When I die I want no part of heaven…

Bruce Springsteen – Philiphalle, Düsseldorf; February 18th, 1996

It’s a long story why it took me almost 8 years to make it to my very first Springsteen concert, but here I was at last. A few months earlier I’d had my first taste of ticket anxiety and learned that if you wanna see Bruce, you better be quick. Now, as I was walking into the Philipshalle, I took it all in – the stage, the people around me, the venue. I was three blocks from stage, but I had a front row center seat in that block with a great view. I sat down and took a deep breath, wondering what the night might bring. I had come here alone and at this very moment I would not have wanted to share this first ever Bruce concert with anyone else.

There was lots of chatter everywhere – just like me, people where wondering what the night was going to bring. To my left sat an overly excited teenager, almost jumping out of her chair. She felt a little intrusive on my calm state of mind, but as I turned to her, a little annoyed, I suddenly saw myself sitting there. She might have been about 14 and it became clear to me that, had I had the great luck to go and see Bruce at that age, I would not have been able to contain my excitement either and would have nervously shifted in my chair. The thought instantly made me smile and I left her be. How lucky she was to be there. 🙂

I had high expectations for the concert. Over the past 8 years I had listened to my tape of  the ‘Live 1975 – 1985’ album until it was worn out, drinking in the music and the stories Bruce told until I knew them all by heart (little did I know about the bootleg recordings out there and the countless different versions of the beloved songs and stories). I had also read every little scrap I could find about the legendary concerts Bruce supposedly played and was ready for a long show.

The lights went down and Bruce walked out on stage to great applause, picked up his guitar, sat down on a barstool. He looked small from where I was sitting, but as soon as he started singing I felt an instant surge of happiness run through my veins. This was what I had been waiting for. ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ was the first song being played that night, setting the mood for everything that followed. The crowd cheered and I was happy as can be. Bruce greeted us, trying out a little bit of German. He also told us that if someone was making “a little too much noise for your comfort” to “tell them politely to shut the fuck up”. This was the first of many times he made me laugh that night.

‘Adam raised a Cain’ was next, before he continued playing more songs off the current album (‘Straight Time’ and ‘Highway 29’) and he kept mixing songs from different albums for the whole show, all the while stopping to tell us stories about the songs, his family, life in general. I have always loved his stories on the live album and was happy to get to hear a few now.

The next classic song was ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in a stripped down acoustic version. If I had not already been in fan heaven, I would have gone straight there at that point. He continued with ‘Murder Incorporated’  and ‘Nebraska’ before playing a brand new song, the very funny ‘Sell it and they will come’ – at that point, latest it became clear who in the audience understood English and who didn’t. Those who were laughing did. ‘Brothers under the Bridge’ led to more serious songs again. ‘Born in the USA’ was hardly recognizable, angry and bare. ‘Dry Lightning’ and ‘Reason to believe’ sounded more familiar as they were both taken from non E Street Band albums.

The song I had been looking forward to was ‘Youngstown’ and it moved me to tears. It was my instant favorite on the album and the live version was beyond beautiful. ‘Sinaloa Cowboys’, ‘The Line’ and ‘Balboa Park’ told stories about the hopes and dreams of (illigal) immigrants and the lives that often didn’t fulfill either.

The wonderful ‘Across the border’ set a lighter tone again, full of hope for the new day. ‘Does this bus stop at 82nd Street’ came quite unexpectedly to me, and ‘This hard Land’ just made me happy. It is one of my all time favorites and many other fans share my love for this song. ‘Streets of Philadelphia’ and ‘Galveston Bay’ required us to listen again, before everyone jumped up and ran to the front as soon as ‘No surrender’ started. It was amazing to be so much closer and hear another all time favorite. Oh the times I sang along to those lines, feeling each one of them.

The last song of the night and a fitting closure was ‘My best was never good enough’. Bruce left to great cheers and I blinked, feeling as if I was waking up from a dream. Finally I understood why Bruce is such a highly regarded live artist. Wow, just wow! I knew this would not be the last concert I had seen.

Setlist

The Ghost of Tom Joad
Adam Raised a Cain
Straight Time
Highway 29
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Murder Incorporated
Nebraska
Sell It And They Will Come
Brothers Under the Bridge
Born in the U.S.A.
Dry Lightning
Reason to Believe
Youngstown
Sinaloa Cowboys
The Line
Balboa Park
Across the Border
Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?
This Hard Land
Streets of Philadelphia
Galveston Bay
No Surrender
My Best Was Never Good Enough

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