Sunday

Five Guys, Take Two

A few years back I slagged off Five Guys because the burgers made me feel fat and shit. And while there's a certain expectation that burgers will always make you feel a bit fat and a bit shit, there are different levels of feeling fat and shit. I felt very fat and very shit. The grease was next level.

Then the other night I went to see Alice Cooper in concert at the Stone Free festival at London's 02. He was great. So great that when he played Poison I dropped my phone into my pint (it survived, somehow). Poison is that song I always pester the DJ for at the end of a night out. Never invite me to your wedding.

Anyway, he played the last song and he came out and we were really hungry and there was no queue at Five Guys. "Fuck it," we thought. We'll try one.

So £8 is steep for a fast food-style cheeseburger, but we figured out a way to make your money back. Toppings. All the toppings. There are 15 to choose from and we just said we'd take everything (actually it's surely just easier for the people working there, too). That's mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, etc etc. In those 15 toppings there are four sauces.

That'll make your burger look like this:

Five Guys burger London 02
SPLAT

In hindsight, the tomatoes were a mistake (I blame the pints). But this burger tasted good! (Partly because of the pints). I didn't feel fat and shit AT ALL!

There's a lot of Shake Shack vs Five Guys chat. This was a vast improvement, but Shake Shack's always the winner for me. Still, I liked it. I'd go again, and I never thought I'd say that.

Quite fancy one now actually.



A weekend with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Coventry and London Wembley, June 2016

Excuse me a second while I load this blog post with capital letters and gushing, joyful words. I'm just so EXCITED about the BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN weekend I spent in Coventry and London Wembley with some mega-great people. Here you can see a few of them:





But I'm getting ahead of myself. Bruce and the E Street Band are back on tour, and so we, the fans, are back on the road, too. Springsteen's music does great things for people like us, but it's the tours we really crave. And need.

All Springsteen fans have suffered some shit times over the last few years  – some more than others  – and these concerts help us think positively again. They provide comfort. It's a fact.

This particular therapy session was a long weekend in Coventry, with an epic Sunday night gig in my home town of London. I will never forget this weekend. EVER.

The week before the concerts I was distracted. Colleagues asked me to stop tapping my pen/hands/legs. I was concentrating, but not really concentrating. Looking at you, but not really looking at you. Just mostly looking past you thinking about last night's setlist in some other European city. 

Then at 4.40pm on Thursday I was out that door to meet my awesome Bruce pal Chris at Euston. If you ever meet Chris you are guaranteed lolz; we met back in 2013 and I've been lucky to go to a few Springsteen concerts with him since. He has gone from a great guy to a great friend, like so many other people I've got to know by just both being Springsteen fans. I LOVE that. 

But I digress!

We took the train to Coventry and met up with our other Bruce pals – the group of us had decided that Coventry was the city we'd all try to congregate at. Springsteen's tours take us to many cool places, but Coventry is not one of them. I'm sorry.

This train

That night – the Thursday – we caught up in the arena's casino. We ate really terrible overdone burgers. We faceswapped.

SO BAD

The next day was show day. Lots of hanging around, faceswapping (it's my new favourite thing to do), meeting new people (hey Kate!), panicking about needing loo mid concert.

@ChrisTreloar and @GreasyLake

And then we were in  – in the most lovely orderly way.

The last sips of water

Oh my! Faceswapping

Here's Coup, a guy we met in the pit. You may not recognise him without his wig (more on him later). I donated some of my cardboard box to him because I'm generous like that, and I'd like to hear that song.

With Chris and Coup

I'm not going to dissect the setlists. What can I really say? Bruce was on form, the band were on point, Jake nailed his solo, Nils nailed his solo. Blah blah BLAH! For proper analysis head to Backstreets. I might offer my own personal opinions, for what they are worth (to clarify: it's nothing).

But that opener. "For You" as a piano solo. I know he's been mixing it up, but I didn't expect THAT. And there I was thinking the album version was decent. The first five or so songs for this set were really strong for me, you could just see that despite his cold and funny hair (why's it so coiffed?), that Bruce was gonna be on form. I liked the early" Hungry Heart" too (with added singing child).

