Last night was Bruce’s second show on Welsh soil, my seventh overall and my very first in the privileged position of being in the golden circle with folk who really feel like true believers. At 24 I’m relatively young and still feel kinda new to this whole Springsteen thing, but I like to think I know a little (I wrote my dissertation on the importance of bootlegs to Bruce fans), and it’s not an overstatement to say that his music has saved my life more than once.
Girlfriend and I arrived in the queue just after 2 in the afternoon, which still proved early enough to get the last of the Golden Circle wristbands – the significance of it didn’t quite hit me until we’d made our way inside (and it really was inside on this occasion!) and seen quite how close they meant we could get.
I expected the Millennium Stadium to be set out in the traditional concert manner as it was for my live Bruce induction in 2008, but yesterday it was cut in half; black curtains were hung around where the halfway line would usually be, and the roof was closed, effectively transforming one end of the ground into an enormous arena, making this the most intimate Bruce show I’ve attended by some way.
Waiting around the edges of the floor before Bruce came onstage we ran into Martyn Joseph, a Welsh singer-songwriter and fellow Bruce enthusiast (whose music I was actually introduced to because of his appearance on E Street Radio) — it was the first in a night filled with wonderful surprises.
As with Ireland’s shows over the past week, the show kicked off with “This Little Light Of Mine,” setting the tone for what was, overall, the most rollickin’, rip-roarin’, barnstormin’ ESB show of my (comparatively) young life … the pace only really let up at all for “My City Of Ruins,” which was as touching and moving a memorial as it always will be.
Early on we got the Tracks 1-2-3 of “TV Movie” (“We’ve never played this song … mainly because it’s ridiculous”), “Cynthia” (“This is one of Stevie’s favourites, he castigates me about it…”) and “Roulette” – to the relative bemusement of a lot of folk in the seats, but to the euphoric glee of a fair number of the rest of us.
The number of high energy covers thrown in added to the bar-band celebration atmosphere – “Summertime Blues,” “Shout,” “Boom Boom,” a reprise of “This Little Light of Mine” and a killer re-enacment of SXSW’s “We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place” with Eric Burdon.
The theme continued with the inclusion of four (five if you include “Hungry Heart,” and with such a swelling, goosebump-inducing singalong, you probably should) of The River’s house-party songs. The cuts from Wrecking Ball kept the tempo high and slotted into the set seamlessly alongside the anthemic, sing-until-your-voice-gives-out majesty of “Spirit…” and “Badlands.”
“Waitin’ On A Sunny Day” took its regular spot a couple of songs before the encore; mid-song, Bruce made his usual jog to the front rows and plucked a shy wee lad from the crowd to sing – he was wearing huge blue earphones and as Bruce handed him back, his dad was fighting back tears — which, to me, pretty much encapsulates what we all go for.
Another small detail I’ve always loved is the fact that the house lights come up before “Born To Run” and tend to stay on until the end (another whole eight songs in this instance) which seems to be the kick folk need to finally get out of their seats for good and let loose a little more. It’s also perpetually fascinating to watch the way people around me can lose themselves in the music, and truly amazing to feel no inhibitions about becoming just as absorbed. Being in “The Pit” definitely takes what is already a wonderful, life-affirming experience and elevates it even further.
Compared to the other two shows I’ve caught on this tour, this one stands out. A combination of the setlist, the setting, the crowd and the fact I was able to get closer to the front than I ever dreamed possible made the whole experience practically perfect in every way. Of course, Bruce’s concerts are always incredible – the sheer relentless energy of the man beggars belief — but last night in Cardiff it just felt as though he brought that extra something.
My personal highlights were “Cadillac Ranch” in all its bombastic, goofy glory, “Tougher Than The Rest,” which was flawless, and the solo acoustic encore of “Janey Don’t You Lose Heart” and “Thunder Road” – turning to see the house lights illuminating the three tiers and thousands of people lost in recreating the final chords will stay with me forever.
Fast Tube by Casper
Fast Tube by Casper