Man at the Top

Long Time Comin'

And so Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band‘s Wrecking Ball Tour made its way around Europe and finished up with two nights in Kilkenny. I’d only planned to go to the two Munster gigs when the Irish dates had been announced last winter, but that plan went out the window following the first show in Limerick. I went online the next day and easily secured a pitch ticket for the second and final concert at Nowlan Park on July 28th. These two dates were going to be a bit of a celebration as half a dozen other acts would join Bruce and the band over the two days in what was being billed as the Wrecking Ball Weekender. My sister and her husband had already bought tickets for the Saturday and they both had yet another unforgettable night on what was their third gig of tour. Josh Ritter, Damien Dempsey and Glen Hansard had warmed up the crowd that night and Glen also returned to share the stage with Bruce during an impressive duet on Drive All Night. They also got the whole of the Born in the USA album and some nice weather, so it sounded like Sunday would be a tough act to follow

The Road of Good Intentions

One does not simply just show up to a Bruce Springsteen gig and the earlier start and the journey from Limerick to Kilkenny turned it into a big day out. So, I got some provisions ready the night before: water, Lucozade and snacks to keep me going, extra juice for my iPhone and some tunes for the road. For the first time this year, I would actually be travelling to a Bruce gig by car. I had managed to persuade an acquaintance of mine to purchase a ticket and he offered to drive down that morning and back to Limerick that night. Barry is pictured with me below during a brief rain shower. To his great regret, he had never seen The Boss in the flesh and was kicking himself when he heard the wholly positive reports that emerged following the Limerick show. He also had no trouble getting his hands on a pitch ticket, so last Sunday he showed up at my place just before 9.00am and we hit out to Kilkenny after filling up on an Irish breakfast to keep us going until lunchtime. The long and winding road to Kilkenny was quiet and we got there around 11.30am and easily found the huge car park thanks to the numerous well-placed signposts that had been placed all over town. We walked from there to Nowlan Park and found ourselves at the back of the queue for the pit just before midday. It had been our intention to get there as early as possible in order to get into the pit and pretty soon the gates were opened and we found ourselves in another queue inside and wearing the precious wristbands before too long. It was now time to relax and get some well-deserved cold beverages and to mingle with the good people we’d meet

Glory Days

Blood Brothers

A Springsteen gig is very different to every other type of concert I’ve attended over the years. Not only does it last twice as long as other shows, but thousands show up hours before the music begins. It was easy to feel the warmth and friendliness of these strangers who have The Boss and his music in common whenever I travelled with my friend John to shows at the RDS in Dublin. Happily, a few of these folks are no longer strangers and I was delighted to resume contact with some of the fans I had met at the show in Cork. You may remember the Arsenal fan and his mother that I met in Cork from my post about the Pairc Úi Chaoimh gig. His father and sister had abandoned them to set up camp at the front of the stage. Well, you’ll be glad to hear that three of them were reunited in Kilkenny and they all managed to get numbers on their hands this time. Their daughter didn’t make it to Kilkenny, but I hope to see the four (or five) of you next time Bruce visits. I had also briefly met John from Northern Ireland at the end of the Cork gig and was delighted to bump into him again for a lengthier chat on Sunday

Greetings from Nowlan Park

57 Channels & Nothing On

Reason to Believe

The four with me in the top picture of the three above are all from the county of Limerick and I’ve known the two guys on my left for a while. Bob (in green) and Seamus (wearing sunglasses) were at their fifth and sixth Bruce gigs respectively, while Mags had made her debut at the Limerick concert. (The guy in red was a little camera shy and prefers to remain anonymous). Please don’t adjust your sets for the next photo. Shane from Charleville eventually agreed to have his photo taken with me as my outfit paled in comparison to his rather fetching suit. Finally, that’s Barry beside me as the rain unsuccessfully threatened to dampen the spirits in the Kilenny night

Dónal, Andy, Liam & Paddy

Mayhem

All of this gallivanting around meant that we missed opening act Delorentos, but we made it into the pit in plenty of time to see the other two support acts. The pit in Kilkenny was bigger than the one in Cork and I’d say twice as big as the one in Limerick. As a result there was a bit more room in there. It was still pretty full just after 3.00, but we managed to get a nice spot dead centre and at the back for the LAPD‘s set. The group’s name is an acronym of the first names of Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Dónal Lunny (though they’re set up as DALP in the picture above). The four of them have never tired of the road and their average age is 66 (just three years older than Springsteen!). I’ve been fortunate enough to see individual members of this Irish supergroup of traditional musicians in various guises over the years and one or two of them has played with such renowned groups as Planxty, Moving Hearts and Sweeney’s Men