Cred: Chris Treloar

Songs, songs, more songs.




Then the song. Or the song for me at least. There weren't many signs in Coventry, at least none that seemed particularly appealing for Bruce. Hence him grabbing my scrappy "Save My Love" (For Burgers) and chucking it on the floor (I'm really glad he played the song, but it would have been jokes if he'd taken it specifically and never played it).

Then after "Two Hearts are Better Than One" Bruce picked my sign back up. Something like "it's one of the more obscure sign requests we've had, there is literally no response from the crowd when I show this sign. What the fuck is that song?" He checked Roy knew what he was doing (he did) practiced some chords himself, hummed the first few bars.

And then he played it. And my heart swelled with joy. Is it that obscure a request? I'm not sure. It's a song that makes me crazy happy, one I'll stick on in the morning if I'm after a pick me up. Here's a video of the Coventry version.

Cred: @GreasyLake

"WTF is this." Cred: @ChrisTreloar

"Drive All Night" was beautifully delivered, as standard (although slightly tinged by the realisation that so many people in London would be waiting to hear it, and were unlikely to if it was just played in Coventry. I'm sorry Annie).

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)

Cred: Coup @c_coups (aka Courteney Cox)


For me, the last quarter could really do with being shuffled up a bit – even just the order if the songs are going to remain the same. I know this formula works, and "Shout" is SO fun, but it seems a little stale to stay with "Born Run", "Dancing in the Dark", etc etc. Also, I know it's an obvious song, but "Born To Run" would be an amazing opener, and change that end part of the show, too.

OPEN WITH "BORN TO RUN", BRUCE.

Here's Greasy Lake's helpful summary of the Coventry night:


We took some snaps after the concert and headed back to the adjoining casino, where Elvis sang some Bruce songs and met even more great people (including a father and son duo who are travelling to looooads of Springsteen concerts together this summer. Amazing. You know how I feel about going to Springsteen dates with your parents, right?).

Sunday. Another day another Springsteen concert...

...this time in my home city of London. Some of you will have seen Bruce and the band play at the stadium back in 2013 when the weather was grim and the queue chaotic.

This was the exact opposite. Blazing sunshine, all smiles, no frowns.

Cred: Steve Allen

We heard the soundcheck ("My City of Ruins", "Seeds", others) and made it into the pit. This concert was extra exciting because we were joined by Beth and Charlie, aka my 'Bruce parents', who I met in Belfast a few years back (although they are from Philadelphia). Beth reminds me of me – excitable, slightly erratic, a tad chaotic. SO happy to be there.

Beth and Charlie up front

Chris, Adam, me, and Jenny, Greasy Lake and Coup (Courteney Cox) behind

We made signs, faceswapped and took bets on the opening song. 

But we never expected Bruce to whistle his way through "Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" (About that whistling, Bruce…). It was random, and not brilliantly done, but there was something about that that was really quite charming, endearing... here's Springsteen, the guy who gets it right so much, getting the opening song in a big city like London a little bit wrong. I like that.

The pit was rammed – barely jumping room for "Seeds", "Wrecking Ball" and "No Surrender". "Be True" and "I'll Work For Your Love" were DIVINE.

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: Steve Allen

Cred: @ChrisTreloar

Cred: @ChrisTreloar

Other favs of mine were "Tougher Than The Rest" (Bruce congratulated the talent of the London crowd with their sign making. Cardboard boxes won't cut it no more) and "My City of Ruins". Who am I kidding? They're all favourites. But these were special.

Cred: Steve Allen

Now Chris is a strong guy so he lobbed me on his shoulders for DITD. And finally I could see! And more importantly I could see everyone else: thousands of red, sweaty happy faces of radical joy. It's quite something.



Cred: @GreasyLake

The joy.

I wasn't the only one

Then Coup. Coup who'd been carrying around a white plastic shopping bag all day – I'd just assumed it was full of biscuits (we'd eaten loads of his chocolate Foxes earlier). Back on the ground I turned around and there he was on his poor mate's slender shoulders. A shit black wig was hanging lopsided off his head.

