites!


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