Bruce Springsteen an the E Street Band – Olympic Stadium, Helsinki; July 31st, 2012
What do you write when words fail you? How do you describe the indescribable? And how can you even make anyone believe that after one of the best shows you have ever seen you got another one just as good a few days later? I am still in a state of wonder and awe, shaking my head in disbelief every time I think about it. Any expectations, any wild dreams I could have had about this show were not only met but surpassed. I really don’t know how he does it, but Bruce never ceases to amaze me and this show left me with my mouth hanging open.
Long before the Helsinki date arrived, I had been dreaming about this show. For many of the diehards he tour stopped in Gothenburg, so I had a lot of illusions regarding the line. The concerts I usually go to in Finland, hardly ever have anyone lining up long before showstart and if so, they are foreigners. Thus, I was hoping if I got to the stadium the night before the show I’d have a shot at front row. Little did I know. When I got there at 8 in the evening, there were almost 400 people in line. I had decided to not take a number if it was higher than 100 so I left. Returned about 12 hours later after a good night’s sleep and was number 407 – still a lot lower than in Gothenburg.
The line was very well organized, the weather was great, I met a few Bruce friends, had enough time for food and spent about an hour with my friend S. who came to keep me company. 🙂 They let us into the stadium around 3 p.m. I stayed on the right side and took up a spot in second row behind some nice English, Finnish, American and German people. We chatted and waited and enjoyed the sunshine. Everyone jumped up at 5:30 – way too early. Yet, the people in front of me were amazingly nice and made room for me in front row. I could not believe my luck. Thank you again!
I don’t know when exactly it happened, at 6:15 maybe, but suddenly the crowd in the center started screaming, I looked and could not believe my eyes: Bruce was walking on stage, guitar in hand. Said he came to say hi. He proceeded to talk about the people who follow him from gig to gig, saying “they are almost like stalkers, it’s a bit scary”, then pointed out those he knew and asked people questions and commented like “Hey, where is your red headed companion?” or “I love the hat. Does it have a Bruce button on there?” He thanked them all and even though he does not know me, because I usually do not make it to front row, I do count myself among this group.
He played ‘I’ll work for your Love’ for us, then picked out a request sign, saying “OK, we’ll try that.” When I read it I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was ‘Leap of Faith’ – never in a million years I thought I’d hear that one live. It took him a bit to figure it out, but it was just wonderful. This song has a special meaning for me and even though I am no longer with the one who I shared this with as “our song” it was still one I wanted to hear.
‘No surrender’ followed and I started to wonder how long he was going to play. Not that I am complaining, but I never expected that. Bruce took more requests, playing ‘For you’ and ‘Blinded by the Light’ for us. He started ‘Blinded by the light’ by singing that he wrote it on a bus at a time he lived about a beauty parlor and that he used a rhyming dictionary to do it. All very funny. 🙂 When the set was done, he came to the front row to shake people’s hands and picked up more signs on the way. He talked to a few of those he knows, kissed some of the women and took the time to walk by everyone. He shook my hand too and I thanked him for “all these gigs and all those years” – I’m not sure he heard me, but that’s not the important part. Once he left stage I just stood there dazed and smiling. This was already better than anything I had ever seen him do before and it wasn’t even the “real” concert yet.
At 10 to 8 the band was on stage. No intro music this time, they just walked out. “This is the last stop in Europe, let’s do it right!” Bruce yelled and launched into ‘Rocking all over the world’ – it was a great start to an unbelievable show. He continued with ‘Night’ one song I had not heard on this tour yet. ‘Out in the Street’ got the party started. That night he did not often leave center stage, but this was one of the times he came out to the sides.
Things only got better after that with a mixed up setlist and many requests. With every one he selected I found myself smiling more and more, exchanging looks of surprise and disbelief with the people around me. He may not have played that many tour premieres, but the perfect set for me with many songs I had been longing to hear again. ‘Loose ends’ was the first one of those songs, played for someone who had not heard it in 22 shows. It must have been about the same for me, last time I heard it was in Manchester 2003 if I recall correctly. I was already happy as can be when Bruce pointed to yet another sign and asked Steve if he though they could do it, juts to treat is to ‘Prove it all Night’ (’78 intro). The song as such is amazing, but to hear it like it was done back then? Heaven!
During the block of ‘We take care of our own’, ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘Death to my hometown’ I found time to catch my breath and wonder briefly what else the night might bring. Then I just continued jumping and enjoying what I was getting. Front row, great weather and awesome music – what more could I have asked for? ‘My city of ruins’ brought the nightly rollcall and thought of absent friends. It still gets me every time to see everyone in the pit bowing in tribute to Clarence and Danny
‘Does this bus stop on 82nd Street’ was one more song I didn’t expect, very much fun with great solos from Eddie, Charlie, Jake and Everett. ‘Be true’ that followed made me even happier, it has always had a special place in my heart. Already becoming difficult to find words for all the highlights that night. I could not stop smiling and even though Bruce rarely came to our side it was perfect to have an unobstructed view of the stage. I only looked at the screen when he went far to the outer platforms and even then I tried to watch the band from time to time.
