Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – La Defense Arena, Paris; May 13th, 2023
it had been more than five years since I’d last seen Bruce Springsteen live. In fact, I had just settled for the idea that the Broadway sow I saw in 2018 might have been the last one and I was fine with that and then there were tour dates. Of course, I ended up in a ticket buying frenzy and ended up with fours hows in total, Paris being the first one. For a while, I was worried, it might not work for me any more, or just be a greatest hits show and having a seat far in the back of the stadium was less then ideal as well. But the moment the lights went down and Bruce stepped on stage, I forgot all about that and had a fabulous time. The show was everything I had hoped for and felt perfect in every way. He’s still got it! <3
When the tickets went on sale, the first Paris show sold out in minute sin the pre sale and I accidentally ended up with two days for show #2. Luckily, I noticed in time and managed to buy a ticket for show #1. By the time I finally got it, I was happy to be anywhere in the house, even though the seat was far from the stage. Having a seat was nice – I could travel to Paris on show day, relax at my hotel and walk to the arena after they opened the doors. Once inside, I realized that the seat was actually really nice. I could see all of the stage, had a good view of the screens and nobody in front of my blocking my view.
The show was supposed to start at 7, but with Bruce being notoriously late on all the other tours, I settles in for a longer wait. Imagine my surprise when, exactly at 18:59, the house lights went down and the stage lit up. Along with everyone else in the house I cheered and watched in awe as the band stepped onto the stage one by one, with Bruce being last of course.
“Bonsoir, Paris!”, Bruce greeted us and just seeing them, moved me very much. As soon as the first notes of ‘No Surrender’ were played, I started crying. What a great start to the show! I immediately sang along, while all the years fell away from me and I felt like being at my very first Springsteen show again, completely enthralled. ‘Ghosts’ was next, fitting in perfectly and keeping the energy high. From where I sat, Bruce was just a small figure on the stage and I mostly relied on the screens to see him and the band, but none of that mattered, because I felt so grateful to be there.
“One, two, three, four,” Bruce counted and the band launched into ‘Prove it all night’ – It was one of those times I sang along to all the lyrics, before my brain could remember the name of the song. To this day, ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ is one of my favorite albums, so it made me happy to hear this. It felt like it had not changed at all since the last time I hear it and Jake’s saxophone solo was brilliant, not to mention the incredible guitar work by Bruce himself. “You hear their voices, tell you not to go, they’ve made their choices and they’ll never know, what it means to steal, to cheat, to lie, what it’s like to live and die” I sang at the top of my lungs and felt 15 again, lonely and confused and Bruce’s music carrying me through those days.
The wonderful ‘Letter to you’ followed, with the lyrics translated to French on the screen. I love that album and was really happy to get to hear songs from it. I had hoped for, but not expected this. The harmonica came out for ‘The Promised’ land and I could not get over how good the band sounded and how energetic they were. This gang of – mostly – old people rocked. And they seemed to have fun doing it! Yes, there were some younger members, backup singers, a percussionist and horns to make the sound bigger, but still. I’m 50 and I don’t have that energy. 😉
For ‘Out in the Street’ Bruce ventured closer to the audience, Pointing at people and even shaking a few hands. I don’t know if it was here, but during one of these walks he took Jake with him. He shared vocals with everyone in the end singing “Meet me out in the street..” and adding their names, having everyone respond. Have I mentioned that we all sang along too? 😀
Without much of a break they continued with ‘Candy’s Room’, a song I adore and it was absolutely brilliant with Max drumming as fast as ever and Bruce trading vocals with Steve. <3 To my surprise that song went right into ‘Kitty’s back’ and I cried again, even though I don’t care all that much about the song. It was just and “holy shit, he is playing *that*?” moment. It was long too, with lots of horns and wonderful organ playing.
