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BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, Manchester Etihad Stadium, 22 June 2012
and Gallery by Steve Goudie
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this memorable evening - part of his first UK tour in three years- I
found myself constantly thinking - how does Bruce Springsteen do it? The
Boss is now 62, but still shows remarkable energy and stamina to carry
off a physically demanding three hour 20 minute show, with very few
drops in pace.
rain which had tipped down in Manchester all day largely held off for
his set, I was even wondering whether The Boss had miraculous powers and
if he spent his day off healing the sick and the lame of Manchester.
Stadium - known as the home of the 2012 Premiership champions, or 'the
council house' to opposite sides of the Mancunian footballing divide -
was filled with a diverse mix of all ages and types, not just your
earnest fifty-something Guardian reader who I imagine to be his core
atmosphere was already crackling, when ironically Bruce and the E Street
band opened with 'Badlands', the melody of which people had been
chanting waiting for him to come on. It is classic Springsteen,
lyrically, with its anthemic feel and its guitar and sax solos - at that
point the frustration was that the sound was too quiet but it swiftly
always going to be an emotional tour, being the first since the death
last year of Clarence Clemons, whose sax playing and stage presence was
such a big part of the E Street Band.
year's version was remodelled to feature his nephew Jake on sax, but as
part of a horn section which together with backing singers gave the band
a jazzier feel, notably on a reworking of 'Spirits in the Night'.
Jake stepped forward for a sax solo he was met with among the biggest
cheers of the evening, though I mused on the fact that while his late
uncle was known as 'The Big Man', 'the big haired man' would be a
suitable moniker for him.
one of the great things about the E Street Band's ensemble playing is
that they instinctively seem to know how to give each other space,
depending on the material being played, and despite now numbering well
into double figures the sound never sounded cluttered.
the new album 'Wrecking Ball' transferred well to the live environment
with songs like 'We Take Care of Our Own', enhanced by Suzie Tyrell's
fiddle, the title track and the almost Pogues-like 'Death to My
have an angry political message against financiers and politicians, but
in the live environment Bruce is sensible enough to realise that
entertainment triumphs over politics, and it is his showmanship that
comes to the fore rather than any social activism.
highlight was 'City of Ruins', originally a post 9/11 message from 'The
Rising', but given a real gospel feel especially with the audience
participation as Bruce name checked the band members and paid tribute to
the one who was missing.
One of the
other joys of a Springsteen show, especially for those diehards that
follow him from show to show, is a set list that constantly changes
depending on his mood and that of the crowd.
according to setlist.fm around 100 different songs had already been
played on the first 38 shows of the tour (though oddly the two albums he
most recently toured were all but ignored), and those more familiar with
his work than I am would have been delighted with the likes of 'E Street
Shuffle', 'You Can Look But Better Not Touch', 'The Promise' and 'Save
likes of 'Darlington County' Bruce would regularly leave the stage and
charge across the front of the packed crowd, even picking out people
such as a young fan who sang part of 'Waiting On A Sunny Day' - which on
this occasion we would have waited a long time for!
favourite moment in the first half of the set was 'Prove it All Night',
with an excellent solo from the Boss at the start and another in the
middle followed by an extended one from Nils Lofgren with notes
cascading rapidly in a jagged fashion, while 'Two Hearts' showed off the
E Street Band's instinctive ensemble playing.
songs predominated, and even the likes of 'Atlantic City' kicked into
full electric mode eventually, while 'Jack of All Trades' downbeat
nature was offset by a great solo from Nils.
back version of 'The River' showcased the story within to full effect
though, and we were gradually moving into full blown crowd pleasing
territory with 'The Rising' and 'Out in the Street' having chants that
could get everyone to join in. The main set was closed with 'Land of
Hope and Dreams', another gospel influenced song that seems to be
becoming a modern Springsteen anthem demonstrating the right form of
Springsteen encore lasts nearly as long as many bands' main sets, and
after new song 'We Are Alive' - borrowing off Johnny Cash's 'Ring of
Fire' - brought the horns to the fore, the way 'Thunder Road' -
amazingly only played live every so often - led straight into a '1-2-3-4
' and 'Born to Run' demonstrated the sheer quality of his back
with the floodlights on, the atmosphere was joyous and among the best I
have seen at a Springsteen concert and the Spector-esque 'Bobby Jean'
and good time rock n roller 'Cadillac Ranch' suited the mood perfectly.
That was nothing though compared to the way 'Dancing in the Dark',
complete with great sax solo from Jake, had people around me punching
the air, dancing in circles and entering the party spirit.
on his back and being doused with water by Steve Van Zandt, The Boss
looked out for the count but it was all an act as he stripped to his
sweat soaked t-shirt and tore back into 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out'.
a moving moment when at the 'The Big Man joined the band' lyric, the
band suddenly fell silent and the crowd chanted Clarence's name as a
montage of his stage performances was shown on the big screen before the
band kicked in again.
his marathon set with 'Twist and Shout' - a strange choice, but one I
discovered he saves for shows that he considers extra special, and which
suited the party atmosphere.
my gig of the year so far, and a fitting requiem for Clarence Clemons,
but more than that it was a night to reaffirm your belief in the human
spirit and the power of rock n roll.
Gallery by Steve Goudie
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