Hey vibes man, hey jazz man, play me your serenade

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band / Counting Crows – Circus Maximus, Rome; July 16th, 2016

Once upon a time the Bruce Springsteen concert in Rome was the last one of the European tour and it wasn’t even clear that it was a festival. Thus, I bought a tickets, not even thinking about the size of Circo Massimo. Eventually, it was announced that it is a festival with the Counting Crows also playing. While I don’t like festivals much, I love the Counting Crows so this was a good deal for me. I had my doubt about the size of the venue though – it is rumored to hold 80 – 100 000 people. when it turned out the tour would continue after, I wondered if it worth the effort of going to Rome for standing in the back at a stadium show that was likely to be a greatest hits party. Of course I went anyway and now I know I would have regretted it if I hadn’t. What a night – location, atmosphere and audience were incredible and the setlist? Well, after starting with ‘New York City Serenade’ Bruce and the band could have played nothing but ‘Skin to Skin’, ‘Hungry Heart’ and ‘Bobby Jean’ for the remainder of the night for all I cared, but what they gave us was much better than this. 🙂

With the numbers for pit bracelets having run out Friday afternoon, C. and I decided not to line up in the sun all day, but to take a chance, go to the venue after the gates opened and see where we’d end up. after a nice day of sightseeing we arrived at Circo Massimo around 4:30 pm, walked in and found a good spot stage right on the hill. It was a bit slippery gong doing, but once we had settled, the view was fine and we had some shade too. So far, so good. We watched as more and more people filed in. I have no idea, how many we were in he end, but the crowd looked huge from where we stood.

At 5:15 on the dot the Treves Blues Band started playing. they were quite listenable, playing classic songs that pleased the crowd. I enjoyed their set, but didn’t bother getting up. Just listening was enough. with the venue being very much a dust bowl, every move seemed too much. Lucky were those who brought blankets. Eventually the dust got everywhere and all through the concert here were clouds of it hanging over the audience. My lungs didn’t like it much, but it could not take away the brilliance of the concert. 🙂

6:30 came and the Counting Crowes walked on stage. Adam took pictures of the crowd, before starting their set with ‘Round here’. It was one of the songs I had not heard them play live before, so I was happy with the selection. Some in the crowd, like me, had gotten to their feet to hear the band, others remained seated. It quickly became clear who knew them and heir work and who didn’t. sadly, the majority of the people did not know the lyrics, so a big sing along did not happen. Only ‘Mr. Jones’ got people going.

The setlist was good though, a perfect mixture of old and more recent songs. I loved it, was happy to hear ‘Omaha’ again and loved ‘Miami’ and ‘Pallisades Park’ this time. It could be argues that a stadium audience is not the right one for their complex lyrics, but remembering the atmosphere at the smaller festival one week before I would disagree. It was just this audience that didn’t fit. I enjoyed their set a lot, was secretly hoping they’d do a song with Bruce, but that did not happen. I had fun though and when they ended with ‘Rain King’, I wanted to hear more. Hopefully somewhere in the near future.

Setlist:

Round here
Scarecrow
Mr Jones
Elvis went to Hollywood
Omaha
Big yellow Taxi
Cover up the Sun
A long December
Miami
Pallisades Park
Rain King

While the stage was being set up for Bruce and the E Streeters, people in the audience were getting ready for the gig as well, getting up, packing their picnic blankets, moving in search for a better spot. everything was nice and relaxed though, no pushing and shoving. A guy coming down the steep hill with three full cups of beer and making it without spilling was cheered on and got a round of applause when he arrived at the bottom. 😀 Excited people everywhere as the moment we had all been waiting for drew closer. C. and I joked about the guy vacuuming the stage – all he was missing was a dress and Queen’s ‘I want to break free’ playing in the background. 😀 Finally they were done and we found a spot from which we had an OK view of the stage.

A little late, the intro ‘Once upon a time in the west’ played as the band walked out. “This is for Rome,” Bruce said in Italian. Then a melody I could not immediately place and strings. C. looked at me questioningly “Is that ‘New York City Serenade’?” “I think so” I answered in disbelief. Could he really…? Yes he could and he did. It was so amazing I cried. Not in a million years had I expected to ever hear this song live. What a performance! And the most amazing part? either this audience was just extremely respectful or pretty much every one got how special this was. No matter what reason, people listened and apparently loved what they heard. This was not your run of the mill stadium show audience. When the song was over I turned to see and said “No he can play anything – it really doesn’t matter” and she added “even ‘Working on a Highway'”, a song we both agreed we’d heard enough of.

Next up was ‘Badlands’ and quiet reverie turned into collective jumping and dancing, sending dust clouds up to the sky. Bruce spotted a request sign for ‘Summertime Blues’ and picked it up. Perfect! I was too much into it to even wonder what might happen next and even though I could not always see the stage, the screes provided me with a good view of the action and it was just amazing to look at the sheer number of people around me. ‘The Ties that bind’, ‘Sherry Darling’, ‘Jackson Cage’ followed and when they played ‘Two Hearts’ and ‘Independence Day’ next I stated hoping we would get a full River album stadium show. It didn’t happened, but it sure looked like it for a while and we got plenty more songs from the album.