The ‘Only the String survive’ album made an appearance too with ‘Nightshift’ and it sounded surprisingly nice, starting with some great percussion and including nice backing vocals. ‘Mary’s Place’ followed and it was the first song where I thought for a moment “I didn’t need that one” – my first reaction was a big smile though and I was surprised I enjoyed it so much. He followed that with ‘The E Street Shuffle’, another song I didn’t expect and, as far as I recall, have never heard live. Bloody hell did the band take that one home. A brilliant, unusually heavy, version of ‘Johnny 99’ followed. What an amazing show.
Bruce spoke about George Theiss, knoching on his door and inviting him to audition for his band. A band that lasted three years, “a lifetime for teenagers”. 50 years later Bruce found himself standing by George’s deathbed and Bruce realized he would be the last living member of the Castilles after his passing. He said that the gift of death to the living “is an expanded vision of life itself” and how important every moment in life is. His speech really moved me and so did ‘Last Man standing’.:´)
‘Backstreets’ was really powerful, with Bruce repeating the “until the end” line just to the piano until the band came in full force again for “hiding on the Backstreets”. There was barely a break for applause before the characteristic piano line of ‘Because the Night’ set in and I was in tears once again. It is such a fabulous song and was so wonderfully played. Hell yes I was singing along, I did so for almost all the songs. The song turned directly into ‘She’s the one’, another favorite of mine. I was so focussed on the stage, it felt like Bruce and the band were playing just for me.
“I was raised outta steel, here in the swamps of Jersey” and when we cheered, maybe not enough?, he repeated the second line. I had forgotten what a good song ‘Wrecking Ball’ is. 🙂 ‘The Rising’ was next and not for the first time I thought about how well balanced the setlist was, representing Bruce’s entire career. Of course the song is good for a sing along too. 😉 Again, we had barely time to clap, before ‘Badlands’ rolled around. I needed that song and I needed ‘Thunder Road’ too. I thought back on the time Bruce had tried to take the “you ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright’ line back from us a few tours ago and how we didn’t let him. This night, he happily let us sing half the song. <3
Thus ended the main set and I had a moment to look around. For the first time that night I noticed the French and the US flag raised by the side of the stage. The band had just left when they were back already with ‘Born in the USA’. Finally, everyone in the seats stood up. Until then, most of us had remained seated. Maybe they all had felt like me and did not want to bother the people behind them. wither way, we were standing now and did not sit back down.
‘Born to run’ was amazing and many of s shouted out “tramps like us, baby we were born to run”. 😀 ‘Bobby Jean’ followed and it was the only song I could have done without. Oh well, it didn’t take anything away from the concert. Apparently we had reached the ‘Born in the USA’ – section of the show, because we got ‘Glory Days’ too. It was fun! During the song Bruce indicated it was time to go, but the audience yelled “No!” and Steve shook his head. He then asked Max if he wanted to go home and he answered that he definitely didn’t want to go. “Nobody wants to go home,” Bruce concluded and they played ‘Dancing in the Dark’. At the end, Bruce introduced the band and we did a little “Paris” “Bruce!” call and response.
For ‘Tenth avenue freeze-out’ there were pictures and videos of Clarence and Danny displayed on the screens. The song will forever be a tribute to the two lost members of the band and rightfully so. <3 We saw Bruce and Clarence hold hands on the screen and Jake and Bruce do the same on stage. In the center of the pit, what seemed like a few 100 bright neon signs went up, all reading “Bruce, don’t stop”. The band left, but Bruce came back alone with the guitar and played ‘I’ll see you in my Dreams’, once again with the French translation of the lyrics displayed on the screen. It was a beautiful finale, with one last sing along that united us all.
The concerts clocked in at 2 hours, 47 minutes and I loved each and every one of them. What a band, what a show. My love for Bruce renewed, I happily made my way out of there.
Prove It All Night
Letter to You
The Promised Land
Out in the Street
Nightshift (Commodores cover)
The E Street Shuffle
Last Man Standing
Because the Night
She’s the One
Born in the U.S.A.
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out
I’ll See You in My Dreams (solo acoustic)