Springsteen and Us

I’m gonna take a different approach today with my blog. I say different, because in truth, it’s more than just me getting the words out. For the first time ever, I’m having a guest blogger (yes, I feel obliged to say Ladies and Gentleman can you welcome to the show..). I decided to let someone else get involved on this one as a) never done that before ,b) I wanted to, c) they wanted to and most importantly d) I needed their help. So, my first guest blogger is none other than esteemed pharmacy student Eimear Murphy. Yes, she is my girlfriend, before anybody decides it is worth pointing out. Subject matter really is her expertise here. We have decided to create a short question and answer (oh did I say short, HA) on our mid-summer trips to see two Springsteen shows. Yes, she is the major fan; I am the learner. Both takes are worth looking at. First, a little look at what our views in general were towards our act in waiting.

Kyle

I can’t say I’ve always been a Springsteen fan. Well, that needs qualification. I’ve known a lot of his main songs for years. Even a soppy one direction fan licking the posters on their wall could make some vague facial expression when names like “born to run” or “born in the USA” are mentioned, or prick up their ears when the soul moving harmonica intro to The River sweeps out of an old cassette their dad is playing with. Yes, their dad. Most Bruce fans are probably all grown up now. That being said, when I got to know his music, I realised how timeless it all really was. But despite my base level knowledge, I really was in strange territory when my short statured girlfriend announced to me that the musician was, in fact, her favourite. Suddenly, I was hearing about E street bands and Wrecking Balls. Come Christmas time, I had the chance to buy her tickets for one of the dates the band had booked in Ireland. A Thursday morning on my laptop, a Thursday afternoon in the Boole, and a Thursday evening trying to get my girlfriend to notice the awkwardly placed receipt was all it took to get the ball rolling. Not the wrecking ball, not yet anyway. Two concerts later and I’m well and truly converted

Eimear

Think back to the summer of your Leaving Cert. I can guarantee you that you remember the song that played on the radio every day more vividly than which experiment appeared on the Chemistry paper. Music is the soundtrack not just to movies, but our lives – no wonder it is played at all major events. For me, my musical landscape would be desolate without the blue-jeaned troubadour from New Jersey, and his heart-stopping, house-rocking, earth-quaking, booty-shaking E Street Band. I’ll try to avoid voicing my sentiments that Bruce Springsteen should be a poet on the Leaving Cert course (oops, just did) but it’s hard to deny his mastery of both songwriting and storytelling. It’s hilarious how many people will look at the title of this blog, then look at the name of the guest contributor, and then run away. Quite literally, run out of their houses. If Kyle was writing this alone, people might be interested, and think “ok, a fresh take on some old guy I barely have heard of” but well… I think anyone who knows me, knows how obsessed I am with a certain Irish-Italian-American 63-year-old with a Dutch name. To anyone who follows me on Twitter, I am sorry for the endless retweets of people and lyrics and sentiments that you care nothing for. But this is who I am. A Springsteen-obsessed pharmacy student, reads my Twitter bio. And Twitter bios don’t lie.

This is the man I looked forward to seeing after every major exam year in my life. (2009 after the Junior Cert, and ’12 after the Leaving). This is a man I wrote about in 3/7 of my actual Leaving Cert subjects (Both of my oral examiners told me, in different languages… “you’re a bit… odd aren’t you?”) The only reason I didn’t write about him in the other 4 subjects is cos it’s hard to bring him into something like Maths – although with the shambles that is Project Maths, I would probably get extra marks just for writing down something/anything on the page. I don’t think I could have successfully referenced him in any of my three sciences anyway. Sample Biology Question: Explain the benefits of a double circulatory system. Eimear’s Answer: “Two hearts are better than one! Two hearts can get the job done!”

Sample Chemistry Question: Explain what combustion is, with the use of a balanced equation. Eimear’s Answer: “Cos when we kisssss, giiiiirl…. FIRE!”

I’m not even gonna attempt making a Physics one cos this is a man who defies gravity daily by jumping off pianos, crowd-surfing, and sliding across the stage on his knees. So I’m obsessed. What of it. While fellow teenagers of my generation fawn over Twilight and drool over One Direction, I think that being a part of the E Street Nation is something a little bit more. Something I won’t cringe at in ten years. It’s not something you’re a FAN of, it’s something you’re a PART of. As Bruce says, of bandmembers sadly gone to the “Land of Hope & Dreams” – as long as you’re here, and we’re here… They’re here. So, without further adieu (one, two, three, FAW!)

