Is this the biggest gig by a single artist that BM has reviewed for ITM? Not sure, possibly a main stage event at TITP but it has been quite a while, i.e. since before BM had the honour of being asked to write for this esteemed publication (well the editor replied to one of my comments and said “glad you liked the review, you should do one yourself” – or maybe he just replied “do one” and I misunderstood, the rest is history, dear reader(s)).
This was a monstrous event, Mr Springsteen’s third appearance at Hampden in 7 years. BM attended the first of these in 2009 (no ITM review at the time, sorry) and did not think it could get any better, so stayed away in 2013. In 2016 I reckon at 66 “The Boss” (as I believe he is referred to at times) and the venerable E Street guys may not be up for another stadium-shagging tour of this kind of proportion.
This was 30 plus songs played over a three and a half hour set with one break before the encore and pretty much no pauses. Every time they finished Bruce would count them back in for the next one, good heavens above it was relentless, they wiped the floor…
Now a lot of people out there maybe don’t “get” Bruce, he is a bit marmite, and maybe don’t see past the cover of his biggest album “Born in the USA”, released back in 1986. Breaking to it some of you now, but newsflash, this was not an album of lunkheaded cod-patriotism, it was in fact one of the darkest, angriest and most politically-charged megasellers of the era, and the anger still resonates down the decades. BM is not going to spell it out but have a listen to some of the lyrics.
Anyway Hampden events literally stop the traffic in BM’s part of town, and on June 1st Glasgow felt more like Miami, with blazing sunshine fiercely penetrating everything. We’d had several days of “taps aff” already (BM certainly got hers out, sorry, off) and there was a febrile atmosphere inside the stadium, maybe in part due to the previous weekend’s ball-kicking post event pitch invasion. Going in, yes there were police horses but no they didn’t see active use, although one did appear to have bits of a Hibs scarf still in its teeth (that’s enough sectarianism – Ed).
The stadium was not quite sold out, hard to say but there might have been 30,000 inside with some space still on the pitch and some gaps on the stands. Not “in the round” the stage was at one end of the park and sunlight shone directly at it.
Bruce does not “do” support slots and we were warned in advance he would on on early, so around 645pm things started, no chance of any lights going down but they got on stage and just went for it.
BM is not going to do a song by song run-through but will make a few comments:
– The River Tour it might have been but any notion of a play through of the 1982 album of that name had been shelved a few months ago as BS made his way across North America. Yes there were 7 or maybe 8 from said album interspersed with the hits, requested songs and other rarities.
– The band is a top form, Lofgren, Van Zandt and other long term Bruce cohorts in blistering full effect and the bass/drums/keyboards solid as ever. Patty was on vocals and a few other things too, with other musicians providing support. Special mention for Clarence Clemmons (RIP the sax man) nephew on sax, what a bj that was, good lord indeed.
– The soundmix was not that great, it took a bit of balancing out and improved over the piece but BM heard it was best “in the tunnel” but let’s not get back to the previous weekend’s events…
– Bruce was quite clearly enjoying every minute, an ordure-eating grin across his face, although he does need to lose the black hair-dye, time to be a silver fox, next year’s thing BM would advise.
– Audience interaction was key to building the momentum of the gig, from the 9 year old girl who he chose to belt out some lines from inevitable first song “Waiting on a sunny day” (she almost broke the PA system, go girl, you were so loud, he sure can pick em) to him sifting through the many placards of song requests, messages and general we love you signs, he just knows how to work a crowd.
– There were interesting song choices also: “Death to my hometown”, “American Skin” and “Born” itself suggested a hardening of attitudes onstage, perhaps fuelled by the increasing Trump threat…
– There were a lot of people there who probably went for the spectacle and the kudos (it was not cheap at £85 for anything at all, seating or standing) and there were some irritating twerps who preferred taking selfies to listening to the music but that is the price of mainstream success.
– There were many sublime moments, “The River” itself being one of them. The killer line “or is it something worse” and the deliberately low note (a “C” possibly) at the end of each line of the verses gives it a Johnny Cash via Fargo vibe, a strange and creepy take on boy meets girl complete with geopolitics thrown in, and no cars, wtf.
Towards the end of this gig BM become frustrated with the indifference of some of the crowd and was plotting to crash the “golden circle” area barriered off except for those who had come early enough to get an orange wristband. BM has a job and a life so obtaining one in advance was not possible, however it grew very apparent that this area had increasing gaps where people had left and would not be coming back (sunstroke the main reason by the looks of things). The soundmix at the side of the circle was actually quite good so BM eyeballed the G4S security staff for an good hour as they “had a think” about whether to let more people in. In the meantime everybody tried it on to get that bit nearer to Bruce, who you could see popping up from time to time in the middle of the crowd, he was not exactly going to be trampled! There were clueless people who thought their tickets let them go anywhere, there were the emphatic dads “it’s an outrage”, the “try me on” blondes trying it on, and other diversionary tactics were also attempted. Nobody though got the time of day (still rattled after last w/s)except the wristband w)))))s, and Aidan Moffat I am talking to you, only kidding but no idea he was a fan….BM was at one point tempted to offer one G4S a bit of a favour, but it would have stuck in the throat, (quiet at the back!)…
So eventually…nothing happened on that front, but it was still the best place in the circs to hear Bruce, and for the next desired Hampden gig BM will be manufacturing wristbands, we do any colour you like.
Altogether an epic gig though, and Bruce still has it in spades. His back catalogue is really second to none, even if you think you don’t like him, you will…