Bruce Springsteen

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author AP date 14/05/13 venue Parken, Copenhagen, DEN

Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band's performance at last summer's Roskilde Festival reaped unilateral acclaim, so having missed it, I felt his timely return to Denmark less than a year later would be the perfect opportunity to experience it for myself. Some 50,000 others feel the same way, it seems, as the stadium is packed to the brim tonight with a cross-generational mass of Boss-fans - just the right sort of turnout to transform this into a magical night, surely. I'm somewhat surprised to find that Springsteen's stage production is so modest, with the obligatory huge LED screens behind and to either side of the stage and the enormous amount of different instruments lined up providing the only real features. No, this is a bare necessities kind of setup, and it actually serves Bruce Springsteen well given the blue collar nature of his Americana rock.

At approximately 20:30, the Boss enters to huge applause, accompanied by no less than 15 backing musicians sporting all manner of brass, tambourine and grand piano as well as the more traditional three guitars (including Springsteen's own, of course), drums and bass guitar; and opens the proceedings with the first track off last year's "Wrecking Ball": "We Take Care of Our Own". It's a bombastic start to be sure, but one hindered by the expectedly lackluster quality of sound that this stadium suffers infamy for (especially as the roof has been pulled over tonight) first, and by the dreary audience second. It is as though most people here either take Springsteen for granted given his frequent visits to Denmark, or are too worn out from Tuesday's labour to bother to make an effort. Mind you, they politely applaud the Boss after the song, but as "Two Hearts" from 1980's "The River" LP rolls in, it begins to dawn on me that the audience is going to play a major role in shattering my expectations for the perfect rock concert. The response is quite simply disgraceful.

Attempting to rectify the situation himself (though even he appears somewhat unenthusiastic at first), Springsteen dedicates the next three songs to sign requests by patrons near the front of the foremost pit, treating us first to "Loose Ends", then "Cadillac Ranch", then the excellent "Radio Nowhere", and finally a cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Trapped". The latter proves to be disastrous, though by no fault of Springsteen's: its quiet and emotive balladry is swiftly and effectively eradicated by some tens of thousands of people chattering in casual yet loud manner and providing such noisy competition to the Boss I fear all the beauty of this track is lost and wonder why the people in question have even decided to attend if not to show respect to one of the most iconic rock musicians in history. Quite righteously, Springsteen himself addresses the issue shortly thereafter, and attempts to incite a proper reaction with an inspirational call-to-arms kind of speech ending in roaring from the bottom of his lungs: "We need you! We need you!"

Consequently the atmosphere grows marginally better during the following "Wrecking Ball", "Death to my Hometown" and the classic "Spirit in the Night", during which the Boss grows into a cozy feeling and hands out hugs at the front; though I still feel like much of the audience (bar a few very dedicated younger fans upfront) is under the illusion that this is a funeral procession and not a stadium rock concert. At this point the show is clocking in at nearly an hour, and I steal a glance at a TV2 journalist by me thinking exactly the same thoughts: that it has been a genuine struggle from Mr. Springsteen. It is perhaps for this reason that he decides to do something entirely different tonight.

We are to hear the 1975 breakthrough album "Born to Run" from start to finish, he exclaims; and finally, as "Thunder Road" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out" engulf the stadium with what is also a much better sound mix now, signs of life begin to manifest themselves especially on the pitch where thousands of arms are up in the air and the melody is collectively hummed back at Springsteen - even after the latter of the songs grinds to a halt. The title track to that album provides one of the most chilling moments of the set, the Boss letting people conclude it by scratching and scraping his guitar in a glorious maelstrom of noise; but for me personally the most magical moment tonight comes with "She's the One". To put it into context: since April 20th I have suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome, a neuropathic condition affecting the median nerve that has caused most of my right hand and part of the arm to be numb. Yet at some point during this beautiful song, I awaken to the 'strange' sensation of being able to feel them again! Coincidental though it may be, I feel it begs quoting the fine Mr. Frank Turner in his song "I Still Believe": "And who'd've thought that after all, something as simple as rock'n'roll could save us all?"

Indeed, as this legendary album unfolds before our eyes and the audience grows ever rowdier, I begin to understand why Springsteen's Roskilde Festival performance was so adored by so many. Whether it is the absolutely incredible voice of Springsteen even at 63 years of age or the downright unreal saxophone parts courtesy of Jake Clemons; or quirky details like inviting two girls on stage to participate in a mañana dance-train during "Jungleland", one thing stands abundantly clear: we are in the presence of an unparalleled artist, musician and person. That despite his legendary status he still has enough situational awareness and a sense of intimacy to him that often lets one forget how enormous this concert actually is only adds to that impression. Plus once the audience does get going, there is no stopping Springsteen and his ensemble of musicians; one will seldom see such passion, dedication and enthusiasm in virtually every person standing on stage as we witness tonight.

Inviting the aforementioned two girls on stage is not the only instance of up-close-and-personal interaction that Springsteen performs during his three-hour set, either. No, he frequently shares, and occasionally even hands over the mic to allow the true enthusiasts at the front to sing songs with him or in his place; invites a lucky lady to share a dance during "Dancing in the Dark" and another to play the acoustic guitar in another song, the title of which now escapes me; and jugs a full beer stolen from a male member of the audience to monolithic applause, naturally. It is things like these, and not the mass appeal and propensity for sing-songs of tracks like "Born in the U.S.A." that emerge as the reason why Bruce Springsteen is such a revered, respected artist, and despite leaving during the penultimate song, a cover of The Top Notes' "Twist and Shout", I still find myself well and truly entertained - even in light of the disgraceful first hour. So while this was probably not quite as otherworldly as that famed Roskilde Festival performance, it was still one which you'd have to be a fool, or at least deaf to not be able to appreciate.

8

Setlist:

  • We Take Care of Our Own
  • Two Hearts
  • Loose Ends
  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Radio Nowhere
  • Trapped (Jimmy Cliff cover)
  • Wrecking Ball
  • Death to My Hometown
  • Spirit in the Night
  • Thunder Road
  • Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
  • Night
  • Backstreets
  • Born to Run
  • She's the One
  • Meeting Across the River
  • Jungleland
  • Pay Me My Money Down
  • Shackled and Drawn
  • Waitin' on a Sunny Day
  • Lonesome Day
  • Badlands

--Encore--

  • Brilliant Disguise
  • Light of Day
  • Born in the U.S.A.
  • Glory Days
  • Bobby Jean
  • Dancing in the Dark
  • Twist and Shout (The Top Notes cover)
  • Raise Your Hand (Eddie Floyd cover)

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