1.Which concert was your favourite; Cork or Limerick?

Kyle

It’s not easy answering which concert was better. For those in the dark, the concerts were in Thomond Park on July 16th and pairc Ui Caoimh on the 18th. Realistically it would like be like asking me: “which do I like better; cake or ice-cream?” Of course, I like them both….together…..in Coke. That’s not to say I’m planting my Bruce concerts in a fizzy drink anytime soon, but you get the point. I would say they were different. Limerick was my first ever concert. Limerick was the first leg of Bruce’s 2013 Irish tour. The whole package showed up, the whole package delivered. From the first minute when Bruce kicked off with “This little light of mine” to the last of the encore when the band performed a pumped up version of “Shout”, it was brilliant. It had the entire Born to run album; each song back to back. But Cork was when the tour was underway, and as a result it felt less like the band were aiming to impress, and more like it was about entertainment. The whole show was crowd orientated and full of party numbers that carried on for minutes on end. Both had extensive coverage of Bruce’s back catalogue including an obvious and great selection from his most recent album; the eponymous wrecking ball, from which the tour takes its name.  Overall both shows deserve full merit. Perhaps in time I will remember Limerick as the real eye opener, and look back on Cork as more of a verification of the fact that the quality was in the music.

Eimear

Best Overall Concert. Feels like I’m presenting awards at the VMAs or some such rubbish. People keep asking me, and after an initial reaction of “GUYYYSS!” this is my usual answer: Limerick was full of emotional, stunning, and powerful performances. As the sun was setting, Bruce began to narrate a story of his youth in New Jersey. Of those endless summers, the ones full of possibilities. A guy near me turned to his friend and says simply: “He’s gonna do Born To Run”. And I knew that by this, he did not mean, play that one anthem that’s probably the only rock song in history to feature a glockenspiel. No. He meant THE ALBUM. THE FULL ALBUM. AS IN MY FAVOURITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME – the best album ever written – IN ITS ENTIRETY. I was scared to believe it. I was actually shaking and on the verge of tears. I’m even getting chills writing this, because unless you truly, truly love a band and their music the way I do, you simply won’t get it. And then Bruce finished his spiel with “And I’m gonna play you the album that I wrote” I nearly lost it. I couldn’t believe that one of my dreams was coming true. I knew what was to come. I knew Backstreets was coming, I knew Jungleland was coming, but most of all, I knew the opening number was coming, and as I heard those first notes to Thunder Road on the harmonica I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Bearing in mind we were dead centre, and four rows from the very front, I reckon Limerick was a highlight of my life, not just of my concert experiences.

But to say Cork paled in comparison would be laughable. Cork was a PARTY. We ended up standing with ONE PERSON between me and my hero. OH YEAH DID I MENTION THAT I TOUCHED HIM? Twice.

2. Which five songs did you like most overall as performances?

Kyle

Asking for a top five is tougher than it seems. Although I still have some room to manoeuvre, the honest answer is I’m cringing as I have to cut out a large section of good performances. However, being stuck for five would be a far worse sign, and so I happily continue. My fifth favourite song of the tour was the very Celtic sounding “Death to my hometown”. It might just be because I’m Irish, and the concert was just revving into gear, but the band’s rendition of the song in Limerick was memorable to say the least. The number is always a crowd pleaser, coming from the latest album and demanding the crowd to get involved. This was a new Springsteen in full swing; a harsh taunt to the modern state of affairs with a gritty, drumming soundtrack to accompany the impressive streak of images The Boss opens with. By the end, everyone had got their singing voice out and the stage was set for an enjoyable night.

At four, I’d have to go back to Limerick and applaud the Born to run album in full. The whole thing was immense, but nestled in with the chart hits was Backstreets; a well written song that appeals to a nostalgic mind set. I seemed to be in just that place when the chorus rippled into the ranks of the Bruce faithful, because the message hit home that it was one to idolize from the show. The sun was just beginning its drift back behind the horizon, and the lights of Thomond were washing over us, and the whole scene really captured everyone. Bruce may not testify to such a good performance of it himself, but from where I was standing (or jumping); it sounded pretty good.

