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Thursday, 25 July 2013

The View From The Back Of The Room: Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff

So here we go the second time The Boss has headlined the city’s largest venue and there was a sense of anticipation in the air, there are fewer names bigger in music than Springsteen and there is always a sense of occasion whenever he descends on a city. The show was due to start at 7pm so as I knew there would be no support act (a bit of theme for The Boss) I came into the stadium at around 6:45, I was surprised by how empty the stadium was, in full rugby mode it can hold 75,000, however the stage itself took up half of the arena so there was more like around 30,000 tonight. Although it was not a sell-out. I was near the soundstage and had a lot of room to move about which was a relief due to the stifling heat in the city and the closed roof (rain was expected though never materialised). So the crowd waited...and waited...and waited. Finally at about 8:20 the show kicked off to a rapturous applause. The 16-piece band made their way to the stage and started to play before the leader himself emerged to an even louder ovation. They kicked off with This Little Light Of Mine which got the stadium clapping and singing like some kind of revival. As the night wore on this comparison would become more apt but I digress.

The major part of a Springsteen concert is that no two are the same, this is due to the sign request idea, which is where members of the front row have song requests on signs and Bruce picks them and plays them, which is surely a testament to how talented his band are as they may never know what songs are going to be chosen so obviously have to have a repertoire of over a thousand songs! First though were Long Walk Home and Adam Raised A Cain, in which The Boss showed off his guitar prowess doing his best Hendrix impression, which is again a testament to The Boss as he is backed by two amazing guitarist in the shape of Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren he is still first and foremost the lead guitarist So then we were plunged into request territory with the emphatic statement of Prove It All Night which gave Lofgren a chance to show off and the live premier of T.V Movie before this jukebox section of the show ended with Cynthia. Roulette was next and then we had a Wrecking Ball mini-suite with three songs coming from his latest album including We Take Care Of Our Own and the title track, this was followed by a bit of explanation about The Boss's past before we got to the meat and potatoes of the set with two classics in the form of Spirits In The Night and Hungry Heart and the reflective My City Of Ruins.

It's here I think I should mention The E-Street Band who are such a major part of The Boss's sound, I've already mentioned the contribution of the six stringers with Lofgren the silent partner and Van Zandt Springsteen's right hand man on guitar and co-vocals, the ivories were tickled by Roy Bittan as usual and the familiar faces of Gary Tallent and Max Weinberg kept the rhythm in check with bass and drums respectively all were augmented by the recent (well 2002) addition of Soozie Tyrell on violin and Charles Giodarno (2008) who took over the organ stool from the departed Danny Federici. There were three backing singers a percussionist and a horn section which was led by, in possibly the biggest change to the band, Jake Clemons who admirably filled in for his late uncle on sax and general larger than life joie-de-vive. A notable absence was Springsteen's wife Patti Scialfa who was not present.

 Back to the music and we were back to the covers with The Animals We've Got To Get Out Of This Place featuring special guest Eric Burden which segued into John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom and was closely followed by Summertime Blues (which has to be one of the most covered songs in history?) After this is where the show headed for the home straight as it were with the performances getting ramped up and an almost vaudeville element creeping in. Shackled And Drawn was an ode to the slavery and Waiting For A Sunny Day was the Boss at his most cringe worthy inviting a 7-year old on stage to sing with him (before handing him back to his weeping father) this was followed by The Rising and the euphoric Badlands to end the first set. We were deep into the second hour when the band returned for the encore but no rest bite was given with Born To Run, Ramrod, Tougher Than The Rest and Dancing In The Dark in which members of the crowd were invited on stage before the finale of The Isley Brothers Shout (with full Blues Brothers histrionics) and a reprise of the opening gospel tune finished the encore at three hours. So we had witnessed a multitude of songs from a huge back catalogue, you may not always get what you want to hear but you always get a good show from a man who has being doing this for nearly 50 years, part rockstar, part preacher the shows are loud, boisterous and full of some big songs.

 However after all the bluster it was in the second encore that Springsteen earned his reputation as The Boss, it was him alone on the stage with and acoustic guitar and a harmonica around his neck, like his hero Bob Dylan, and he brought silence to the crowd with his rendition of Janey Don't Lose Heart who were awestruck before the cry arose when he started to play the opening chords of Thunder Road which lead to a mass sing-along before Bruce said his goodbyes and left. If any moment in the whole 3 and a bit hour show encapsulated what The Boss is about it was that medley, it showed that for all the above Bruce Springsteen is a songwriter and a bloody good one at that! 10/10

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