I bought two tickets to see Bruce Springsteen as a surprise for my brother’s birthday because he is a huge fan….but I too have now seen the light and have joined the club – to the point where I have found myself looking at his list of dates and wondering whether it would be remotely possible to abandon my chaotic household and follow The Boss around the world for a few years, or maybe the rest of my life.
We saw him at his only London performance, at Wembley Stadium on Sunday evening and I’m still recovering from the experience and all that electricity. No idea how he must be feeling, it was exhausting just watching the man, let alone trying to imagine being him. He played his usual 3.5 hour set to an audience of around 80,000 people just as if he was singing a personal serenade to each and every one of us. He was often singing with his eyes tightly shut, so that we could all imagine he was in our bedrooms giving us our own individual one to one concerts (or was that just me?). We were too far away to see him clearly, but the screens obviously helped. Next time I’m going to be in the mosh pit with the hardcore fans:-
It’s weird to be at a concert during the daylight for the most part, but his set is so simple that the lighting was almost an irrelevance when it finally appeared. It is his unbelievable ability to not only perform above and beyond expectation (sing, dance, play the piano, numerous guitars, the harmonica…) but to come down and commune with his people, to frolic about with his band and all the while to look as if he was having more fun than the rest of us (which frankly could NOT be possible), that makes him so extraordinary.
Each song swiftly segues into the next with just a heartbeat between each one and we are taken with him on a rollercoaster of emotion – all at once fiery, then passionate, then emotional (no more so than my brother) and then full of joy and positive elation to the point when if a small bag had been handed round for the church of BS, I would have put all my worldly belongings in it – I might have even tried to climb in myself so much was the intensity of the spiritual fervour. It feels almost like a cult these days, especially when he was asking us whether we could feel the spirit and 160,000 hands were all held high in reverence and fluttering in the breeze.
A mere mortal would not get away with playing only six songs from the title of his River album tour, but I don’t think anybody cared, he has so much material and so many incredible songs that there is always someone next to you or behind you or in front of you in a state of ecstasy because the song he has just launched into was his favourite. He played THIRTY THREE SONGS (not that I was counting – my brother was) so no fan could ever go home feeling cheated that they didn’t get at least a few of their favourites.
How does he manage the marathon? OK, so he’s a vegetarian and runs six miles a day apparently and doesn’t take drugs – but we know he drinks – because we watched him down a half pint of beer from a member of the audience – my brother and I were a little worried it might have been a cup of urine, given how long those guys have to stand at the front with their catheters in order to see the whole show. HE’S 66 FOR GOODNESS SAKE. Doesn’t he need a wee half way through? WTF. He is like a machine. Only a machine doesn’t hold hands and walk amongst his followers or get a little girl up to sing with him, or put a silly silver hat on, or invite a guest dancer ala Courtney Cox up during “Dancing In The Dark” – he had been holding a sign up saying “can I still be Courtney Cox even if I’ve got a grey beard?” – and even gave him a guitar to join him playing some of the song.
Maybe it’s because his wife is on stage that he’s so happy. She and he did some meaningful crooning that made me want to leap on stage and shout “it should have been me”, but honestly he seems to be the epitome of “the secret of life” and next time somebody asks me what the secret of life actually is and/or “what is happiness?” then I’m going to say “Bruce Springsteen”. That’s it.
I am now ready to fly to Philadelphia to see his final few shows. Imagine what it would be like being there when he sings his “My City In Ruins” all about 9/11, when the chorus of “rise up” fuels a tsunami of emotion. He could get the crowd to do anything right there and then it’s so moving. Or what about when he sings “American Skin, 41 shots” – incredible. He has so many messages and stories of hope, faith, poverty, community and of course love that he is the consummate Everyman’s poet. A man for all seasons…A modern day BARD and I might even have to buy his autobiography when it comes out later in the year.
He dedicated “Tougher Than The Rest” to Muhammad Ali which got a resounding cheer – I know he usually saves a slot to someone and this year I’m sure he’s feeling like he’s doing rather more dedications than usual what with one to David Bowie and another to Prince and we all know how much he misses Clarence Clemons, but his nephew Jake was outstanding – not easy shoes to fill. His band are incredible – they must have to know every single song off by heart – with around 30% of his concert being spontaneous, he is the consummate conductor and they must often find they have to do one they haven’t played ever before – this time, “I’ll Work For Your Love” took a few attempts to get right, both the chord and the correct harmonica, but worth it in the end.
He started and finished his set by doing a solo – which felt right for his storytelling journey – his final song was an acoustic rendition of “Thunder Road” and there was not one person in the audience as far as I could see who didn’t have a tear in their eye – as we all filed out at the end of our exhausting experience, one great sea of bodies, we were most certainly all feeling the love.
Now I get why Barrack Obama said that he wanted to be President of the United States because he couldn’t be Bruce Springsteen. He is literally the coolest man on the planet. Scarf around his neck, fists bound by wristbands, black jeans, black t-shirt and a dark grey waistcoat, bulging muscles and veins – SO COOOOOOL…why can’t I meet a man like that?
Just look at him, and sorry if this is your photo, I have “borrowed” it until somebody tells me if I’m allowed to post it – I am happy to add the photographer credit – there just wasn’t one:-
Sigh…I have joined the clan. I have even donned my Levi Strauss shirt and jeans in the hope of bumping into him at my local corner shop. It will be cowboy boots and a bandanna next.
Now waiting for my brother to be appalled at my hopeless review – he will tell me that no one cares about his muscles and where is the playlist? Hopefully he can do the connoisseur’s version for me in due course.