A lot of the folks at the front of the pit hailed from mainland Europe and the US and had been following the E Street Band all over Europe, so I was interested to see how the LAPD would go down with this crowd. I needn’t have worried as the Europeans, the Americans and the Irish loved the quartet’s jigs and reels. Andy Irvine also sang a couple of sad laments set in the county of Clare and the highlights for me were their lovely versions of Arthur McBride and The Blacksmith. On the dot of five, Imelda May and her band were even more impressive as they really got the crowd going with their brand of Irish rockabilly. Imelda sang songs from her two albums and introduced us to at least three new numbers, one of which even led to the first audience singalong of the evening. Near the end, she treated us to a wonderful acoustic version of Blondie’s Dreaming that was the highlight for me. As she had promised when she took the stage an hour earlier, Imelda and her band certainly whetted our appetite for the main show

American Skin

Expectations were high when Bruce and the augmented E Street Band took the stage just before 7.30. It was no surprise to the many fans who’d been at the other Irish shows that This Little Light of Mine kicked off proceedings yet again. This was followed by one of the better songs from Tracks, My Love Will Not Let You Down, and the no holds barred start continued with a couple of songs each from Darkness and Wrecking Ball. The early introduction of Badlands meant I could ditch the sign I’d been carrying, but Badlands is one of my favourite songs and it was followed a couple of songs later by a blistering Adam Raised a Cain and shortly afterwards by yet another track from Springsteen’s fourth album in the shape of The Promised Land. Another powerful version of American Skin (41 Shots) was followed by the title track from the new album, the third of four songs we’d hear from Wrecking Ball as the tour of the same name entered its final few hours

Man at the Top

My third Springsteen gig in 12 days and the lengthier nature of this festival weekender meant that my legs were feeling the pressure earlier than usual. Fortunately, Bruce summoned up the preacher within him for a spectacular version of Spirit in the Night that made me completely forget my discomfort and paved the way for another amazing gig. We were now approaching the time of the night when Bruce would scan the signs at the front of the crowd and choose one or two that the band would play. However, as this was the final European show, he had already decided which requests he would do and began with the popular title track from The River. He then took a familiar sign from a Swedish fan that Bruce had been grabbing frequently, but had never played. The Swede still kept making new signs and was finally rewarded with the first of the night’s three tour premieres. Wild Billy’s Circus Story from Bruce’s second album was followed by an even more rare track. Man at the Top, an outtake from Born in the USA, was played twice during that tour and eventually resurfaced on the Tracks box set. I’m familiar with Nils Lofgren’s cover and he must have enjoyed this excellent version of one of the set’s quietest moments. Unfortunately, it was hard to concentrate on the performance as three drunken eejits in front of me chose this moment to have a pointless argument. Fortunately, they were drowned out during the next song, a decent version of the Jackie DeShannon-penned When You Walk in the Room

Raise Your Hand

The show was moving along nicely at this stage and what happened next was a pleasant surprise. Bruce told us that he had one final debt to pay and addressed the next request to a “skinny Italian” he first met around 1975. This special guest was Jimmy Iovine who went on to become a respected record producer, but had started out as an engineer on some of Bruce’s earlier albums. He then announced that he was going to play the Born to Run album for Mr. Iovine! Having already heard the whole album in Limerick, this could have been an anti-climax. In fact, it was even better hearing it in its entirety for the second time. A couple of weeks ago, Born to Run would’ve been my third favourite Springsteen album, a distant third behind Darkness and Nebraska. As I write this, it has closed the gap on the top two quite considerably. Two weeks ago, I looked forward to hearing Thunder Road at least once, but now I was about to hear it again for the third time in a few weeks! I enjoyed this version even more than the one in Limerick and, in what seemed like no time, the album was over before we knew it. Fittingly, a little rain started to come down just as Jungleland was winding down

This Little Light of Mine

The E Street Band members who performed the Born to Run album took a well-earned bow and The Rising and Land of Hope & Dreams took us to the encore. Mirroring the frenetic start of the gig, there was no let up as we got three more Born in the USA regulars. The muscular title track features some fierce drumming thoughout and Max Weinberg, along with Jake Clemons, has consistently drawn the audience’s focus away from Bruce throughout the gigs I’ve attended. Nils and Stevie have also had their moments, while Roy and Garry just let the music do the talking. The newer additions have also added to the sound and help to take some of the load off Bruce and ensure he doesn’t have to run around as much as he used. He still likes to do some dancing, though, and the encore included a raucous version of Dancing in the Dark that suited the party mood. Bruce spotted a sign from a girl named Lauren who dyed her hair blue and he took up her offer to engage in some Irish dancing. He then brought up a kid called Ludovico who had been a regular at the European gigs. Ludovico was given a guitar as he jammed with the band and couldn’t believe his luck when Bruce allowed him to keep it! That took us to the Irish favourite American Land and the songs that usually signalled the end of the show, Shout and the reprise of This Little Light of Mine

