Thursday, 5 July 2012

Waitin' On A Sunny Day: Springsteen at the Etihad 22/6/12

So this was it. As excited as I was to be seeing Pearl Jam, this was the gig I had been obsessing over the most: my chance to see the hard rockin', heart stoppin', pants droppin', booty shakin', Viagra takin', earth quakin', history makin', legendary E Street Band.

I'd spent an inordinate amount of time before the gig listening to the bootlegs of Bruce's tour (check out maury6811 on Youtube, he uploads tonnes) and so I was excited beyond words for this gig.

My excitement was tempered a little bit on the day by two things: 1) the awful weather arriving at the venue which I was stood in waiting for the doors to open (thankfully this cleared up for the most part when the show started) and 2) the blue wristband bullshit.

Basically you couldn't get right near the front of the stage unless you had arrived at the venue at ridiculous o' clock in the morning and collected a blue wristband from the event staff, the idea being you were rewarded for waiting by getting near the stage. This was of no consolation to myself and the thousands of us who got to the venue about an hour before doors opened, completely unaware that this was going on.
So I wasn't at the very front of the crowd (so Bruce wouldn't be walking past me on the walkways they'd built), but I got as far to the front of the crowd as I could and managed to get a very good view of centre stage.

So I'll end my rant there and get to the gig.

As soon as the band came out - Bruce taking to the stage last to omnipresent cries of "Brooooooooce!" from the audience - and we got that oh-so familiar count-in ("one-two-three-fouwwah!") followed by Professor Roy Bittan tinkling the ivories for the opening to "Badlands", all my misgivings about the weather and the blue wristbands were forgotten and I felt completely at home.

There are three rules of thumb one may note about Springsteen gigs.
The first is when in Europe, he'll play more stuff from "Born In The USA" than usual (I'm aware of the irony). This was the case here, with "No Surrender" being a particularly nice surprise early on, and later on the encore included probably the best version of "Dancing In The Dark" I've heard the band do, Jake Clemons' (nephew of the late great Clarence "Big Man" Clemons) sax solo in particular being fantastic.

We were also treated to a great bit of audience interaction during the latter: one girl in the crowd had a sign asking to dance with Jake, so Bruce pulled her out of the crowd to grant her wish. Not to be outdone, however, Bruce hilariously found himself a young woman in a Union Jack onesie to dance with himself.

The second rule one tends to find is that when in Britain, Bruce will play more songs from "The River" than usual. Once again this proved true. Watching the screens behind the band on stage, you could see women in tears during the band's rendition of the title track. On the other end of the scale, Bruce and Steve's chatter during "You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)" drew lots of laughs.

Bruce: "It's on channels 92 to 100, I've seen it! They have numbers scrolling along the bottom!" 
Steve: "Oh you better not look."
Bruce: "Oh You can look!"
Steve: "You better not even look!"
Bruce: "You can look. You can call in!! But you caaaaaaan't touch."

On a personal note I was just delighted they played "Out In The Street".

The final rule is that you can tell how much faith Bruce has in his new album by how prominent the songs from the album are in the set. So it seems that Bruce is pretty chuffed with "Wrecking Ball" (which he has every right to be) on the evidence of this night.

It might be in part down to the fact that the title track and "Land Of Hope And Dreams" have been played live years before the record was released, but with the likes of the Irish jig of "Death To My Hometown", the sombre, resilient "Jack Of All Trades" (which got a big cheer for the line "if I had me a gun, I'd find the bastards and shoot 'em on sight" in reference to the bankers) and the rousing "We Are Alive" I never felt robbed out of one of one of the older classics when he played the new stuff.

One more thing you need to understand about Bruce is this: the man is inhuman! The stamina he has is just incredible. This gig went 3 and a quarter hours, and they played it all pretty much straight with little or no breaks. The gap between the band leaving stage for the end of the main set and walking back on for the encore was barely a minute. AND THE MAN IS 63!!! Just incredible.

In my favourite bit of the gig, after "Dancing In The Dark", Bruce feigned exhaustion and lay down on the stage hugging his guitar like a pillow. This leads to Steve stalking Bruce with a wringing wet sponge to revive him. The looks on both their faces during this exchange were just hilarious! "Ah Manchester, you tired me out already!" claimed Bruce.

Still, there was time during "My City Of Ruins" to conduct the band roll call and say hello. There's nothing like an E Street Band roll call, it's both humorous (he informed us wife Patti was back home "keepin' the kids outta them drugs" and that any red-headed English women should keep back because he misses her!) and spirited, touching upon the much missed organist Dan Federci and saxophonist Clarence Clemons ("if you're here, and we're here, then they're here").
He also informed us he'd learnt a lot since last visiting Manchester: "I've learnt that there are TWO football teams in Manchester! And one of them has just... eh, I'm not going into it."

I was also unbelievably lucky to be seeing the band on a night when they played so many of my favourites. "Spirit In The Night", my favourite song from his debut, stands out in my mind in particular. Being there to hear that song was like a religious experience.
Seeing "Atlantic City" make an appearance was a very pleasant surprise, with Soozie Tyrell's violin becoming the focus of the song instead of Bruce's harmonica like on the record. So when they immediately followed that up by playing the '78 version of "Prove It All Night", with Roy and Bruce playing the extended intro, I was ecstatic.

The biggest surprise though was the appearance of "Save My Love" and "The Promise" in the set, which left me a very happy bunny indeed since I got into Bruce because of "The Promise" as I've mentioned in an earlier entry.

By the end of the show, with the band's infamous version of "Twist And Shout" (referred to as "the stadium-breaker" after a crack was discovered in a venue in Sweden after the band played the song there) ringing out through the stadium, I was wishing the night didn't have to end, I could listen to the band play all day long. They'd probably be able to play that long at a stretch too!
Alas, the show had to end at some point. At the finale's end one of the blokes I was stood with shook my hand and congratulated me on my first Springsteen gig, which felt like a bit of a right of passage. Here's hoping it won't be the last Springsteen gig I go to!

At this point, I shall bid you adieu, and leave you with the full set from the show.
See you soon!


  1. Badlands
  2. No Surrender
  3. We Take Care Of Our Own
  4. Wrecking Ball
  5. Death to My Hometown
  6. My City of Ruins
  7. Spirit in the Night
  8. The E Street Shuffle
  9. Jack of All Trades
  10. Atlantic City
  11. Prove It All Night (78 Intro)
  12. Two Hearts
  13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
  14. Darlington County
  15. Shackled and Drawn
  16. Waitin' on a Sunny Day
  17. Save My Love
  18. The Promise
  19. The River
  20. The Rising
  21. Out in the Street
  22. Land of Hope and Dreams
  23. We Are Alive
  24. Thunder Road
  25. Born to Run
  26. Bobby Jean
  27. Cadillac Ranch
  28. Dancing in the Dark
  29. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  30. Twist and Shout
Playlist (courtesy of maury6811)