From our point of view it looked like there was no space between the pit and the main filed this time, but during ‘Hungry heart’ I realized there must be as both Bruce and Jake walked out there. On the way back and during ‘Out in the Street’, more request signs were picked up. ‘Boom Boom’ was written on a guitar shaped sign – yet another song I believe I have never heard live. A white baseball cap we had all received upon entry, served as a request sign for ‘Detroit Medley’, nicely decorated with skyscrapers. Bruce wore the cap and played the song. It was fabulous. Afterwards he signaled the next song with bold gestures, pointing and hen making rings over his eyes with his fingers, mouthing “You can look” – so back to the River it was, but skipping ‘Crush on you’.

With ‘Death to my hometown’ I buried my hopes of hearing the full album. Meanwhile it had gotten dark and I quite light the stage lighting. All the way through the concert the band looked like they were having a blast, at least from what I could see and the audience seemed more than happy too. In the pit and spread throughout the audience, people had held up read paper hearts at the beginning of he show and later on Bruce called out “Show me your hearts” instead of he usual call for a show of hands. Everyone who had a heart obliged too. 🙂

When Bruce stepped to he microphone alone with an acoustic guitar I wondered what he had in store now. He told us the song was requested by the social workers in Rome and dedicated it to them. A hauntingly beautiful version of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ followed and the audience listened, really listened. It was unbelievable how quiet 70 or 80 000 people could be. For the second time that night I had tears in my eyes. ‘The River’, of course, turned into a huge sing along followed by a powerful ‘Point Blank’. C. jumped with happiness, exclaiming: “Finally!”. This had been one of the River songs I wanted to hear this tour so I was happy too. Even ‘The Promised Land’, a once much loved, but in my opinion much overplayed song got to me that night.

The emotional roller-coaster laving me breathless, I as quite happy when the run of  ‘Working on a Highway’, ‘Darlington County’ and ‘Bobby Jean’ freed my heavy heart and made me notice my surroundings for a while. I have liked these songs at one point in time, but they have been played so often that I could easily do without them at concerts. They offered a welcome break for C. and me to share some food. 🙂

After the stadium crowd pleaser section we got more treats in the form of a beautiful ‘Tougher than the Rest’ and a haunting ‘Drive all Night’. Tougher brought a nice duet with Patti and ‘Drive all Night’ seems to get better every time I hear it. At that point, long before the show ended I felt already that I got more than my fair share of greta songs and was happy to be part of all this and there was more to come. ‘Because the Night’ absolutely rocked he house or – in this case – the field. I thought Nils might never stop spinning! 🙂 ‘The Rising’ and ‘Land of Hope and Dreams’ ended the main set with the latter being dedicated to “The people in Nice and all of our French brothers and sisters”. Another moment for me to choke up and greta rendition of the song.

The encores started with ‘Jungleland’ and all 70 000 at the stadium singing along to the key lines. I loved it. The double of ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Born to run’ had everyone singing along as well, while ‘Ramrod’ brought us a chance to party. For ‘Dancing in the Dark’ Bruce pulled people on stage as usual and this time there was a real crows. Someone claimed “I have the Tallent to dance with Garry”, there were people asking to dance with Steve, Soozie and Jake. One 13 year old said he was studying percussion and asked to play with Max, a girl wanted to play guitar with Bruce and the woman who danced with him had a sign saying “65 soon. Dance with me Boss before it’s too late”. It was all good fun!

The show as winding down with ‘Tenth Avenue freeze-out’ and memories of Clarence and Danny. We had a final chance to party though with ‘Shout’. It was great fun with everyone happily dancing. The band drew it out with Bruce asking us what time it was “Is it quitting time?” “NO!” “Is it sexy time?” “NO!” “What time is it?” “Boss time!” – he asked twice until he was satisfied with the response, the did the I’m leaving skit, walking off while Steve drape a cape over his shoulders with “The Boss” written on the back. We loudly yelled for more and they gave us a reprise or a few before finally ending the song and walking off. Bruce, of course, stayed back and gave us one last song, ‘Thunder Road’. Perfect ending to a perfect show!

It was well after midnight when the show ended and took us some time to get home, chatting excitedly about what we had just witnessed. Note to self: never have low expectations of a Bruce Springsteen show! I was fully prepared for a greatest hits stadium show and I got an amazing setlist and one of the best audiences ever. WOW! is all  that is left to say. Thank you Bruce! Thank you E Street Band! Thank you Roma!

Setlist:

Once Upon A Time In The West (intro – taped)
NEW YORK CITY SERENADE (with strings – tour premiere)
Badlands
SUMMERTIME BLUES (sign request – tour premiere)
The Ties That Bind
Sherry Darling
Jackson Cage
Two Hearts
Independence Day
Hungry Heart
Out In The Street
Boom Boom (sign request)
Detroit Medley (request)
You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
Death To My Hometown
THE GHOST OF TOM JOAD (solo acoustic – request – tour premiere)
The River
Point Blank
The Promised Land
Working On The Highway
Darlington County
Bobby Jean
Tougher Than The Rest
Drive All Night
Because The Night
The Rising
Land Of Hope And Dreams

Jungleland
Born In The U.S.A.
Born To Run
Ramrod
Dancing In The Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
Shout

Thunder Road (solo acoustic)

The River Tour 2016: 5 shows down, 1 to go, next stop: Zurich

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