June 27, 2013

Notes from the road: Gijon

Although it was well after 9pm, the sky was still bright when the E Street Band took the stage at Estadio El Molinon in Gijon, Spain. Bruce spent an extended few moments at the edge of the stage examining the crowd, nodding and smiling, before bringing the band into a high-energy version of “My Love Will Not Let You Down.” The video screens were full of bouncing Spaniards singing along immediately. With the opening notes of “Out in the Street,” the crowd responded by singing the opening refrain loudly and enthusiastically, generating big smiles in response from Bruce; he jumped up and down along with the crowd as he brought the song to a close.

A few signs were gathered from the front of the runway, and “Better Days” was held up to the camera before being propped up at the mic. “Ain’t Good Enough For You” made a rare appearance, Bruce challenging the band by holding up the sign and asking, “Do they know it?!” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band” would be the third request in a row, highlighted by a strong solo from Jake Clemons and some solid boogie-woogie piano from the Professor.

While sign requests and covers are always great, the highlight of the show tonight was the next three-song arc:  “Jack of All Trades,” “The River,” and “Atlantic City,” sharing stories of hard times and difficult choices. “The River” almost always elicits a powerful, vocal response from the crowds in Europe, and tonight in Gijon was no different. “Atlantic City” was one of the night’s standouts, performed with precision, power and depth from all the musicians, but particularly in the vocals: after murmuring “Shhh” a few times, Springsteen began the last verse with careful, deliberate phrasing which emphasized the message of the song.

At the end of the song, Bruce realizes Steve is still finishing “Atlantic City”: “C’mon Steve, get a guitar!” Once equipped, it was time for a vintage “You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch),” with the Bruce and Stevie comedy team front and center, playing off each other and hamming it up, to their obvious delight and the delight of other band members as well, judging by the smiles visible on Garry and Roy’s faces.

Another sign-gathering interlude took place at the center platform, and Bruce returned to the microphone with not one but two signs for “Rosalita,” one shaped like a Fender Esquire, which clearly took some care to produce. It was a raucous, exuberant version of “Rosie,” and the song ended out at the center platform with Bruce, Steve, and Jake front and center. At some point during the up-front hijinks, Steve donned someone’s hat and then a pair of American flag sunglasses for good measure.

There was a large quantity of signs brought to the show tonight, but some of the largest were for “Drive All Night” (including two large banners hung from the upper level of the stadium). The request granted, Jake Clemons had another standout solo, reminiscent of his uncle’s work on the track but sharper, with a clearer tone. Steve’s harmonies were spot-on, and Bruce’s voice was solid and rich, with a smoky timbre.

Following “Badlands,” Steve walked over to Bruce and pointed at something in the crowd. “Steve has made a request!” Bruce announced, before beginning the opening riff of “Light of Day.” Then, Springsteen himself made an additional sortie out stage left to pick up another sign and prop it at the mic, this time for “Radio Nowhere”.

The usual parade of hits closed out the show, ending with a lively “Twist and Shout,” at the end of which Bruce declared: “No mas, no mas, Gijon, no mas!” And then: “Uno mas!” Yelling a few chords at the band to bring them back together, Springsteen took them into the Isley Brothers’ “Shout!” to end the show.

After the band had waved goodbye and had been waved off the stage by Bruce, he turned to the crowd one more time; grabbing an acoustic guitar, he came back to the center mic. He explained that he had been in town previously with Patti and his daughter at a horse event, and that the mayor of Gijon had sent a letter asking him to come play. “I know times are hard in Spain, so I appreciate you coming to see us. I do this for you, wishing for better times,” Bruce told the crowd before the now-familiar acoustic “Thunder Road” to end the set, bringing a lovely end to a night of diehard favorites and greatest hits, performed for fans from all over Spain.

—Caryn Rose, Backstreets.com