I had the pleasure of spending Thursday evening (20th June 2013) watching Bruce Springsteen play at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Springsteen has a reputation as a showman, and for playing long sets, that often come up against curfews imposed by venue organisers or local authorities, so it was no surprise that there was no support act given that the show needed to finish by 11pm.
Just after 7pm, Bruce appeared on stage and started with an acoustic version of Tom Joad, then was joined on stage by the E Street Band. As backing bands go, The E Street Band are rather impressive, and have a career of their own as well as touring with Springsteen. In fact, many members of the band – and there were sixteen people on stage with Springsteen on Thursday – have impressive careers outside the band. Steve Van Zandt – or Little Steve, or Miami Steve – is also known as an actor, appearing as Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, as well as appearing on plenty of other albums and tours for other artists. Nils Lofgren was a member of Crazy Horse. Roy Bittan played piano on, among other albums, Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II, and fellow E Streeter Max Weinberg played drums on Bat Out of Hell. Tom Morello, of Rage Against The Machine and Guitar Hero fame has been a temporary E Street member – but not in Coventry – and the band is now sadly without the late saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who passed away in 2011, who as well as appearing as an actor on various programmes, and many albums and tracks, also played on Born This Way for Lady Gaga. A talented and diverse bunch.
As is the way with Bruce Springsteen concerts, many of the fans brought placards with their favourite songs written on them, and Bruce ran to the crowd to pick cards and perform those. An easy start was “play anything”. Some of the cards had other types of requests, and the “Give Me A Man HugBruce” placard holder was rewarded with a series of hugs from The Boss. This was not the only piece of audience participation, with a nine year old who introduced himself as Joseph being pulled out of the crowd to sing Waitin’ On A Sunny Day, and near the end of the evening, two girls with placards indicating their want to dance with members of the band had their wishes fulfilled, as did one woman who wanted to dance with Bruce. At the same time, the slogan on the reverse of the “play anything” placard, “I would look great playing your guitar” as its holder was given the opportunity to play with Bruce on stage. Some of my fellow concert-goers were perhaps a little sceptical that those pulled out to dance could dance, that the person who was to pose with a guitar could do, and that nine year old Joseph was able to sing and knew the words of the song, and insinuated that this could be similar to the Dancing in the Dark video where a random audience member is pulled onto the stage, who later transpired to be actress Courtney Cox. Either way, it was clear that Bruce Springsteen was no amateur when it came to entertaining the crowd, being in the right place for the best camera shots, or knowing how to get the best reaction from the audience.
Half way through his three and a half hour set, Springsteen announced that the band would play the whole of the classic Born to Run album from 1975. He announced that it was a tribute to van Zandt’s co-star of The Sopranos, James Gandolfini.
Towards the end of the evening, a few classics like Dancing In The Dark – when the various dancers made their way from the audience to the stage – Born in the USA, and Raise Your Hand. All in all, an excellent evening, with a stadium full of happy fans.