Sunday, 20 October 2013

Bruce Springsteen In Summary: The One With The Wrecking Ball Tour

When non Springsteen fans hear how many shows I've seen on the Wrecking Ball tour they say I'm crazy. I'll admit I've had my moments, but is it that much of a shocker? Is my behaviour really that irrational? I don't think so.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm pretty restrained. I meet people all the time who have given up their job for the summer, or sold their car to go on their own Springsteen tour. That's just something for me to aspire to. If I ever buy a car, I can sell it when the next tour is announced. Us Springsteen fans, we are different ages, from different countries, a range of jobs and interests, but ultimately we are cut from the same stone-wash denim cloth. Some are more extreme than others, but one thing we all have in common is that urge to see Springsteen perform again, and again, and again...

But then the inevitable question from 'non fans' when the tour is over: "Which show has been your favourite?"

I'm an indecisive person, at best. There's so many factors which contribute to a brilliant Springsteen concert, it's not just the songs you hear, but an all round experience, from the moment you set off on your journey to the new friends you meet. For me, it's virtually impossible to answer.

But like all difficult problems, the easiest way to tackle them is to break them down into manageable, less daunting chunks. I can't pick a best, and definitely can't put it into a list of 1 to 14, and I can't score them out of ten. But I can tell you why they were special, in their own different ways.

So here it is. The One With The Wrecking Ball Tour:

It's no secret I like my food, and deciding where to see Springsteen in concert is very much about the city's eating potential. The two shows at Madison Square Garden, New York 2012 were squashed into a week of taking on New York one bagel and burger at a time, with a personal best of three Shake Shack burgers in one day (I know, I know). I danced it all off at the concerts with some enthusiastic Americans, seeing my first of many live performances of the Wrecking Ball album.


The One With The Incredible Set List
Heading to Rome to see the band was very much a food based decision too, combined with the passion of the hard core Italian fans I knew it would be brilliant, I just wasn't prepared for the intensity and emotions of the night. Who knows what goes through Bruce's head when he puts together a set list, or whether he ever sticks to the original plan, but that night Bruce left a field of thousands of fans speechless with an unexpected and shiver inducing New York Serenade, Kitty's Back and Incident On 57th Street.  I told you I'm indecisive, so I'd have to say rivaling Rome 2013 for the set-list spot was also London's Wembley Stadium 2013 date, with Darkness On The Edge Of Town in full (Lost In The Flood - there are no words) and also Leeds 2013, with a beautiful tour premiere of Secret Garden.


The One With The Golden Ticket
But Leeds was special for other reasons too. A small new arena, an indoor venue, a crowd full of Bruce Buds. I hadn't planned on getting Leeds tickets, clearly I hadn't been thinking straight. Despite my issues with technology, I logged on, clicked on the link, put two standing tickets in my shopping basket and processed my transaction. It really was that simple. Luck was on my side that day, the tickets sold out in minutes and I was one of just 600 people in a pit so small and intimate that the front row rested with their elbows on the stage. An intimate venue - hot, sweaty and elated, it was a night of insane acoustics and gave me a glimpse into how it might have felt so see the band perform back in the day before the big stadiums. 
Springsteen and rain come hand in hand, but the one that stands out is Florence 2012. After a very hot and humid day the clouds broke mid show with rain so heavy a poncho was useless. As if Bruce would ever shy away from a bit of water, out he strides to the crowd and plays on his knees in a torrential downpour. Soaked through, we danced to Twist and Shout in one of the funnest versions of the song I've experienced. Staying in a campsite (the life of a Springsteen fan is a life on a budget) I had all of my belongings with me, and made it back to my tent with broken camera, phone and sodden passport. Wet and cold, but with a huge smile on my face.

Sometimes it does go wrong. Rain - not fun torrential rain like Florence in 2012, but demoralising, relentless rain, combined with cold face-whipping wind and a disorderly queue of fans with steamed up glasses, broken umbrellas and damp feet. The success of the queue for the pit at a Springsteen show rides on many things, the respect and good will of fellow fans, the planning of several organised and exceptionally dedicated fans, but ultimately you have to rely on a helpful attitude from the venue staff. Manchester 2012 was the one when any sort of system went out the window and the venue's staff saw us as a crowd of disruptive football fans as opposed to a load of excited Springsteeners. Luckily maximum effort and a strong set list from Bruce and the band (including one of the best Atlantic City's I've seen) eased away the weather and queue related stress.


The One With The Opener
The One? Impossible. I watch footage from Hard Rock Calling 2012 and I can't breathe because that Thunder Road opener is so good it makes me almost cry. Land Of Hope And Dreams at Wembley (the best of his faster paced songs to open a show, for me) and Spirit in The Night in Rome 2013 - unusual but perfect for the atmosphere that night and so surreal it still feels like a hazy dream.
A dream come true, meeting Bruce Springsteen. In many ways I wish I had said more, I play the conversation back in mind and wonder if I thanked him for his music, if I eloquently communicated how much it means to me, and every fan. I don't think I did. Instead I rambled on about burgers, and Bruce Buds, and this blog. But Bruce does love burgers!  Simple, fuss free, thin patty, squirt of ketchup, 60s diner style. So fond is he of the burger that mid Dancing In The Dark the next night at Belfast 2013 he feels the need to exclaim "I NEED A CHEESEBURGER." And I know how he feels.

Not the gate crashing Paul McCartney (sorry but I'm not a fan), for me the best special guest would have to be Tom Morello at Hard Rocking Calling 2012 with that performance of The Ghost Of Tom Joad. This is closely followed by the lovely Glen Hansard during the Kilkenny Weekender 2013, with an achingly beautiful Drive All Night. Seeing someone get the opportunity to perform with one of their biggest musical idols and inspirations was incredible to watch, with a stunning performance of the song which silenced the crowd.

The One With The Sunshine
I've become so accustomed to seeing Bruce play in torrential rain and drizzle, the sunshine at Hard Rock Calling at the Olympic Park 2013 threw me into a panic. An early start combined with lack of water and sun cream made me feel a little bit queasy. Still, I pulled myself together for a Born In The USA show. From where I was I could see it was a slightly messy performance from the band, but fun nevertheless. The next day I felt like I had a horrendous hangover, no alcohol consumed, it was a result of sheer dehydration on a sunny day. Going to a Springsteen concert has become a bit of an extreme sport.

The One With The Support Band
The band that I've become a little bit obsessed with. Springsteen rarely has a band play before him but this little Italian duo 'The Cyborgs' got the opportunity of a lifetime to play before Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Rock in Roma 2013. I've since been to see them in London, and recommend them to anyone who likes a bit of blues rock (I never realised I did) and more importantly, a bit of fun. An unexpected, entertaining opener and the best way to wait for Springsteen.

The One With My Dad
...Because I wouldn't be writing this if it wasn't for him. My dad, who introduced me to Springsteen's music. We drove to Coventry, went walking in the rain, ate pies and listened to Bruce. The Born To Run album in fact, the one that got me hooked in the first place. Played live for us that evening, there couldn't have been a more fitting album to hear together.


The 14 With The Bruce Buds
Oh Bruce Buds! A community of Springsteen loving friends who are kind and encouraging and love Springsteen's music just as much as I do. Every show has been filled with these amazing people, how could I pick just one? Bruce Buds have been discovered at every turn over the last few years on the Wrecking Ball tour, and there's countless more to meet further up the road.




The Wrecking Ball tour. Two years of Springsteen filled fun. Incredible music, brilliant people, and plenty more good times to come. For now, I'll leave you with this.






Have some Wrecking Ball memories to share? Add them on to the end of this post! 
"The One With...."


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