Rebel Rouser

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Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s triumphant return to Ireland for their debut Limerick gig last Tuesday was followed two days later by the band’s first ever gig in Cork city. As I made my way down on the bus from Limerick, I thought about the last gig played at what was going to be Thursday night’s venue. Páirc Úi Chaoimh is the home of the GAA in Cork and also the home of the Cork hurling team that had been defeated by Limerick the previous Sunday. I had been there a lot throughout the ’90s, following the fortunes of a pretty decent Limerick hurling team and had actually been in attendence in July when Limerick won the 1996 Munster championship by beating Tipperary in a replay. I never thought it would be another 17 years before Limerick would win their next Munster title and, when I saw Oasis play there a month later, I never imagined that it would just as long before another concert would take place at Pairc Úi Chaoimh

Limerick to Cork

I got on the 11.35am bus to Cork from Colbert station in Limerick and turned my iPod up loud so I didn’t have to think. As the bus meandered through the badlands of Charleville and into the promised land of Cork, I listened to Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s my favourite album by Bruce and I hoped he might play that album in its entirety in Cork, just as he’d played the whole of the Born to Run LP in Limerick. A couple of hours later, the bus arrived in Cork and in plenty of time for me to get a shuttle bus out to the stadium for 2.00pm. Just as there had been in Limerick a couple of days earlier, there was a nice buzz around Cork city. The streets were busy with people walking and many more were sitting outside pubs and restaurants while a number of buskers soundtracked the occasion quite nicely. I had resolved to get to the ground earlier than in Limerick and I was glad I did. I made my way to the back of the queue for the pit and found out that about 800 fans had already been left into a holding area before gaining access to the pitch once the band had finished its soundcheck. Over the previous few days, most of those folks had been returning a few times a day to hold their place in line to get to the very front of the stage. I had no desire to be so close to the action, but knew that my position in the queue would guarantee me a place in the pit


My main reason for getting to the gig so early was to meet some of the other fans and hear their stories. Of course, everyone who goes to a Springsteen gig is going to be interesting to talk to anyway, but I really lucked out with the ones who were near me in the queue. There was a guy from Cambridge who had been to 45 gigs and admitted that the gig in Limerick easily made it into his top five. I discovered that, like me, he was a fan of Arsenal FC and had seen Bruce and the E Street Band at the Emirates! We then met a young man from Cork who also turned out to be a Gooner and who had also been at the Limerick gig. He was standing in line with his mother, while his father and sister were already in the stadium because they’d been queuing since 9.00 that morning. This family wouldn’t be reunited until the end of the day, but I couldn’t sense any sign of familial hostility coming from the mother and her son. Finally, I met three Italians who had flown over from Milan that morning and were returing the next day. Sadly, one of them had left his pitch ticket for the gig back in Genoa and had no option but to buy another one when he got to Ireland. Unfortunately, he could only get a seated ticket and, though they tried as hard as they could, the other two Italians couldn’t get him into the pit after the gates opened as that area is only for fans with standing tickets. They even asked me to help, but it was to no avail


After saying “ciao” to the guy from Genoa, my posse and I made our way to the pit and I waited for my sister Úna and husband John to get in. They joined the queue over an hour after me, but it wasn’t too long before we were all reunited in front of the stage. I introduced my new entourage to my immediate family and Úna, John and I decided to get a quick drink in case Bruce reprised his solo support slot from Limerick. We were just on our way up the steps to the exit for the drinks area when a huge roar erupted from the pit. We turned back and couldn’t believe that we were being treated to another “unplugged” set from The Boss. It was still only 4.30, a full hour earlier than in Limerick, and the only fans in the ground were in the pit at the front of the stage. The rest of the pitch and the stands were completely empty as Bruce opened with two songs from the Magic album, I’ll Work for Your Love and a brilliant singalong version of Girls in Their Summer Clothes. Joking that he thought those songs were going to be huge, he put down his guitar and went over to the piano to play a song I didn’t recognise. The song was a slowed down version of Real World from Human Touch and yet another tour premiere, the first of three in Cork. It was a request from an audience member and Bruce told us that he hadn’t played it in a while. He worked out most of the chords pretty quickly and it sounded quite impressive even though he stumbled through the notes on the piano towards the end. He then bade us goodbye and we went to get that well-deserved drink and to fill our stomachs before the main event

Bualadh Boss

Bruce and the band took to the stage at around the same time as in Limerick (7.25pm) and yet again got the crown going with a lively version of This Little Light of Mine. Half the setlist from Limerick would appear again at various points in Cork, but the next half dozen songs were exclusive to the rebel county. The tempo did not subside with My Love Will Not Let You Down from Tracks and two crowd favourites from The River, Out in the Street and Sherry Darling. Then Bruce made his way over to the crowd and grabbed a few of the signs offered to him. One song in particular caught his eye, Chip Taylor’s Wild Thing, which hasn’t been played too often by the band and was another tour premiere. This is a song that any band should know and it was no bother for the E Street Band and was probably the highlight of the Cork show for me. Despite a number of additions, the E Street Band always manage to impress and they’ve really been on fire so far in Ireland. At its conclusion, Bruce gave a shout out to the version of Wild Thing by The Troggs and to the late Reg Presley

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Another sign request, Frankie from Tracks, saw the fierce tempo drop a little and Adam Raised a Cain from Darkness on the Edge of Town paved the way for a reprise of four songs from the Wrecking Ball album that proved as popular as they had in Limerick. Then Bruce got back to the crowd again when he spotted a familiar sign and face at the front of the crowd. He announced that he’d seen this man carrying the sign to a lot of the gigs and shook his hand. He had a small chat with him and brought the sign up on stage and played The Price You Pay from The River for the man whose name was Derek. I really enjoyed this and the next one, the extended version of Prove It All Night. Born in the USA’s Darlington County brought back the party mood for those lucky enough not to have seats, but the crowd sitting in the stands were proving harder to reach