I loved the run of ‘Jack of all Trades’, ‘Downbound Train’ and ‘Because the Night’, briefly rolled my eyes at ‘Lonesome Day’ (again?), laughed at myself and enjoyed. ‘Darlington County’ kept the show rolling. Bruce picked up a sign with a blinking star that read ‘Light of Day’, marveled at the sign, wondered if anyone even knew the song, announced it had not been played on the tour before and jumped right into it. It may not be one of my favorites, but it sure was fun. While the second night in Gothenburg had been all about being emotional, this one was just pure joy. It was a party alright, but a party for the fans, not the casual concert-goer. Bruce pulled out so many rare songs, that it might not have been so great for those who only know the hits. For us, however, who have seen many shows, this was a special treat. The pit was clapping, jumping and dancing for much of the show. I also think Bruce still included enough crowd pleasers in the set.
‘Shackled and drawn’ was still great, ‘Waiting on a sunny day’ still the unavoidable “pull a random child on stage”- thing. As much as I personally dislike this and believe most of these small kids don’t belong at a concert, much less in the pit, some of them seem to have fun there and the crowd reaction is always so positive, that I just take this as a chance to get my bearings and think about the show up to that point.
With the beautiful ‘Back in your arms’ Bruce made up for anything that I might have wanted to criticize (as if there was much). At first I thought it was going to be ‘Secret Garden’, because the camera had showed that sign, but this choice was even better. Can’t say much about the performance though, because unfortunately the boxes on our side of the stage gave off this really unpleasant hum that kept coming and going for a few more songs before it disappeared. 🙁 ‘The Rising’, ‘Badlands’ and ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ brought the set to a close. The band barely left the stage before they continued with ‘We are alive’. This is one of the songs I didn’t pay so much attention to on the album, but I love hearing live. Great use of the choir here, they did a marvelous job.
The encores continued in much the usual way: ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Born to run’ to sing along, ‘Detroit Medley’ for the fans and ‘Glory Days’ for the casual crowd. For ‘Dancing in the Dark’ one woman got to dance with Jake and two danced with Bruce. Happy faces everywhere. ‘Tenth avenue freeze-out’ started and I though this might be it, hoping Bruce would give us just one more song after. The tribute to Clarence is still beautiful and makes for a great show closer, but it would have been somewhat anti-climatic as the last song on a night like this.
I could not have been more wrong, thinking he might leave us with this. How could I even have doubted that this concert was special? Bruce pointed and asked the crew to hand him a few signs, then commented on them, reading one that had a list of all the concert the sign bearer visited on the tour. To the next sign he said “We don’t know it, but we can sing it” and started ‘I don’t wanna go home’. I could not have thought about anything more fitting, because none of us wanted to go at that point. Bruce and Steve sure had fun sharing the mic and the verses on this one. I would not call it beautiful, but it was a great rendition nonetheless. Just perfect! “Oh Steve, I’m not going yet man. I still got a message for these people” Bruce exclaimed in the end.
“Can we take this Higher and Higher?” was the next sign Bruce pointed at. Yes! What a great choice. And it wasn’t over just yet, ‘Twist and Shout’ followed as the show closer. Towards the end Bruce remarked “someone just told me we are two minutes away from 4 hours!” and started another reprise. He picked up a sign reading “Over 4 hours now” and proudly held it to the cameras. Another reprise and they finally left the stage at about 2 minutes before midnight after the longest show in their history. What a day! What a night! Once again Bruce has proven that he is one of the best live performers out there!
I was so happy, even though they just didn’t make it to my birthday. As my phone started showing arriving “happy birthday” messages, I leaned back against the railing, smiled and decided to temporarily be in a timezone where midnight had already passed. I could not have imagined a better way to celebrate the end of my 40th year on this planet. Thank you Bruce, thank you E Street Band, thank you to the nice people who gave me a spot in front row, thank you Finland. None of us did want to go home after this, so we shared one last drink at a bar. Thus, my last thanks in this report goes out to my friends and tour family. It was great meeting you (again). See you next tour!
7 concerts down, none to go. Last stop: home
Preshow (solo acoustic)
I’ll Work for Your Love
Leap of Faith
Blinded by the Light
ROCKING ALL OVER THE WORLD
Out In The Street
Prove It All Night
We Take Care Of Our Own
Death To My Hometown
My City Of Ruins
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street
Jack of All Trades
Because The Night
Light of Day
Shackled And Drawn
Waitin’ On A Sunny Day
BACK IN YOUR ARMS
Land Of Hope And Dreams
We Are Alive
Born In The USA
Born To Run
Dancing In The Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
I DON’T WANNA GO HOME
HIGHER AND HIGHER
Twist And Shout