Bruce clocked him.

And the rest is easily the best Springsteen/fan dance I've ever seen. Coup nailed the dancing, nailed the vocals and almost broke Bruce's guitar with that strumming. Coup the postman is a local (global) hero.




It was outshone – just – by that "Thunder Road" acoustic finisher, something I think we'll never get bored of. That song does something to me that I will never be able to explain, but I know that if you're reading this you get it.

There's been a lot of chat recently about Bruce's words just before leaving the stage – the normal "we'll be seeing ya" has been swapped for "the E Street Band loves you" prompting some of us to get into a right flap about what this might mean for the band's touring future (especially with "Bobby Jean" so late in the set, too).

But those essential words came. "We'll be seeing ya." And the crowd around me went MENTAL.

We took group pictures, periscoped and walked out of that stadium together in a happy daze.

Coup!

Mari and Chris. Big love.
BRILLIANT PEOPLE


Another helpful summary from Greasy Lake:


These concerts were packed with raw, crazy emotion and happiness. They all are.

To quote Chris, "it's not about where you are, it's who you're with. But it does help where you are."

And that's why we're doing THIS. And why we're doing it together.


I'm heading to a couple more dates this summer, in case I fall behind on blogging (I don't have the best track record) you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.



Friday

Bruce Springsteen in Barcelona, May 2016: a weekend with my dad

It’s a muggy Saturday night in Barcelona. There are 64,000 Catalonians crammed into Camp Nou. On the stage is Bruce and the band, belting their way through the first song of the night: Badlands. And next to me? My dad. Grinning. BEAMING. Jumping like a kid high on sweets.

He wasn’t supposed to be here.

Dad has taught me lots of great things. How to ride a bike;  how to fall off a bike; how to win at Monopoly (buy everything). Music. Bruce Springsteen.

But then there’s the one thing he hasn’t taught me: how to travel. Sure, we’ve been on holidays – my childhood dotted with camping trips to Flamingo Park in Yorkshire, lilo wars in Spain and that banana boat in Malta. But it’s not what he loves. He doesn’t obsess over the next place he wants to visit, he doesn’t spend hours online searching for cheap flights to Europe, and he definitely doesn’t do Springsteen abroad. Or standing. (Our first Springsteen concert together was sitting watching the full Born to Run album from the stands in Coventry.)

So when I asked him to come on a last-minute trip to Barca to see Bruce he said no. Absolutely not. There was no time to arrange it. And what would the crowds be like? Too crazy, he said. I deleted the email, huffed a bit, sighed a bit, stropped a bit and decided to go on my own anyway.

And then a few hours later he emailed again. “I’ve made a plan,” he said. (He likes plans.) We’d get the first flight on the Saturday morning, back on the Monday before work. “We’ll see Bruce, drink beer and eat tapas.” It would be our first trip abroad together since I was 12 years old.

You’ve seen the setlist, read the reviews. Plenty of The River album dotted through a semi-random selection of tracks. Was it the best run of Springsteen songs in the world? Maybe not.  But getting to see my dad hear them for the first time, in a Catalonian crowd that was soooo happy, friendly and welcoming? I felt so lucky to be there with him, seeing those 36 songs in that order in that city.

Bruce Springsteen Camp Nou Barelona May 2016

When dad tries to take a selfie


In the middle of Glory Days. The person behind me - I know that feeling




The next day we sat on an open top bus tour (I’m easing him into this travel thing), drank beer, ate the tapas, walked. Dad, unsurprisingly, loved it. And I think it’s triggered something – not a crazy desire to fuck it and book flights at the last minute, but enough intrigue that he'd do it again.

This year I’ve had loads of people tell me they are taking their sons/daughters to their first Springsteen concert, or that they are being taken by their now grown-up child. But then I have people telling me that their children won’t go with them to concerts.

This. is. Madness.

And I hear it far too much.

So parents, please let me have a word. I hope I can help.

Because they need to see you at that Bruce Springsteen gig.



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