My third favourite of the tour brings me back to my hometown (to the Bruce enthusiasts, excuse the pun). In Limerick my girlfriend Eimear had brought a sign, black and red, which simply stated “Prove it ’78”. In cork, she got her wish. Pairc Ui Caoimh was under the band’s spell at this stage, each song getting greater applause and bringing more of the semi-interested into the fray. How could they continue it? Half way through, Bruce must have sensed that sentiment, and decided to bring the house down. Taking up a trusty electric guitar, he casually waited for the Prove it all night intro to fade in, before launching into a five minute guitar solo. The whole stage was drowning in coloured neon and shaking from the reverberating notes. The message reverberated better; “I raised the game.” By the time the real song started, most people were too excited to even sing along, all just frozen in a state of utter admiration for the 60 odd year olds visible will to push the limits of human appreciation.

Number two was a personal favourite. Back in April, The Rising was played to me as a sample of the various sounds the band could offer. I quickly got sucked in by how easy the band slid the lasting message under the backdrop of a world class anthem. In July, the boss gave me a nice birthday present in Limerick when he slowly approached the microphone and softly let the first few words carry out to the far reaches of the stadium. The echo of “can’t see nothing in front of me” quickly diminished, but in seconds everybody knew they weren’t going anywhere. It was dusk, and the crowd was eager to let something powerful access their emotion. Most of us did our best to follow the words; others just sat back and smiled. If not for a very interesting number 1, this would have dominated the ranks, having been played at both concerts.

Number 1 has to go to an unknown entrant. It is unknown in the sense that I hadn’t heard the song before it was played. Perhaps that made it all the better. The song; 41 shots, was requested and played as a tribute to the late Trayvon Martin, who was tragically killed in America. For 10 minutes Thomond Park swelled with sadness, as Springsteen belted out “You get killed just for living” for minutes at a time. As the Boss let the crowd take over, a low murmur of “41 shots” lifted into the air and expanded. Soon it was hard to hear the guitar kick up behind the adamant crowd, and tingles were flying up spines everywhere.

Eimear

5- Pay Me My Money Down/Shackled and Drawn (CORK) Literally if you had a barn dance in an Irish bar with the people in steerage from the Titanic Movie, this would be the result. I have never had so much fun dancing. Delightfully showcased his Irish influences to the crowd who didn’t even know that his last album was full of Gaelic vibes.

4- Real World (CORK) – twice! Played at both the pre-show (we few, we lucky few, we band of brothers) and the main set, I have fallen head over heels for the acoustic version of this gorgeous song. For the love of god, why is he so talented at everything?

3- Thunder Road (LIMERICK) What can I say. My favourite song. One that I would have forever regretted if I never saw it live. And it was beautiful. Thats all.

2- Drive All Night (LIMERICK) I think my reaction to this was measured by seeing a girl in the front row, shown on the big screen, visibly breaking down when she heard the first few notes to this. I defy you to find me a more romantic song than this. Go on. Try. Link it to me when you find it. This song, could not be more simple. There are no fancy highfalutin’ lyrics. Just a man who would drive all night for his girl. This is rarely played live, so to hear was a treat for everyone attending.

1- Prove it All Night ’78 (CORK) There I was. Standing in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Grand job. Oh there’s Bruce up there. Grand job. Oh there’s Roy Bittan there. What’s he doing? Oh lauching into an ol’ song there is he? Lovely stuff Roy. Start away. Wait…. Wait… WHAT?! When the first few notes to this were played and my neurons realised EIMEAR THIS IS IT, my head fell into my hands. Speechless, shocked, unable to deal with what was happening, that was me. People around me seeing my reaction said nothing but “Is this your song?” I could only nod with an open mouth and tears in my eyes. This, ladies and gentlemen, is such a rarity that I genuinely never thought I’d ever hear it live. EVER. Its a song I have to watch grainy black and white youtube videos of because its so rare. Bruce said in a 2010 interview: “If you’d like to hear it again, that’ll probably never occur, my friend. But it was good while it lasted.” It was resurrected in Barcelona last year after a 30 year absence so the hope began to grow in me. But that was Barcelona. Home of the die-hards. He’d hardly play it in Ireland? Nevertheless, I painted my sign dutifully.

And he played it.

He motherfu*king played it.

Imagine for you soccer fans out there hearing – Messi wants a kickaround there. Something you think will NEVER HAPPEN. Well, it HAPPENED.

3.What was your favourite moment in the pit queue?

