July 29, 2013

Notes from the road: Kilkenny #2

For the final night of their European tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band delivered three hours and 18 minutes of emotion packed rock and soul this evening. The Wrecking Ball Weekender Day #2 commenced in the afternoon with Delorentos, LAPD, and Imelda May warming up the enthusiastic sold out crowd. By the time Bruce took the stage at 7:30pm, the audience was ready for him. “Good evening, good evening Kilkenny! I want you to raise your voices, clap your hands, and join us in celebration of the eternal, everlasting, ass-kicking power of rock and roll!” Bruce called to the crowd as they kicked into “This Little Light of Mine.”

It was a beautiful, sunny, picture perfect evening – after some earlier rain it stayed clear all the way through almost to the end of the show. “My Love Will Not Let You Down”, “Badlands,” “We Take Care Of Our Own,” and “Adam Raised A Cain” were leveled at the crowd in a four-pack of fierceness. The night was full with end-of-tour intensity; everything was just that much more vivid. The band clearly felt it and the crowd picked up on it.

A riveting “Death to My Hometown” was next, followed by a deeply felt “American Skin (41 Shots)” featuring a blistering guitar solo by Bruce. “Promised Land,” next, seemed to hold out hope for better days ahead and was further sweetened by incredible background vocals by Steven. During Bruce’s harmonica break, he and Jake stared deep into each other’s eyes; the excitement was high and bright.

As “Wrecking Ball” began, Bruce said, “This is what the tour is all about! For Daniel and the gang.” He followed that with a lengthy introduction to “Spirit in the Night” as Charlie’s organ swirled behind his words: “Good evening Kilkenny! Are you ready for the last dance – for a little while? Because the E Street Band has come thousands of miles just to be here tonight! Thousands of miles, many many years…There’s a weight, a cumulative weight, we get that every night you play at the end of the tour it weighs on you. And I see so many of you at so many shows! But it’s a good weight. And I want to thank you for carrying us on so many nights. Because we’re here tonight, and we’ll be back!” He repeated “we’ll be back” several more times.

“Because we can’t do this by ourselves. We need you! We need you! That’s why we’re here. Can you feel the spirit? Can you feel the spirit now? If you can feel the spirit I want you to answer me one last time with a mighty yeah, yeah!” He shrieked and slipped down to the floor of the stage, propped up by the mike stand, to begin the spooky love song he had written so long ago and which is still eerily, mythically resonant the world over. Bruce and Jake delved deep into the crowd. “Jake Clemons!” Bruce cried as the song drew to its close.

“We’ve got a four song segment – some debts I’ve got to pay,” Bruce said next, introducing four songs which had been requests from fans who had been following the tour: “The River” which ended with his extraordinary falsetto keening; “Wild Billy’s Circus Story” absolutely magical with Clark on tuba, Roy on accordion, and Steven on mandolin accompanying Bruce on acoustic guitar; “Man at the Top” (“an obscure song written for ‘Born in the USA’” per Bruce – and not played since 1985) outstanding with the choir together at one mike and the horns and Nils at another mike singing backup – Bruce and Nils on acoustic guitars; and “When You Walk Into the Room” – a 1964 hit by the Searchers that long ago had been a feature on Springsteen set lists at club shows in the 70’s.

Bruce then dedicated the entire ‘Born to Run’ album in sequenced order to Jimmy Iovine, who was present at the show tonight, remembering that “skinny Italian kid sitting at the tape machine” when they were recording the album in 1974-75. It was wrought with emotion from start to finish – “Backstreets” in particular standing out as Roy’s majestic piano swelled the melody, Bruce standing with eyes closed, holding his guitar up to the sky, taking it all in. He favored us with the ‘sad eyes’ interlude before tenderly putting the song aside. “She’s the One” was also a standout with its demented Spanish flamenco rhythms. As the sunset gave way to gray clouds prior to rain, the mystical chords of “Meeting Across the River” played; the only musicians on stage were Curt on trumpet, Roy on piano, and Garry on bass backing Bruce’s vocal.

The “Born to Run” band took their bows at the end of the album set, and then Bruce took us to “The Rising.” By this time the sky had opened up to rain, but he thrived in it and so did the crowd. “Land of Hope and Dreams” finished out the main set and the entire band took their bows. “Born in the USA” thundered; “Bobby Jean” completely engaged the crowd; then a frantic “7 Nights to Rock” with outstanding turns by the E Street Horns and Max on drums.

During “Dancing in the Dark” Bruce pulled up a young girl who had been holding a sign that said “I dyed my hair blue for the chance to Irish dance with you.” They then proceeded to high step it and Irish dance together. He then sought out a young boy who couldn’t have been older than ten with a sign that said “Please can I play guitar with you.” Bruce brought the boy onstage, gave him an acoustic guitar, and had him assist in finishing the song with the band. Then he sent him back to his parents, with the guitar in hand. The audience went nuts.

During a spirited “American Land,” Max’s lovely daughter Ali assisted on stage with accordion, and also on keyboards with “Shout!” “Shout!” featured an even larger shot of insane madness as the spirit of rock and roll had clearly visited all present by this point. Bruce had also by this time stripped down to a t-shirt. After a joyous reprise of “This Little Light of Mine,” we said goodbye to the E Street Band who then left the stage prior to one more from Bruce for the ecstatic crowd, a solo acoustic version of “This Hard Land.” “We’ll be seeing you, take care of yourselves!” he cried out to them as he was leaving the stage.

Holly Cara Price