Bruce Springsteen defied the passage of time once again in Kilkenny, Getintothis’ Al O’ Hare reflects on a sterling night from one of rock’s most enduring figures.
It’s a measure of Bruce Springsteen’s standing that where others develop tours and curate shows around the performance of an album that perhaps shifted a few units, he casually throws a “top to bottom” delivery of the 30 million-selling Born in the USA into the middle of just another performance.
We’re fibbing, of course, as Springsteen and his E Street Band never offer ‘just another performance’.
So it was in Kilkenny, Ireland, for the penultimate gig in Europe of his year-long tour to support latest record, Wrecking Ball.
With barnstorming rip it ups’ of four songs from said album, Springsteen continues to present his show in the now, unlike lots of his peers with whom he gets lumped in. Make no mistake: this gig is vital.
You can feel it in the air when the crowd rises for “the hard times come/hard times go” verse of the title track.
You can feel it further when the 19 year old girl from Sweden, who has travelled across Europe to be here, lets me know, as her fist pumps the air during Death To My Hometown’s frightening final verse (“The greedy thieves who came around/And ate the flesh of everything they found/Whose crimes have gone unpunished now/Who walk the streets as free men now“).
You can distinctly feel something tangible when 30,000 Irish voices take over The River and sing “but lately there ain’t been much work/on account of the economy.”
It’s breathtaking stuff. And there is no let up: 33 songs and over three hours of honest to goodness rock ‘n’ soul music.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band rolled back the years in Kilkenny
Springsteen is no old man (well, he is, 63 now) on a winding down mission – his guitar playing, singing and band leading still set the standards to which all performing artists looking to connect with a guitar and a song, should aspire to.
The delivery of the Born in the USA record in full is both celebratory and revelatory.
The celebrations start with the barnstorming title track and finish with Dancing in the Dark bringing three more young girls to the stage.
But it’s the revelations we’re interested in: shorn of its gated 80s snare drum sound and synthesiser washes, the album reveals itself as a pop classic.
The horn and guitar riffs dominating Downbound Train, Cover Me and Glory Days sound fantastic.
The melodies of Bobby Jean and No Surrender have radio written all over them.
The album whizzes by in just over an hour and leaves Springsteen and his original band members (they’re augmented to 18 on this tour with horns, singers and percussion) stood alone in the centre of the stage taking the plaudits.
It’s some moment. But even that is surpassed by a summer night’s dream-like take on Drive All Night, as the sun goes down.
Support act Glen Hansard (The Frames, Once the movie) joins Bruce for a duet on the slow burning rarity from The River album and it feels like the whole of Ireland melts from its intensity.
This being a Springsteen show, we move from politics and bad times to heart, soul and sex within three or four numbers.
Before you know it, we’re having a party: Sam Cooke’s Shake, Lulu’s Shout and the gospel fervour of This Little Light of Mine are all whipped out to get the stadium dancing like a small club on the New Jersey shore.
Perhaps this is Springsteen’s greatest trick: that he can take the big stage and turn it into anything he wants – soul revue, political rally, rock gig or something just plain silly (his horn section are taught the riff to Sweet Soul Music by the crowd’s voices!).
Rolling Stone recently proclaimed Bruce and the E Street Band the greatest live performers of all time. Until we witness Prince hit his sixties and sing a Sam Cooke cover spinning around the floor on his back, we’re going to find it hard to argue.
Further reading on Getintothis:
Springsteen & I: Fan-shot documentary on The Boss comes to Liverpool
Top 10: Neil Young
Elvis Costello & The Imposters: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool