Bruce Springsteen

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author MIN date 20/07/16 venue Casa Arena, Horsens, DEN

Less than a month ago I found myself seated at Telia Parken in Copenhagen, ready to see the smoldering primordial force that is Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band. Back then I was comfortably seated in front of a large speaker, causing the sound to be pretty good (contrary to common belief about that particular setting). Therefore, I’ve decided to this time around take the floor and see how the experience will differ in comparison, both regarding to the crowd and the sound. Tonight’s show takes place at Horsens’ Casa Arena which is smaller (about 30.000 people in attendance), more open (there’s no roof and the walls are less closed) and also has some seriously heavy lighting options in the shape of several huge horizontal poles towering above the stadium. Obviously, I’m excited to see how things will turn out.

All photos courtesy of Hasan Jensen

Bruce Springsteen

Following the death of former Suicide frontman Alex Vega, it was only natural that Bruce Springsteen would choose to cover the band’s classic song “Dream Baby Dream”, seeing as he’d previously recorded his own rendition of it. It’s a beautiful song and you can really feel the emotions put on display as Springsteen keeps his eyes closed almost throughout the entire song. The song’s primarily driven by an accordion which unfortunately overshadows the rest of the instruments presented (like Soozie Tyrell on violin or Jake Clemons taking duties on a large bass drum), but still it’s a special and heartfelt delivery that feels like it’s something the band needed to do. The next few songs get things going, where especially the classic line ”We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school” from “No Surrender” truly strikes a chord within me. But unfortunately, the failing soundscape hinders the experience from truly transforming.

During the first six songs, you can constantly hear a loud, screeching noise from Little Steven’s microphone each time he sings in it, and we have to get all the way to “Two Hearts” before the infuriating nuisance is put to an end. But this doesn’t mean that everything’s picture perfect from here on out: Mighty Max’s bass drum is sorely missing, and I’m left without the feeling of having the core of my foundation shaken by his thunderous musicianship. Also, the several guitars present tonight have a way of getting lost in the mix: Both “The Promised Land”, “Badlands” and several others simply just lose detail tonight. But everyone can complain about the sound being lack luster; no, what’s really a shame tonight is the fact that during some of the songs, the band almost sounds rusty and unpracticed – and the mix greatly highlights this fact. I get a feeling that the band’s tour has been going for maybe a few weeks too long, as some songs just don’t have the energy and delivery that they did a month ago. Halfway through the set we reach a point where a string of songs actually get boring, and I find myself slightly disappointed in a Springsteen-show for the first time: Rarities “Frankie” and the Elvis Presley-cover “Follow That Dream” sound unrehearsed (especially the former as the band has to start it over), and both “I’m a Rocker”, “Working on the Highway” and “Darlington County” feels like they’re going nowhere with their extended interplay. Especially the organ and synthesizers have a way of being too loud, and the treble takes over where there should be bass too often.

Luckily, the band’s lacking performance isn’t a tendency throughout, and several elements point to this show as being something special. Jake Clemons on saxophone seems to only get better every time I see him perform, and Nils Lofgren’s guitar-playing is still one for the books. The amazing three-song streak before the encore, consisting of “Because the Night”, “The Rising” and “Land of Hope and Dreams”, really gets things going, and “Because the Night” features a blistering guitar solo that would make Neil Young proud. Further highlights include The Boss himself taking some seriously heavy guitar duties on “Cover Me”, Clemons and Bruce going into the rafters during “Hungry Heart” (obviously leading into a glorious sing-along), and especially seeing the band have as much fun as they do on stage is a pleasure. Several times throughout, Little Steven or Nils Lofgren sings in place of Bruce because he either has to chug a beer or hug a fan. Admittedly, these two guys might not sing very well anymore, but it’s good fun, and when things are this entertaining, they don’t always have to be perfect.

Perfect is the word that best describes some of the songs tonight, however. If tonight was a Bruce Springsteen solo show where only a piano, a guitar and The Boss’ powerful and emotional were put on display, it’d be one for the books. The quieter songs that feature less instrumentation are astonishing: “American Skin (41 Shots)” feels as relevant as ever, “The River” is beautifully and soulfully performed despite the crowd’s horrible “clapping in sync”-techniques, and the highs by the end of “I’m on Fire” are almost emotionally devastating. Tonight’s encore has mixed the songs up a little as they include the epic “Born to Run”-classic “Backstreets” and an, unfortunately, rather weak “Ramrod”. “Born in the USA” is hindered by not truly being able to hear the full power of Max’s drumming, but luckily one of the best deliveries of “Dancing in the Dark” makes up for it. During this song, the band lets several people take the stage: One fella hands Soozie a rose, another grabs an acoustic guitar and plays along, a girl bangs on the drums, and several are just partying along, finally making the crowd (who’s unfortunately been rather drowsy tonight) go wild. By the end, we’re treated to a haunting acoustic rendition of the one and only “Thunder Road” which also gets people singing along, finishing off the set on an impressive high.

Ultimately, tonight’s set was far from perfect, both regarding sound and the occasionally magic-less performance. But the highlights made up for a few bumps in the road, and Springsteen & co. managed to pull off another excellent show. Once again, “The River” wasn’t played in full, but we did get half of the album, including a rare performance of “Independence Day”. At one point I actually thought they were going to do it as they played track one plus two and four through seven, but afterwards the band turned to taking sign requests instead. I’ll be looking forward to plenty of Bruce Springsteen shows in the future, however I hope that they’ll make the tour a little shorter the next time around, seeing as tonight was marked by a few hitches probably due to an extensive tour. And with shows lasting this long (three hours and 25 minutes), no one would blame the band for taking a few extra nights off.

Setlist:

  • 1.Dream Baby Dream (Suicide cover)
  • 2. The Promised Land
  • 3. Badlands
  • 4. No Surrender
  • 5. The Ties That Bind
  • 6. Sherry Darling
  • 7. Two Hears
  • 8. Independence Day
  • 9. Hungry Heart
  • 10. Out in the Street
  • 11. You Never Can Tell (Chuck Berry Cover)
  • 12. Cover Me
  • 13. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
  • 14. Death to My Hometown
  • 15. The River
  • 16. American Skin (41 Shots)
  • 17. Frankie
  • 18. Darlington County
  • 19. I’m a Rocker
  • 20. Working on the Highway
  • 21. Follow That Dream (Elvis Presley cover)
  • 22. I’m on Fire
  • 23. Because the Night
  • 24. The Rising
  • 25. Land of Hope and Dreams
  • - Encore 1
  • 26. Backstreets
  • 27. Born in the USA
  • 28. Born to Run
  • 29. Ramrod
  • 30. Dancing in the Dark
  • 31. Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  • 32. Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
  • - Encore 2
  • 33. Thunder Road (solo, acoustic)

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