Towards the end of each show, Bruce always includes this staccato shoutout to the band that goes something like this: “You’ve just seen the heart stoppin’, pants droppin’, house rockin’, earthquakin’, booty shakin’, Viagra takin’, lovemakin’, legendary E! Street! Band!” As it was the final night of the European tour on Sunday, he tagged on a special tribute to the fans, and particularly to the dedicated ones who had been following him all over Europe: This one was for “the ticket seekin’, hotel bookin’, money jugglin’, plane takin’, train ridin’, queue formin’, tramp meetin’, feet throbbin’, back breakin,’ burger eatin’, rain endurin’, music lovin,’ Boss followin’, legendary E! Street! Fans!” The words were carefully chosen and delivered and I’m sure they meant a lot to everyone who’d been to a lot of the gigs. Each member of the band left the stage until there was just Bruce left on his own. The length of the Wrecking Ball Tour had obviously taken its toll on The Boss and he looked wrecked at certain points of the show tonight, but he still gave his all

Long Walk Home

Bruce approached the mic and thanked us and told us he’s been doing this for nearly 50 years and felt he could do 50 more! Then he said something that really choked me up: “The older you get, the more it means.” He said it deliberately and it got to me because I knew what it meant for him, and for me, and for the fans. He then thanked the band again and the crew and his managers, Jon Landau and Barbara Carr. And then he said it again: “The older you get, the more it means.” He left us with a solo version of the poignant This Hard Land, a song so obviously from 1982 and one that wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Nebraska. And then Bruce finished the song, said his final goodbyes and left us with these words: “We’ll be seeing you, take care of yourselves!” He slowly walked down the steps at the back of the stage for the last time, the lights came up and a stunned audience slowly peeled out of Nowlan Park. Barry and I waited a little while with the Limerick posse and then we too said our goodbyes. It was Barry’s first Springsteen gig and he was hooked. We listened to The Boss as we drove through the badlands of rural Tipperary and stopped for snack boxes on the mean streets of Thurles. We both observed the other patrons of the Supermacs we found ourselves in and noted how much they resembled the characters on the Darkness on the Edge of Town album. Of course, we didn’t say this until we had gotten back into the car and were safely on the road to home and the promised land of Limerick

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3 thoughts on “Man at the Top

  1. Hi Pat we all enjoyed your post on Bruce in Kilkenny , noticed your comment about drunks we nearly went out of our minds with two behind us fighting could barely hear Bruce , blame this on festival nature of event people drinking very early, nobody else is needed when you have Bruce. hope he will be back soon ,till the next “pit” gathering family of “gooners ” from Cork.

    • Thanks, Kim!

      I hope ye all liked the photo as well ;-) There were actually five guys from Northern Ireland in my vicinity & I didn’t notice them until Bruce started. They were really drunk & two of them actually started throwing slaps at each other just before Man at the Top came on. Fortunately, security threw the two of them out, but left the other three because they didn’t realise they were together. I hope that your drunken guys didn’t spoil the whole gig for ye.

      You’re completely right about the festival aspect of it. On the one hand, I really enjoyed LAPD & Imelda May & they went down well with the crowd. On the other hand, the earlier start & the younger crowd meant that a lot more alcohol was consumed & the behaviour of some of these “fans” spoiled it for those who were there for the music.

      The Wrecking Ball Weekender was probably an experiment to attract a younger crowd to see The Boss & to entice casual fans by putting on extra acts. I hope it won’t be done again because, as you say, Bruce doesn’t need any support acts.

      I hear that Bruce is about to record a new album & it could be released next year, so hopefully he’ll be back with the E Street Band around 2015. I’ve a feeling he’ll make a return to the RDS, but he’ll surely visit Munster at least once as well. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in the pit at one of those shows & hopefully Arsenal will have won a trophy by then. Say hello to the other Gunners for me.

      I’m hitting off to Bruges tomorrow for the weekend & I hope to take a few photos & sample a few cold beverages over there. I might even mention something about it here when I get back.

      Cheers!

      Pat

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