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It’s pretty intense in the pit at a Springsteen gig and, consequently, it’s hard to gauge what’s happening behind you on the pitch and in the stands. I was so intent on what was happening on stage at Thomond Park that I didn’t really know what was going on elsewhere, but everytime I looked around everybody seemed to be up dancing and jumping around for the lively numbers. My friends Thomas and Linda, at their first Springsteen gig, confirmed afterwards that this was the case throughout the show. However, as the band launched into Pay Me My Money Down, Bruce stopped the song to address the stands on both sides of Páirc Úi Chaoimh: “I’m working my ass off up here,” he began. “I still see Irish people sitting down. In 30 seconds, the Irish brain is gonna tell the Irish ass – Shake Me!” It was meant in jest, of course, and got everyone up for a while, but the stands remained quiet later on

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The remainder of the main set was mostly made up of songs from the last decade and included the obligatory wide grins from the audience when not one, but two, young kids joined Bruce on the chorus of Waitin’ on a Sunny Day. Both The Rising and Land of Hope and Dreams were powerful and bookended another favourite of the night for me, a rousing rendition of Badlands that certainly had the pit going full throttle. A couple of songs later, Bruce was left alone on stage as the band took a well-deserved break and The Boss went over to the piano to reprise for 40,000 the version of Real World that he’d played to a few thousand earlier. This time he didn’t make a mistake on the keys and, having heard it a few hours earlier, its familiarity bred admiration and respect. The band returned for another seven numbers that really rocked the pit, even though most of these songs probably appear every night. It was wonderful to hear a stadium of mostly Irish people belt out the chorus to Born in the USA and the version of Born to Run was probably superior to the one in Limerick. Dancing in the Dark was certainly more fun as Bruce brought three girls up on stage and put guitars around their shoulders. While they danced in the fading light with the E Street Band, Bruce agreed to a daughter’s sign request that asked him to give her mother a hug for her 50th birthday. The show finished as in Limerick on a high, with The Temptations’s Shout and a reprise of This Little Light of Mine from three hours earlier. It looked like this would also bring the curtain down on another wonderful night as each member of the band received a pat on the back from their boss as they left the stage

Thunder Road solo

It was still only 10.30pm and Bruce was the last man standing in front of us at Páirc Úi Chaoimh. He approached the microphone with an acoustic guitar slung around his shoulders and a harmonica hanging from his neck. The crowd became quiet as he spoke. “We’ve been travelling for a long time now. We’re glad to be finishing up our tour in Ireland!” The audience cheered as he emphasised that last word. “This has become a special place to us over the years.” Then he started playing the harmonica and told us about slamming screen doors, swaying dresses, radios playing Roy Orbison and magic in the night. The song was, of course, Thunder Road, but a far more pensive and melancholy one than the soaring band version that he played two nights previously in Limerick. Some people in the crowd sang along and the rest listened as Bruce Springsteen held 40,000 music fans captive for five minutes. When the song finished, he removed the guitar and harmonica and hoisted them in the air like an old soldier ready for his final battle. “Thanks for a beautiful night!” were his parting words to the Cork crowd and, after acknowledging the applause and cheers in front of him, he turned around, walked to the back of the stage and disappeared down the steps as the house lights came on


As everybody slowly made their way out of the ground, I tried not to lose my sister and her husband as I would be staying at their house that night. I reflected upon how the most poignant moment of the night for me, and perhaps for many in the audience, had come right at the end of the show. There seemed to be a weariness and sadness in the acoustic version that is nowhere to be found in the original. I wondered how long Bruce could keep doing such lengthy shows and what the future lay in store for him and his many fans around the world. But then we made it out onto the streets and the crowd quickened its pace and Úna, John and I started to make our way to where their car was parked. We started to talk about the show and our favourite moments from the day. For the first time since the Limerick gig, I would actually be travelling in a car and I was looking forward to finally sitting down. We walked to the outskirts of the city where hundreds of happy fans were heading towards their cars as well. As John got behind the wheel and Úna into the passenger seat, I looked back at the happy faces behind me and smiled as I thought of all the parties that would contine around Cork city that night, just as they had in Limerick. I got into the back seat and, as John pulled out of Cork, I couldn’t help but look back at the departing lights of the city and the gladness on the edge of town


4 thoughts on “Rebel Rouser

  1. Nice review! Thanks for your comments on my Blogness on the Edge of Town review. They added a lot to what I had written. I’m glad you enjoyed both shows so much. I’m heading home to the States tomorrow, but kind if wish I was staying for the Kilkenny shows.

    • Cheers, Sue

      Sorry to hear you’ll miss the final two shows of the European tour. My sister’s going to the Saturday gig and I’m going to the final one. It’s not as sunny here this week but I think they’re going to be a lot of fun and undoubtably a little bittersweet as well. It could be more difficult to get into the pit on Sunday as it’s the last show and the gates will be opening pretty early, but I’ll try my best to make it in.

      Good luck,

  2. There’s magic in the night, indeed! Nice review, Pat. It’s always fun to hear a true fan’s perspective on a show – especially when there are two show to compare to each other.

    • Cheers, Jim. As a fan, I think you enjoy the show a lot more if you’re right in the middle of the action & it also helps to meet other fans & to have a few cold beverages as well. I guess the main priority for a music journalist is to offer a critical perspective of the gig for someone who wasn’t there & would like to attend a future show. Or to give a balanced account of the show to someone who was there & would like to hear what it was really like. I guess it’s easier to do this if you’re sitting in the comfort of the press box, but that’s not how most concert goers do it.

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