July 31, 2012

From the road: Helsinki

Tonight we saw Bruce and the Band form a feedback loop with the Helsinki Olympiastadion audience, the product of which was a thrilling 4 hours and 6 minutes of pure rock — Bruce’s longest recorded show time ever. The crowd started out singing along with the opener “Rocking All Over the World,” and continued its active involvement right through to the finale of “Higher & Higher” and “Twist & Shout.” After a series of gut punching solos from Bruce, Jake, and Stevie during “Prove It All Night,” Bruce only needed to clap three times and the entire audience, from front to the farthest end of the stands, followed suit for the rest of the song.

Choosing from a large grouping of cardboard signs Bruce first picked “Back In Your Arms” and “Light of Day.” Anyone listening to those performances would realize that this band has achieved something new and unique. Meanwhile, “Light of Day” featured a quick Charlie keyboard solo, by the end of which he was playing with his elbow. Later in the show, another sign requested Stevie’s classic song, “I Don’t Want to Go Home.” Bruce and Stevie did it as a duet to the accompaniment of a strumming guitar.

On “Waiting on a Sunny Day,” a young boy in on orange Côte d’Ivoire jacket managed to sing a perfect chorus (twice!). For “Dancing in the Dark,” three women made it to the stage to dance with Jake and Bruce during a long and powerful saxophone sequence. The first took a tumble trying to reach Jake but she was fine.

Other fans were after the physical manifestations of the show, brandishing signs which read “MAX: can I have your drumsticks?” and “The harmonica, please.” Max passed on his sticks at the end of the night, but I have no idea what happened to the harmonica.

“Shackled and Drawn” now features wonderful vocal interplay with Cindy Mizelle and some great Bruce-style choreography at the end of the tune that never fails to uplift. Ed Manion does a great job with the sax solo at the end of “Be True,” and Nils’ powerhouse guitar solo on “Because the Night” remains a show highlight.

The encores expressed the theme of tonight’s show with Bruce noting at the beginning of “We Are Alive” that this show, the writing of that song, and the presence of Clarence’s spirit were all cases of “the past informing the present.” With his pick of the Detroit Medley, Bruce highlighted another goal for the evening, mainly to squeeze every iota of energy out of the city of Helsinki if it took all night and caused a blackout in the process.

When Bruce was close to satisfied he cried out that “The Fins are finished!” To help celebrate the end of the European run, he called manager Jon Landau on the stage to help him shred “Twist & Shout” on the guitar. Mr. Landau commented after the show “I hope I have a chance to play on it again at Fenway. I love Boston, it’s really my home town.”

Charles Landau