I hadn't planned to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in Leeds.
I'd got all my tickets for other dates, sussed out where I was heading and decided that enough money had been spent. I was told that any more dates would be..."excessive".
But then Leeds was announced. A new indoor venue in the city with a capacity of 13,500. Even the morning the tickets went on sale I was still saying I wasn't going to go. But then 9.30am came and the ticket sites went live. I didn't mean to do it. But before I knew it, I had two General Admission tickets in my 'shopping basket'. My card details were entered and my purchase confirmed.
I didn't realise quite how lucky I was until shortly after, when I was told the venue had a standing capacity of just 3,000 (this is normally the size of the pit alone). Tickets to Leeds quickly became known as the 'Golden Ticket', due to the intimacy of the small venue and the difficulty of many in securing a spot. I decided that fate was the reason I'd managed to get tickets, when normally I fail catastrophically at trying to purchase anything online.
For a good few months, two general admission tickets to Springsteen in Leeds were the most valuable thing I owned. Every night before I went to bed I checked that the tickets were still in my drawer. When I woke up in the morning I checked again, just in case someone had crept in the middle of the night and stolen my two most prized possessions.
I was relieved that many of my Bruce Buds that I've met on my Springsteen watching journey had managed to get standing tickets too. With just 600 people allowed into the pit, we spent the day of the concert queuing and catching up. I finally got to meet #BruceSponge, whose adventures I'd been following on Twitter. Like Bruce Springsteen himself, Bruce Sponge was relaxed and cool and extremely knowledgeable when questioned about burgers.
|#BruceSponge (left) pictured with a Wannabe Bruce Sponge (RIP)|
At 6pm we filed into the venue in the most orderly way I've ever seen at a Springsteen concert, with every fan respecting how much this night meant to one another. A group of us met in the middle of the pit, four rows back from the stage, so we could spend the concert together. From my spot on the ground, the seats seemed to stretch endlessly upwards. Some friends later commented that that night they'd watched a Bruce Springsteen concert from space. But then not everyone is lucky enough to go to space are they.
It was so dark that when Bruce stepped out to open the night we couldn't see him until he was just metres away from us, the closest I've ever been to the band when seeing them live. People 'on the barrier' at the very front weren't even on a barrier, their elbows were on the stage - the intimacy was incredible and from the very first note the pit went WILD.
Bruce seemed to be in a certain mood from the first song he belted out, and I don't think it was from the parking tickets his tour trucks had been issued with earlier in the day. It was dark, hot and steamy, lights were flashing, the crowd had been craving this moment for months. Bruce played 'Roulette' with energy, passion and emotion like I've never seen before. The crowd around me matched it. 'My Love Will Not Let You Down' and 'No Surrender' had us jumping up and down, limbs flying, sticky skinned and red faced already, we realised this much hyped date wasn't going to disappoint.
A slower 'Something In The Night' led into a haunting 'American Skin', even more powerful than normal in this small dark venue, with insane acoustics. We clung on to every word Bruce sang.
Bruce kept the crowd bopping and singing with 'Hungry Heart', where he went for a wander and treated the other standing fans to some handshakes, funny faces and microphone grabbing before a moment of "will he won't he" (of course he will) before he launched himself backwards, crowd surfing directly over us, back to the stage where Jake was loyally waiting for him.
|Captured by @melmarriott|
|That's @ChrisTreloar looking largely uninterested|
Next we were treated to three tour debuts in a row, the rarely played 'Local Hero', 'Gotta Get That Feeling' (for Steve Van Zandt, although I can personally vouch that we enjoyed it too) before an unrehearsed 'Bad Moon Rising' for some fans from Spain, who'd been trailing that sign behind them across Europe. After a little bit of practice they got into key and made these two hopeful Spanish fans and the rest of us dance happily hand in hand, with beaming smiles
Another unexpected treat came from the sign request for 'Thundercrack', where Bruce explained that once upon a time the song had been their show stopper, when they used to open for other bands. He admitted "we may not get through the middle of it" due to it's trickiness, but we didn't doubt they'd manage it.
Despite getting hotter and hotter in the pit, a beautiful and quite rare 'This Depression' turned my skin cold, with such simple lyrics sung to us so well. 'Because The Night' was better than ever, before a fun 'Darlington County', when Bruce headed to the back of the pit again, sending fans into a frenzy of excitement.
As we started to reach boiling point, throughout the set Bruce kept returning to the pit crowd, handing out pints of his own luminous blue drink to us fans without taking any for himself. It was a simple gesture but one that has stuck in my mind. Land Of Hope And Dreams then closed the main set and marked that time in the concert when my heart starts aching, realising how quickly the time has passed.
Potentially one of the rarest songs of Springsteen's to hear live, 'Secret Garden' opened the encores, shocking the crowd and prompting tears from many around me. Dedicated to fans who had travelled across Europe to see the band, Bruce promised he knew what we go through to make sure we see as many shows as we can. Almost pitch black, one light focused on Bruce as many of us heard this song for the first, and possibly the last time, live. 'Atlantic City' continued to keep emotions high before the band switched to their livelier numbers to start closing the show.
Despite the red face and hair now slicked back with sweat, Bruce pointed at me with an exclamation of "Burger Girl" during the next song. Wide eyed, my mouth dropped open. Gawking, I then watched as he pretended to eat a cheeseburger mid 'Badlands', as my Bruce Buds whooped around me. Arm in arm the pit jumped to the song, a celebration of spending such special times together this year.
'Born To Run', into 'Dancing In The Dark', the party atmosphere continued as we pushed out thoughts that our time was limited, and for many this was the end of the road.
|Not after a dance, just a burger please|
Captured by @AndrewTLowry
'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out', before 'Shout', the band's energy continued until the very last note they played. With the E Street Band leaving the stage, Bruce returned for a stunning acoustic 'If I Should Fall Behind', before an equally special 'Thunder Road'. For one of the fans I spoke to later (and many others I'm sure) this had been the very first song she'd ever seen Bruce perform live, back in the 70s. It marked the last song on this night for us.
Leaving with a thank you and a "we'll be seeing you", Bruce settled the crowd, with this short assurance that the band will be back, one day.
For the sake of my sanity, I just hope it's soon.
For the sake of my sanity, I just hope it's soon.
|Bruce Buddies on the night! Love you guys.|