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