I wrote the majority of this blog post on the Amtrak train from Albany back to New York. There are better places to write about Bruce Springsteen
, but then there’s no easy place. You see the problem with Bruce is that he’s impossibly hard work. High maintenance. Yep, I love him – his music, his energy, his lyrics. But how can I ever really convey that feeling in a blog post? Are there any words good enough? How can I do him, the band, and their shows justice? I always feel like I can’t.
Luckily I’m writing for an audience that also *gets it*. Sure, there’ll be a few people passing through this space for burger recommendations – and for that there are many. And finding words about burgers is simple enough. But Bruce? Oh man. So hard. And for that reason, and coinciding with a pause in touring, I’ve had a looooong siesta from blogging about Bruce. In one sense it’s been quite nice to not feel that weird pressure, but at the same time it’s been a big old hole in my life. Like Bruce, I love dem tours.
So when the River tour was announced there was no question that I had to go. I HAD to! Off I went to New York on Friday 5 Feb, spent a couple of nights trotting around the city, eating burgers, drinking beer, kayaking on the Hudson river
(try it!). And then to Albany.
“Why Albany?” people said. They said it might be boring. They said it had no redeeming qualities (their words). It’s certainly no hotbed of cool dive bars and burger joints, but it is the fifth-oldest city in the US and the town that invented perforated toilet paper. Beat that, Philly.
So this was my first time doing the lottery system in the US, which if you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a system where you go to the venue on the day and get a wristband with a number on it, then they pull a random number out a hat/bowl/bucket and the first 300 or so after that number (depending on the size of the pit) are let into the front section. Now, if this all goes your way (and we tried to do a lot of maths, I think there’s a one in fiveish chance it will?!) then you’re laughing all the way back to the Holiday Inn Express. If it doesn’t – well, it’s still brilliant isn’t it. But hopes are often set on the pit.
Anyway, there I was in Albany with my pal Steve (@GreasyLake
on Twitter), his wife Lucie and my friend I’d met in Kilkenny, Anne-Marie. The angst! Knowing that your ‘Bruce fate’ is in the hands of some random number being picked is mega unsettling. BUT if you’re quite along the ‘what will be will be/everything happens for a reason’ mindset – which I try to be because it’s the most positive way of coping with the largely important but still shitty stuff – then the day is a little easier to stomach. All outcomes are great, that’s what you gotta remember.
So we queued up to get our wristbands, and I saw that they were purple. Purple! My favourite colour; I’m Bruce-level obsessed. And – call me a hippie – but that’s when I knew we were in. I just knew. We came back at 5pm (snowy, chilly, pizza-filled) and they picked out number 148. I was number 240, so we were within the first 100 people into the pit. Lucky, lucky purple. Lucky people, too.
|With Steve @GreasyLake on Twitter
I don’t think I need to give you the song-by-song account – we all know what this tour is about: The River. In the run up I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I love Bruce for his spontaneity, for the highs and lows that his carefully curated setlists – dotted with random curve balls – provide. And when people ask why I go to his concerts so much, I can tell them that I never know what I’m going to hear. Well this year I do. But I’m OK with it. And I think, although some fans have reservations, we’re all ultimately united in the fact that the band is still touring. I’ll take everything I can.
Meet me in the City is a blinding opener, and I love it we’re getting to hear it like that. We’re all familiar with that feeling you get when Bruce walks out and you just KNOW what you’re about to experience; how you’ll strut out that concert with clarity, believing you can achieve anything, and with a greater understand of your, er, ‘life direction’. It did that. I did that! Then The River – Sherry Darling (a song that I’ll admit I really haven’t liked on the album, but live it’s so fun and energy-packed) and the intro to Point Blank – I mean COME ON!
Hungry Heart came with crowdsurfing, obvs.
Fade Away, Stolen Car, Crush on You I LOVED (I’d read that that’s when people went off to get hotdogs, but I didn’t see any of that). And of course, Drive All Night. Pow!
I did feel a big song was needed and it was Badlands (Loose Ends was dropped). Now I’ve heard Badlands tonnes of times, but I can honestly say I really do love it more each time. It’s the song I stick on when I need a mega pick me up – the song that taught me to keep on dreaming. Yeah yeah, mock me! But seeing that song performed live, and the things it does to my health and head? I don’t think there’s anything better for me.
I think the crowd felt the same way, and assuming quite a few in the arena crowd wouldn’t have been familiar with The River in its entirety, it just worked. Combined with Wrecking Ball, Backstreets, Be True (big love), Because the Night, The Rising etc, it kept the 18,000-strong stadium mega happy and engaged. Detroit Medley (the sign request) was THE NUTS, and considering signs have been largely ignored to date, I really didn’t see them pulling that out the bag (nor did Stevie by the look on his face). I’d love to see more outtakes in this point, but maybe it’s just not time yet. I really hope they’ll come.
Then of course Born to Run… the song that started this whole thing for me via my dad, and Rosalita. Shout, which still remains one of my fav ways to end the concert, I don’t think I’ll tire of it.
Now Bruce of course was on point – the band, particularly Stevie, were loving it. But Jake. Jake was the one that was a massive WOW. He completely nailed every solo, and this tour, and album, is giving him a chance for his talent to really shine through.
Albany was a night I’ll never forget. It was a weekend I’ll never forget. I say this all the time, but Springsteen for me isn’t just about the music, it’s about the friends I’ve made along the way. I spent this weekend getting to know some truly awesome people even better, and met new ones, too – people from Twitter, couples who were travelling all over the US for shows, a couple of guys from England who add songs to their spreadsheet after each concert.
We all geek-out over Bruce in one way or another, and he rewards us for it.
The River tour 2016 – I’m coming for ya.
Thank you Lucie and Steve, aka Greasy Lake, for the good times, and for sharing a couple of your pics for this post!