Fans become familiar with Bruce Springsteen‘s music in many different ways, but I have my dad to thank for introducing me to Bruce.
Before I came along, my dad was one of the lucky ones at Hammersmith in the 70s. At Wembley in 1981, when he was supposed to be taking it easy in a wheel chair due to a broken leg, instead he was dancing on a chair, waving his crutches in the air. It’s fair to say that with an avid fan like my dad, there was no way I wouldn’t catch the Springsteen bug.
Springsteen was always our driving music. Long journeys to the North East where my dad is from, Bruce was the soundtrack, Born To Run on repeat. So it seemed appropriate on Thursday to be driving to Coventry, to see our first concert Springsteen together. Back then the album could make me sing or sleep in the car, now it makes me whoop, jump, sing, dance, and when seen live, there’s a tear or two.
Gone are the days of being squashed against the barrier in the pit, my dad now prefers a seat at the side where he can watch the whole band perform together. It was a good opportunity for me to see Springsteen with more ‘rational’ behaviour, as queuing in the rain for the pit seems to have become my norm (Wembley 2013, Florence 2012, etc etc…)
We took our seats and waited for the stadium to fill. We were a little excited.
The burgers at Ricoh Arena Coventry looked a little unappealing, so instead I went for a pie.
After a couple of hours of waiting, it was Boss Time. When Bruce strode out with his acoustic guitar and harmonica there was a moment of shock when he started playing. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more to open than an acoustic The Ghost of Tom Joad – I’ve never seen it performed this way and it’s a moment I won’t ever forget. The band joined the stage and Long Walk Home got the standing crowd going (although the seated fans around me were more restrained) followed by My Love Will Not Let You Down, Two Hearts (not by favourite song but much better live) and Seeds.
Trapped was a highlight for me in the early stages of the concert, and I felt lucky to see the debut of Long Time Coming. I’ll always love Wrecking Ball and Death To My Hometown, the songs which encouraged the crowd sitting around me to stand. Bruce had some great interaction with the pit fans during Hungry Heart, granting one guy a man hug after a sign request.
The River was next. It always has been and always will be one of my favourite songs – and it was a spine tingling performance on the night, a request from a nine year old boy with exceptional music taste.
Next the announcement of the full Born To Run album, dedicated to the late James Gandolfini. As the album that got me into Springsteen I felt so happy to have the opportunity to hear it live from start to finish. Some fans complain about hearing full albums in the middle of shows. Whilst I love not knowing what’s coming next with Springsteen, every album means something to someone, and this one means a lot to me, introducing me to Bruce all those years ago. Backstreets is the sign request I carried around from concert to concert in 2009, and Jungleland is a song I’ve never seen live. Whilst I never saw Clarence Clemons play it, I know that Jake Clemons would have made his uncle especially proud that night.
Next we had Pay Me My Money Down, and I did my second hip in after the first at Wembley a few nights before. Shackled and Drawn for me will never get old, I love seeing the band come together for a dance. Waiting On A Sunny Day had the stadium singing (you just can’t help it can you) before Bruce reminded us “it’s alright” during Lonesome Day. I was relieved the setlist didn’t miss Badlands, played as song 24. As much as it works for an opener I love hearing it mid set too.
As an encore, We Are Alive had us jigging in the stands before Born In The USA belted out, and a fond favourite of mine, Bobby Jean. A lucky lady was heaved out of the crowd for dance with Bruce during Dancing In The Dark, before Bruce told us Raise Your Hands.
American Land ended the set with the band lined up across the front of the stage before walking down to the pit crowd. It couldn’t have been a better finishing song for us.
As we drove back to London that night, I thought to myself how despite the years, not much has changed. A few inches in height, some wrinkles, a centimetre or several around the waist. We always have been, and always will be, massive Bruce Springsteen fans.