Saturday, 28 May 2016
A River Runs Through It.
Christmas came early for Boss fans this Wednesday as Bruce Springsteen unwrapped one of his signature three and a half hour shows with the E Street Band at the Etihad Stadium during his European tours leg of England. Opening in Manchester City football clubs epic stadium with his classic 'Atlantic City', the man who once opened a Hard Rock Calling set in Great Britain's capital with The Clash's 'London Calling' didn't give in to changing the start of this 'Nebraska' classic to the name of this North West town. Nor did he change his own E Street version of the vintage Christmas tune 'Santa' Claus Is Coming To Town' to 'Manchester'. And why should he have? We are only five months into the year! Well if you're a Springsteen aficinado you will know by now if you have a request at one of these Titanic long sets you better write it on a cardboard placard in your best marker. And the Kellogg factory town of Manchester is the only place you'd see the name of a Boss best on the back of a box of Fruit N Fibre. Damn it why didn't I have a Sharpie for 'Lift Me Up'? But then again he did give us some of that falsetto...and more when he saw a man in the crowd, sporting red and white and a Kenny Rogers beard. What was that under the tree?
'Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town' read the former box as Springsteen spotted the North of England's St Nick in the crowd. Situated about two hours too late to the front of the mornings standing que outside the stadium...he must have had some presents to deliver. Beckoning him up like many a fan that evening-as if you'd have to be persuaded-to sing the "you better stay good for goodness sake" baritone, much to Bruce and our bewildered amusement as he seamlessly jingled all the way through 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town' like it was already on the setlist and he didn't have to check twice. "Why not? Christmas is only 272 days away" he joked with guitarist and Soprano right hand man Steve Van Zant as he gave the midweek night good tidings on what would without him have otherwise been just another misersble May day in Manchester. But Springsteen let it rain as he tore through his double decadent disc 'The River' as part of this albums tour he went through the ties that bind first track to fade out, albeit with some inspired interludes of some of his greatest hits. From the 9/11 rally cry call to the arms of hope, 'The Rising' and potentially the greatest name for a movie, 'Darkness On The Edge Of Town'...hey Boss can we have a rights discussion? As a river may aswell have been running through the precipitation soaked stadium of unrelenting downpour as Manchesters temporary E Street address was flooded with classics from the timeless 80's album. From the pop, commercial art and soul of the instant thousand foot stomper 'Hungry Heart', to the harmonica driven, monumental title track that back in the day came with a backstory just as epic and stream of consciousness flowing.
But from the 'Backstreets' to the 'Badlands' many a concert goer left this festival like performance with no need for a support act with their own grandkids by the fire story to tell for generations to come. Like the 80's throwback fashioned young lady pulled on stage a la Courtney Cox for a dance in the dark that many a fan asked for on cardboard, but this Monica got as she gave a special beaded necklace to her new friend. And boy did the Boss rock it well with his bootcut, blue collar outfit that still rolls with the sign of the times he represents from the downtrodden to the uprising. Or the young girl next to me with her family whose sign dedication read; "This is my first Brucie gig" who later on 'Brucie' plucked from the crowd to bashfully but beautifully co-sing his Smokey Robinson worthy classic 'Waitin' On A Sunny Day', as we all were in a beautiful moment that let it rain from our eyes. There was plenty of clouds in the sky that night but it was a beautiful thing. Just like all the hits delivered from Bruce and his band. The Clarence Cleamons tribute that rang out to the heavens like the sound of his saxophone always did on nights like this as he and his 'Born To Run' right hand man would take us to the concrete 'Jungleland' of Jersey. The swagger and sincerity of his nephew Jake in his place as a fully fledged resident on the feet stomping, love making road that marks E Street as his address, no stand in as the Big Mans little one joins the band. All that Springsteen and his family invited us too as they made the Etihad their home for the evening. These were the stories and moments that made this evening just so one you'll never ever forget. Not just the eagerly anticipated performances of hits like 'Born To Run', or an epic encore that is longer than most bands full sets that featured a cover of 'Shout'. You always know that the ox tougher than the rest Springsteen, the strongest and best showman in live music now the late, great Prince is tragically departed (you saw the 'Purple Rain' tribute right?) and greatest crowd interactor is always going to put on a show stopper and prove it all night. But you never know just one night you may even be a bigger part of it than you ever thought or hoped. As even a half town, club and rivalry away from being United with Manchester's Old Trafford, the Boss made City's stadium the theatre dreams are made of for a night. Because for tramps like us Bruce Springsteen was born to perform...and run like a river. TIM DAVID HARVEY.