I had been waiting to see Bruce Springsteen for six years. I had a fund set aside for tickets in the event of his coming to New Zealand. When I heard that Bruce and the E-Street band were rolling into Mt. Smart I thanked my past self for his foresight, and prepared to be wowed by what I had heard was one of the most incredible shows on Earth. However, words cannot describe the experience that Bruce Springsteen delivers.
We were spellbound from the start, as Bruce delivered Lorde superhit as you’ve never heard it before, and then blasted into ‘My Love Will Not Let You Down’. The E-Street Band was on top form, complete with ‘Sopranos’ consigliere Steve van Zandt, Jake Clemons on saxophone in place of his uncle, the late great Clarence Clemons, and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who’s aggressive playing added to an already incredible ensemble.
Bruce announced early on that he was playing the entire ‘Born in the USA’ album, including the iconic ‘Born in the USA’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark’, and other greats like ‘Glory Days’, ‘My Hometown’ (not a dry eye in the audience), ‘Cover Me’ and ‘I’m on Fire’. Other classics like ‘The River’ and ‘Badlands’, and new hits ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘High Hopes’ completed the journey through Springsteen’s illustrious career.
While some may have not known obscure songs like ‘Loose Ends’ and ‘Shout’, it was not possible for attention to wander. The energy was infectious, keeping us moving as Bruce ran up and down the stage, dancing with fans and belting out song after song with an energy that does not reflect his 64 years and assured us that the Boss is not slowing down.
Just because this is a political blog, I need to mention that Bruce Springsteen is an old unionist and has been a force in left wing politics and the fight for worker’s rights throughout his life. ‘Born in the USA’ is a Vietnam protest song, that Ronald Reagan hilariously used in his Republican presidential campaign. Songs like ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’, about the ghost of a man determined to take a stand for the poor and downtrodden, and others that tell of working every day just to get by and the importance of union membership reminded us all of Springsteen’s commitment to workers and other discriminated groups in the US and throughout the world. Hearing many thousands of people singing along to these blue collar lyrics is heartening to say the least. Springsteen’s popularity in New Zealand demonstrates that we have not forgotten about the inequalities that exist in our society, and that there is a general agreement that something needs to be done.
Highlights of the night:
‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’: a haunting ballad that Bruce and Tom Morello did better than anyone ever could in a studio
‘Death to My Hometown’: a stomping number and personal favourite of mine that takes on brand new dimensions on stage.
‘Born in the USA’, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and ‘Born to Run’: we wanted them and we got them. These are three of the most recognisable songs in the world and seeing Bruce Springsteen playing them at the top of his game is surreal.
‘The Rising’: my favourite moment. This song is clearly supposed to be played live, and Bruce certainly had our spirits rising with the swelling chorus.
Bruce departed as he began – alone on stage with a guitar to do the iconic ‘Thunder Road’. Over three hours, we were wowed by a legend who only continues to improve. As the crowd of 60,000 plus filtered from the stadium, we knew that we had shared in a truly unique experience.
This was the hands down the best concert I’ve seen. Bruce Springsteen is one of the last of the greats and delivers spectacularly. I will not forget about this show for a long time.