Posts Tagged ‘Etihad Stadium’

Bruce Springsteen performing at the Etihad

It’s not often I think: “Damn, I wish I’d dressed as Santa tonight.”

But last night Bruce Springsteen left 55,000 fans in the Etihad stadium thinking just that. Yes, during his sell out show in Manchester – the first UK night of The River Tour – he invited a man dressed as Father Christmas onto the stage with him, before launching into an impromptu rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”

“There are only 270 days til Christmas” laughed Bruce. “No one knew that Manchester was where Santa lives in the off season – now we know.” He added: “This is the only place that’s going to happen”

During last night’s show they played for a touch over three hours, treating fans – many of whom were seen camped outside the stadium for 48 hours before the gig – to a whopping 33-song set, with a couple of surprises thrown in. Encoring with “Shout”, a cover of The Isley Brother’s classic, got everyone dancing in their rain soaked cagoules. Because The Night, Badlands and The River were also among the highlights of the accomplished set.

“Ah rainy Manchester, we wouldn’t have you any other way,” Bruce – who hails from New Jersey – laughed through the drizzle, wearing his black shirt sleeves rolled up and paired with a printed neckerchief.

What a fantastic night in Manchester last night. From the first chords of Atlantic City , a fantastic opening track for me, rapidly followed by a hard hitting Murder Incorporated, Bruce and the band wove their magic into our hearts with every song.
Every track was a highlight, but the beginning of “Little Girl I Marry You”, “Point Blank”, and “Backstreets” and as always “The River” transfixed me. I never sing but last night I did for every song , dancing around to Shout and laughing at all Miami s facial expressions. Bruce and Steve seemed to be really enjoying themselves last night . Nils fell over a front wedge speaker and Bruce commented about him being over on his ass.

It takes a perverse sense of logic to serenade a crowd with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town in May, but Bruce Springsteen isn’t one for strict convention, seasonal or otherwise. The opening night of his UK tour saw him raise the spirits of a damp and non stop drizzly Manchester with an unexpected rendition of the Christmas novelty number, little over 15 minutes into his mammoth three-hour set.

He really needn’t have bothered. Springsteen’s ace card is his everyman appeal, a performer with a natural rapport with his audience and an undeniable knack for an air-punching chorus. It’s a feelgood quality that feels utterly free of contrivance. the live arena is where he and his band truly excel.

He didn’t need much of an excuse on this occasion, going off on a prolonged walkabout into the throng during a pumping Hungry Heart, glad-handing the punters like a returning king. “Manchester we’ve got a crush on you!” he yelled, grinning from one ear to the other as he returned to the stage.

Springsteen was here, ostensibly, to perform The River album, the sprawling 1980 opus that lit the touchpaper  that fired him from cultish songwriter to global superstar for a decade. The title track was particularly affecting. Bookended by some windblown harmonica, it swiftly became a dialogue with the crowd, Springsteen breaking from the verses to hold the mic aloft as the lyrics were sung back at him in a vast wave, a spontaneous communique between the adoring and the adored. “Point Blank” was beautiful too, a showcase for Roy Bittan to demonstrate the elegant economy of his piano lines.

Bittan has been at Bruce’s side since Born To Run, for the most part, and is emblematic of the kind of loyalty Springsteen seems to inspire. The seven-piece band, be it Nils Lofgren turning circles during a solo or fellow guitarist Steve Van Zandt barking a call and response with Springsteen at stage centre, clearly had a blast too.

There was an ecstatic “Johnny 99”, on which The Boss’s Chuck Berry riff served as an invitation for each member of the group to take a moment under the lights. The goodtime vibes reached a peak with Waiting On a Sunny Day. As the rain continued to fall, Springsteen brought a 12-year-old girl out from the crowd and embarked on a duet that drew a huge roar of appreciation. He may look like a tough in a Scorcese movie, but he invariably came across as the kind of guy you’d really like to know better.

If this show proved anything, it’s that Springsteen is a master of structure, peppering the set with anthems that prevented the more understated moments from sagging.Out On The Street” was as striking as it was concise. “Darlington County” was terrific, as was “Because The Night”, the song he wrote for Patti Smith in the late Seventies.

But the first encore took proceedings to a new level. His version of “Backstreets” was simply immense, replete with a Bruce guitar solo as impassioned as it was descriptive. And “Born To Run” remains arguably the most irresistible weapon in his arsenal. “Glory Days” was a reminder of his Eighties pomp, delivered with a conviction that, two and a half hours in, was little short of astonishing. It was for me a night of reminding me how to be truly alive. “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” then drew the first encore towards its close. During the latter, a touching tribute to the band’s late saxophonist Clarence Clemons and keyboard player Danny Federici was projected onto the big screens behind the band.

“One more for Manchester,” Bruce said to the crowd as he came back onto the stage alone for a second encore (Because one is just not enough).

For the final song – an acoustic rendition of This Hard Land – it was just us, him and his guitar. Despite the 54,999 fans around me, I felt for a moment like I was the only one there.

Others may come and go, but Bruce will always be The Boss.
I have one gripe , and it is the same at all big gigs – why do people drink so much , which makes them tramp off on mass to the toilets and bar during every quiet song? It drives me mad. There are loads of days to drink and not so many to marvel at the mastery of Bruce Springsteen and the E St Band.
“Until the end, forever friends “