It was 31 years since we first saw Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band play live, on The River tour. He was so mind-blowingly brilliant that we paid a tout double the odds (against a face price of £5.50!) for tickets for another show on the same tour. We then saw him twice on the Born In The USA tour in 1985 and again on the Tunnel Of Love tour in 1988. By that time, he was still producing some decent if unspectacular material (and even the odd classic), but his powers seemed to be on the wane. In my opinion, the first 5 albums (all made by 1980) have never been bettered. The so-called "lost decade" of the 90's, which coincided with Springsteen's ditching of The E Street Band - probably the biggest mistake of his life - helped to diminish my interest in his music to a certain extent, whilst also being instrumental in my voyage of discovery of so many other artists and genres. But as the old sporting adage goes, form is temporary, class is permanent. And with the return of The E Street Band in the late 1990's and some very good albums in recent years (and admittedly a couple of distinctly average ones thrown in) Springsteen has restablished himself at the very top of the tree. And how many artists can say that after 40 years in the business. The only other ones I can really think of that are still going strong (at least in terms of playing live) are The Rolling Stones and The Who.
Fast-forward to 2012 and Springsteen's latest album, Wrecking Ball, is (in my opinion, at least) a real return to form. So imagine my delight when I saw he was to play Montpellier, at the time we would be on holiday in the south of France. As soon as I heard about the tour, I contacted my winemaker friend Jonathan Hesford, who I know to be almost as big a Springsteen nut as me - indeed, at least 2 of Jon's wines are named after Springsteen songs(!) I must admit that 100 Euros a ticket ain't cheap (and TLD thought I was mad) but who's to say how many more opportunities we'll get to see the greatest live performer of them all, before he finally hangs up his boots for good? So there we were on Tuesday evening (Jon, Rachel, TLD and I) in the Park Suite Arena, a purpose-built indoor concert and sports venue, to see just how much mustard The Boss could still cut.
Needless to say, he still cuts it big time - and TLD finally agreed that it was money well spent! Here's a link to the full setlist from Montpellier - all 3 hours and 5 minutes of it. Not the longest set he's ever played, but still a lot longer than just about any other artist you could mention. It's a shame he didn't play too many of what I consider to be the real live classics, such as Rosalita, Backstreets, Thunder Road, Detroit Medley etc, but I guess it is all about giving the audience what he thinks they want to hear, and in the case of the French, it was probably the anthemic hits, such as Born In The USA, Dancing In The Dark, The Rising, Waiting On A Sunny Day, Born To Run. There were a good number of songs from the new album in the set too, but it is a strong collection of songs, so I'm not complaining. And with a back catalogue of such depth and quality, it would be impossible to include them all. Amongst the highlights for me were Growin' Up (I found my self singing along with youthful abandon - "When they said sit down, I stood up", "I was the Cosmic Kid!"), Candy's Room (Mighty Max Weinberg still brilliant with his machine-gun drumming), Prove It All Night (a live staple for the last 34 or so years), The River (amazing falsetto from Bruce at the end), The Rising (such a powerful, emotive song about the firefighters in the Twin Towers), Fire (given away to The Pointer Sisters, but another long-standing crowd favourite), Seven Nights To Rock (a somewhat obscure but authentic rocker) and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out (including a big-screen tribute to The Big Man - R.I.P).
|The view from our seats - not the best seats in the house, but still pretty good. |
We're too old to be standing for 4 or 5 hours in the stalls!
|The Boss, Miami Steve van Zandt and Mighty Max Weinberg|
|Nils Lofgren on guitar and Jake Clemons on saxophone - |
- it will never quite be the same without The Big Man, but his nephew still blows a pretty mean sax!
|How many 62 year-olds can hold an audience in the palm of their hand like this?|
And I can't sign-off without posting at least a couple of videos from the musical goldmine that is YouTube........
Here's one that he played in Montpellier (though this was recorded on a tour a few years ago).........
............and here's one that he didn't do (from 1984 and just an extract - the full version is often 12 minutes or more). Enjoy!
Incidentally, Jon brought along a handful of wines from his recent bottlings, which I have tasted and enjoyed over the last couple of days. I shall tell you all about them in my next post. Meanwhile, the pool beckons!