“This is the important part!”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Commerzbank Arena, Frankfurt; May 25th 2012

“There are two types of people in the world: Those who love Bruce Springsteen and those who have never seen him live”

It’s funny, that whenever Bruce is not touring for a while, I tend to forget about him. He’s been part of my life for so long that I don’t feel the need to constantly remind myself here or listen to his music all the time. Being a fan comes in phases and my taste in music varies so it can happen that I don’t listen to him between tours at all. The same happened this time. The new album came out, I got it, I listened a time or two and put it on the shelf. Not that I didn’t like it, quite the contrary, I just wasn’t in the mood. I also haven’t been hanging out on the SPL (my Bruce forum) much lately and avoided setlist threads at all cost. Thus, I came to Frankfurt unprepared with no idea what to expect. I like it this way, I don’t wanna go to the first concert preoccupied with expectations.

I had front of stage tickets so I took my time getting there. It felt great not having to stand in line all day. Made it into the pit at around 7:00 p.m. and stood about 20 rows back stage right with a good view. Most people in front of me were shorter than I am. The usual pre gig jitters didn’t set in until the light crew went up the ladders and everyone in front was cheering. I watched, smiling. Everything was so familiar. Shortly before 8, the setlist was replaced by a new one – Bruce being indecisive as usual. 🙂

Having been on a different planet music wise since the last tour, I was a little bit scared of what this concert would do to me. I have always believed in Bruce’s power to convince me, to take me over and lead me into a different world where music is all that matters and all worries are forgotten. Yet sometimes I forget how that feels like and wonder if he can still do it. Answer: Yes, he can!

As the band walked out I lifted my arms into the air and cheered with everyone else. The first notes of ‘Badlands’ were played and I felt a surge of happiness run through me – this I had been waiting for! I jumped, I sang along and I knew I was going to love it.

The band had a full horn section with Ed Manion, Jake Clemons, Curt Ramm, Clark Gayton and Barry Danielian plus backup singers Cindy Mizelle, Michelle Moore, Curtis King and Everett Bradley (who also played percussion) – they did an amazing job. ‘We take care of our own’ was next and worked surprisingly well live. It may not be my favorite but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. They audience seemed to enjoy it. Participation was great, at least were I stood. Lots of singing along and clapping going on. ‘Wrecking Ball’ followed in a powerful version, then ‘Out in the Street’. Bruce was walking to the outer platforms for the first time then and people moved closer. Always a fun tune and something to get the audience going.

I didn’t immediately recognize ‘Death to my Hometown’, but I liked it. During ‘My city of Ruins’ I realized that Bruce is still the same goofball he always was  (and I still love him for it too). He introduced the band and made a big show of introducing Patti who is at home “with our children” (he indicated very small ones – forgot about their ages, Bruce? 😉 ). As cheesy as the intros where when he asked if we were missing anyone and the screen showed a banner that read “Danny and Clarence are unforgotten” I choked up and spilled a few tears. Bruce claimed “If we are here (pointing to the band) and you are here (pointing to us) then they are here” and it sure felt as if they were.

Bruce announced ‘Spirit in the Night’ by telling us that this was from a time when some of us were little babies and others weren’t even born yet. Still, the audience knew every word. 😀 Bruce had fun going out to the platforms and going into the crowd, i.e. he laid down on their hands fro a moment. Someone handed him a cellphone. He took it and sang into it for a while. After that ‘The E Street Shuffle’ – not a favorite, but a first for me (at least I think I have never heard it live). It was great fun to listen to and watch the band interact.

‘Jack of all trades’ was amazing live. I really enjoyed it. Bruce announced it as a song for people who are struggeling. He did part of his little speech in German and it worked quite well. His language skills (or his reading foreig words skills) seem to improve from year to year. My first personal highlight was ‘Youngstown’ though. I have always loved this song, in any version and this one cut straight through to my heart. I listened, tears in my eyes. Interestingly some of the people around me, who had sang along to every song until then, didn’t seem to know it. Maybe they hadn’t been to any Bruce concerts since the 80ies?

‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ sounded fresh again after not hearing it for three years and ‘Johnny 99’ was another high point, very powerful. When Bruce spit water in the air I knew the next song was going to be ‘Working on the Highway’ – some things just never change. It is that familiarity, however, all the little things, the stage antics, the same skits he has done for years that make a show so loveable. Of course Bruce shows live off his energy and the rarities he pulls out from time to time and the current album too, but a big part is the tested and tried routines that all the fans know and love (or hate). However cheesy this may be to an outsider, it is truly Bruce and makes up part of his magic.

‘Shackled and drawn’ was another song I enjoyed much. It is always fun to hear the new songs for the first time, find out how they have been arranged. I could have done without ‘Waiting on a sunny day’, as I feel this one has been overplayed, but it worked well and was not drawn out endlessly. 😉 Even the kids pulled on stage by Bruce to sing with him were not so young that I felt their parents were irresponsible and they seemed to have fun. One of them was even wearing an SPL shirt.

I can’t remember any details of instrumentation and such, but overall I loved how the songs were arranged and enjoyed watching everyone play. I remember Nils going crazy turning on the spot playing solos, Charlie playing accordion and Jake getting his time in the spotlight playing sax solos. The band seemed as tight as ever and had no trouble with requests either. The first of them being ‘Summertime Blues’ – dancing in the pit and fun! 😀

‘The Promised Land’ and ‘The River’ followed and for the third time that night I had tear in my eyes. I have always loved ‘The River’ and for me it never gets old, no matter how many times it gets played. This version was very beautiful. The double of ‘The Rising’ and ‘Lonsemone Day’ has not changed since 2002 and could use a break in my opinion, but I guess there are just some songs that Bruce feels he has to play and these two are among them. It was OK, just not what I had been waiting for.

By that time I was already lost in the music and the general Bruce-concert mode that takes me to a different place. It took me some time to recognize ‘We are alive’ (have I mentioned I don’t know the current album all hat well?), but I thought it was great. ‘Thunder Road’ ended the main set and brought me close to tears again. I wasn’t aware of the fact that I’m such a crybaby. 😉 But seriously, I loved it and after fearing Bruce might not do it for me any more, I was so relieved to find out that I was wrong. No matter how many times I see him, he still manages to blow me away! Oh and the audience did a great job singing along too – the lines “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night. You ain’t a beauty, but hey, you’re alright” never lose their appeal or their power.

The encores started with ‘Rocky Ground’. Michelle Moore got a chance to really shine during the song, it worked very well live. I was quite surprised to hear ‘Born in the USA’ next. I’m not entirely sure I had ever heard the full band version live before. Not bad, not bad at all. During ‘Born to run’ I screamed along at the top of my lungs more than I sang. After all these years and all these gigs, I may not be able to identify with the older songs so much any more but I sure still understand the feeling of them.

Bruce collected request signs and brought us the trio of ‘Cadillac Ranch’, ‘Sherry Darling’ and ‘Glory Days’. All of these are party songs for me and have their place as such. They got the audience jumping and dancing and fit the general atmosphere of the show. I was right in the middle of it, jumping like everyone else.

‘Dancing in the Dark’ followed and even without knowing the setlists of previous shows I knew it was going to be over soon. One last song to dance to, then ‘Tenth avenue freeze out’ brought the night to a close. Before the line about the Big Man joining the band Bruce announced “This is the important part”. On the screens they had a little montage of Clarence playing the song during the years. It was a beautiful tribute and very fitting. For the last time that night I cried, then watched the band finish the song to great cheers, yelled and screamed until they were gone, blinked and slowly became aware of my surroundings again. On the long walk to the train station, many songs were replaying in my mind. It was a great start to this year’s tour!

One concert down, 6 to go. Next stop: Cologne

Setlist

Badlands
We take care of our own
Wrecking Ball
Out In The Steet
Death To My Hometown
My City of Ruins
Spirit in the Night
E Street Shuffle
Jack of all Trades
Youngstown
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Johnny 99
Solo Acoustic intro: Working on the highway
Shackled & Drawn
Waiting on sunny day
Request! Summertime Blues
Promised Land
The River
The Rising
Lonesome Day
We are alive
Thunder Road

Encore
Rocky Ground
Born in the USA
Born to Run
Cadillac Ranch – Sign Request
Sherry Darling – Sign Request
Glory Days – Sign Request
Dancing in the Dark
Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

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