To the east the factories stand like fire…

Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band – Arena di Verona; October 5th, 2006

With the first leg of the European tour this year crammed into only 17 days, I didn’t manage to see all that many shows (read: three) an was quite happy that Bruce and the Sessions band were coming around to Europe again in the fall. I liked the thought of Bruce playing at an arena that was built to perform opera and Verona sounded like a nice place for a small vacation. I was not disappointed. The venue might have been the best I have ever been at and the concert was full of nice surprises with amazing atmosphere and a good audience.

After a few days of enjoying the Italian sunshine, I entered the Arena on the evening of October 5th. Even though I had unreserved seats on the stone steps, I didn’t bother to come majorly early and it all worked out perfectly well: Got a nice seat high up on the side of the stage. People around me were well prepared with seat cushions, food and drink. Slowly, the arena filled up and there was even a small standing area right at the front of the stage. Yet, judging from up where I was sitting the stage looked too high for that. I am quite sure I had the better view.

Slowly it got dark and a full moon rose over the arena – the perfect setting for what lay ahead. I passed the time texting back and forth with my friend A., who had a seat on the arena floor. Even before it started, I could feel the magic in the air. I knew after the long break since May I would enjoy this show no matter what. Happiness spread all through me during these last few minutes before the show.

Loud cheers rang out through the arena as first the band and then Bruce entered the stage. ‘John Henry’ was the opener and had people singing and clapping along from the start. The audience turned the entire concert into one big celebration of the music and the band playing it. They knew when to listen and they knew when to participate. Bruce and the band looked like they were having lots of fun and rewarded us with some special moments and songs they had not played (on this tour) before. The first of these songs was ‘Samson and Delilah’ with Bruce singing the verse and the whole band responding as a choir to the key lines. Just amazing. 🙂

The sound in the arena was brilliant – it was always clear and carried far. The combination of great venue, great atmosphere and good mood on stage and in front turned the concert into something magical from the start. The band played and sang perfectly and Bruce looked relaxed and happy. After the first few songs, most people in the audience were standing and singing along. Gotta love the enthusiasm of the Italian fans! There were lots of calls of “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” all through the night. In return he often addressed us in Italian. 🙂

Along with the songs from the ‘We Shall Overcome’ album and a few cover versions, Bruce threw in a lot of his own songs too, often in surprisingly rearranged versions. ‘Atlantic City’ was the first of these and the Sessions Band treatment suited it beautifully. Since it was Patti’s last night on this tour (for a while anyway) Bruce put her in the spotlight a lot. The duetted beautifully on ‘If I should fall behind’ and Patti sang “Valerie” one song of her first album. I had heard them rehearsing it but I would not believe my ears – breathtaking. It is my favorite song off that album and was a real treat for me.

Unfortunately they followed this gem with ‘Bobby Jean’. My friend A., who hates the song even more than I do, texted me “Somebody shoot him, quick” as soon as the song had started – thus I got a big laugh out of it. 😀 But seriously, nothing could have spoiled my enjoyment of the show. I loved singing along, loved the smiles on the faces of the people around me and felt like being a part of one big family. Everyone was there to have a good time and I’m sure we all did. Nothing else mattered.

There were so many great moments and brilliant songs. The band gave all they had and all the energy was given right back to them from the crowd. There was no distinction to be made between Bruce’s own songs and the traditional ones he played. The response was equally good for all of them. Every song was amazing that night, but still there were highlights of course. Apart from the songs I have already mentioned I loved ‘The River’ and ‘Mrs. McGrath’ a lot. The current arrangement of ‘Open All Night’ never ceases to amaze ‘Fire’, played as a special treat for Verona was a lot of fun and me.

It feels like I’m not doing justice to the songs I didn’t mention yet, since the concert was brilliant from beginning to end. As soon as it had started I forgot that I was far from the stage and the music held me captivated until the end. I could not help but marvel at how good this band is and loved every second of it. When they ended with ‘American Land’ I felt like hugging the world, happy that I had had the chance to witness this. 😀

Before I stumbled back to my hotel to happy concert dreams, I briefly met A. and S. for a chat. They had enjoyed the show as well and judging by the looks on people’s faces everyone else had as well. There is no such thing as a bad Bruce Springsteen concert, but some are so great that it’s hard to find the words to describe them. This concert was one of those.

Setlist

John Henry
O Mary don’t you weep
Old Dan Tucker
SAMSON AND DELILAH
Eyes on the Prize
Jesse James
Atlantic City
My Oklahoma Home
If I should fall behind
VALERIE
BOBBY JEAN
Mrs. McGrath
How can a poor man stand such times and live?
Jacob’s ladder
The River
Open all Night
Pay me my money down
FIRE
Rag Mama rag
When the Saits go marching in
This little light of mine
American Land

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