Thursday, July 19, 2012
Bruce Springsteen review Dublin 2012
What a show! I know I’m always saying how good Bruce is live, but seriously, this was the goods. He may not be in my top few artists (album/songs/voice wise), but not many put on anywhere as near as good a live show. Faced with an austerity-led choice between the Tuesday and Wednesday shows, I opted for Tuesday, but was then forced to switch to Wednesday (for work reasons), and boy was I glad. Even though the reviews of Tuesday were excellent, it seems Wednesday just topped the first show for those who went to both, PLUS I definitely preferred Wednesday’s setlist – he played SO many of my favourite songs (switching 16 of the previous night’s 32 song setlist!), and really just a killer show, and maybe the best Springsteen show I’ve seen (having seen him about 15 times). From the off, things looked good, we only got there at 5.30 and amazingly got a pit-wristband (the area in front of the stage limited to the first 3,000 of 30,000 fans, and settled on a nice spot about 20m from the stage in front of the right stack. Bruce came on 45 minutes late with a nice low-key acoustic ‘This Hard Land’. The only negative tone I will strike in this review relates to all this hyperbole/moaning from Bruce/band/fans/press about curfews (further to having the plug literally pulled at the London Hyde Park festival show) – my attitude is if artists were so concerned about curfews they wouldn’t come on stage 45 minutes late! That said, I take the point that it wasn’t Bruce’s fault at the London show that earlier artists ran late, and his stunt at the 1st Dublin show with the power-switch was genuinely funny. ‘Nuff said. Tonight’s show really kicked off though when the band trundled on for the 2nd song – a storming ‘No Surrender’. Right from the off it was clear this would be an excellent concert, as the sound was absolutely perfect – the typical big E-Street sound, now augmented with sparkling horns – quite incredible how tight and effortless and perfect (but not overly rehearsed or sterile) this band is - every instrument finds it’s space, with a never-better-sounding Bruce voice nicely riding on top of the music. From there it was in to some early poppier numbers, a catchy one-two of ‘Two Heart’s and ‘Ties that Bind’ before playing his latest hit ‘We Take Care of Our Own’, the first of many well received songs from ‘Wrecking Ball’, then doing ‘Badlands’ and seguing from there in to a beautiful ‘Something in the Night’, a song which nicely shows off how Bruce’s voice has matured and got more expressive over the decades. I’ll try not to mention EVERY song played – tricky due to there being absolutely NO clunkers on the night – so I’ll skip quickly by a solid bluesy ‘Adam Raised a Cain’ and on in to one of many really powerful performances of the new songs, the strong crowd reaction to this strong rendition of the title track of ‘Wrecking Ball’ quickly followed by ‘Death to My Hometown’ showing that his new album must have shifted a lot of copies in Ireland. It goes without saying that some of the themes of the album (recession, solidarity) speak loudly to an Irish audience in 2012, and the whole show struck a lovely balance between good-time rock’n’roll and a feeling of hope for better times to come for all of us. One of several big highlights for me was ‘My City of Ruins’ with Bruce’s eloquent introduction of it as being a song that has come to have several meanings, plus it’s a song that benefits incredibly from the new horn section, with a lovely New Orleans feel to it. One of my favourite latter-day Springsteen songs and a highlight of this tour. Next up was a swaggering ‘Spirit in the Night’, a fan-sign-inspired (rare) ‘Jackson Cage’, then ‘She’s the One’ (not a song I’m wild about), then ‘Jack of All Trades’ – again a very topical song for these times, followed by two huge crowd pleasers, ‘Atlantic City’ and ‘Because the Night’. Bruce has really re-taken this song back in recent years (not that there’s anything wrong with Patti Smith’s version!), and a lot of it has to do with the show-stopping Nils Lofgren guitar solo, which never fails to get a crowd to erupt. The next few songs were nothing extraordinary, but fulfilled their various objectives (‘Darlington County’, ‘Easy Money’ and ‘Waitin’ on a Sunny Day’), before the band strolled off and Bruce gave us one of the top moments of the show – a gorgeous solo piano rendition of the ultra-rare (well, prior to this tour!) ‘The Promise’. Another good reason to have chosen the Wednesday show! Just beautiful. Finally for the main set, Bruce and band gave us 3 big crowd pleasers in ‘The River’ a visceral ‘Backstreets’ (yippee, he played this instead of the over-played ‘The Rising’) and set-closing ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ – again, a song that was just crying out for some horns, and I was glad to see that the live version harkens back more to the version he debuted back in 1999 (I think?) than the slightly experimental studio version which appears on ‘Wrecking Ball’. Anyway, the night was of course, far from over, as Bruce slammed straight in to a rocking 8-song encore, kicking off with the two ‘Borns’ (..in the USA, and ..to Run), ‘Glory Days’,’ 7 Nights to Rock’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’,’ 10th Avenue Freeze Out’ (complete with lovely Clarence Clemons tribute), and then taking a slight gamble by slowing things down to play a gorgeous ‘Rocky Ground’ the ground-breaking gospel/rap/rock hybrid duet song from the recent album (I love the lyrics on this one), before cranking things up again to box off the show with Bruce’s ‘Irish-ised’ version of the Seeger penned ‘American Land’. In conclusion, life might be a bit rubbish right now for many people in the countries Bruce has visited on this tour, but for 3 hours 20 minutes last night, it was anything but. Slightly expensive tickets? Maybe, but if you look at it, it really was great value for money. After all, what a performance we got from this most energetic of 62 year olds! And in my opinion, we now have the perfect E-Street Band, a full horn section (plus the extra backing singers) really makes a difference – in some ways it’s like a composite E-Street/Seeger Sessions Band, never tighter, never more in tune with each other, and with its loyal audience. I haven’t seen that many gigs this year, and many of those I have seen were excellent, but I don’t think many 2012 shows will come close to Wed 18 July in the RDS!