Kyle

It could have well over 10 hours altogether queuing to get up close at both concerts. We met a lot of unique characters as we all sat fenced up by the stadium gates. One memory that sticks out well was lying irritated in the summer sun in Cork’s hottest field. Perched under one umbrella, Eimear and I squashed in to maximise out use of the shade. An onlooker remarked, “Body heat will get to ye in a while.” Frustrated, we ignored the advice. Ten minutes later, we were roasting alive and quickly sacrificing the minimal shadow we had to escape the furnace we had willingly set up. The man had all the right to laugh, and informed us of “Basic physics guys.”

Eimear

Malone already has the surreal experience of the people doing their workouts in Thomand Park Gym taking their equipment outside and doing it to blaring Bruce tunes among a crowd of a hundred people from all over the world. For me, a little highlight whic showcases the camaraderie between the people in Bruce pit queues was when this couple in their thirties kept trying to offer us wine because it was Kyle’s birthday (and also because they wanted to get rid of it, but mostly because we were class.)

4. What were some of your favourite, or more memorable moments overall?

Kyle

My top five favourite moments of the concert is another tricky question. Rather than spend hours searching my mind for the exact best, I’ll allow myself a nice answer by listing good parts as I remember. Fifth was the tribute to the sax player Clarence Clemmons. A video played in the background, as his nephew (Jake Clemmons) took up his mantle and played his old uncle’s parts perfectly. It was fitting for all to respect the old and the new, and remember the man who had added his own touches to a series of legendary songs.

Another nice moment of the tour was the pre-shows that Bruce performed on both occasions. At both venues, the spectacle that was came out early to play two or three songs on an acoustic guitar. Of course at that stage, only about four hundred were there to look on. The boss didn’t seem to mind, and played a nice set of compositions that otherwise might have never surfaced at the concerts.

A nice moment for all was seeing the children next to us go up to dance with the musician in Cork. They got pushed on stage during “waiting on a sunny day”, where Springsteen normally invites such young fans up, and sang the chorus. Later, they were gifted with the man’s guitar pick. Although the family were in general pushy, annoying, relentless and overly engaged in the show, it was nice to see two young fans get rewarded by the showman.

Second favourite moment of the tours was our first arrival at the pit queue. Landing into Limerick, and rushing over in a hopeful bid to get a position up near the stage, we found ourselves looking on as a group of gym members worked out to some of the bands greatest hits. The whole thing took place a day before the main lights flickered on, and probably never even surfaced as a nice piece in a local newspaper. Still, for those few who saw, it was a fun twenty minutes and a great curtain opener on the whole experience.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the tour, and I stress all these just jumped to mind, was seeing what it meant to those attending. I can’t put a count on how many times a song brought a couple inches closer, or how many times friends clasped arms and sang along with one of the obscure set list choices. You can’t put a price on a good all round mood, which most of the fans were happy to supply. The small things made the concert, both on and off the stage.

Eimear

Seeing the band walk off in Limerick and realising – I don’t have to wait a year, or three years to see him live again, I’m seeing him the day after tomorrow!

Realising that even if I never do see him live again, the last song I ever heard from him was a haunting version of Thunder Road. Just him, his guitar, in the darkness, with thousands of people in the palm of his hand, singing along to every word.

5.What was your favourite crowd interaction?

Kyle

The Boss spent a good chunk of his stage time stomping his feet within reach of the flailing-armed masses. A real showman knows how to control his fans. Springsteen made friends with them, and so stood so much higher as an entertainer. Plenty of fans got the chance to go on stage, with a loyal Spanish trio even receiving guitars to air-play with the man himself. It’s not that difficult for a musician to make somebody’s night with that kind of generosity and kindness. But Bruce kept up the slapstick antics too. A well celebrated and impressive interaction was his chugging of a full lager as he veered off to the right of the stage. Taking the beer from the offering fan, he thanked the man and then proceeded to swallow it to the encouragement of his faithful. Afterwards he managed to make a couple light hearted jokes…oh and he played a full concert too.

Eimear

Bruce addressing Limerick’s win in the Munster Hurling Final by sayin “we have no idea what the fuck that is, but congratulations!

6. Who, outside of Bruce, is your favourite member of the E-street Band?

Kyle

My favourite member outside of Bruce was undoubtedly drummer Max Weinberg. The camera came focusing in on the grey haired, glasses wearing musician whenever the focus of the song careered his way. Every time, he was clearly at his happiest. For sheer enthusiasm, I’d have to name him my favourite. That doesn’t even begin to give credit to his undeniable talent, which at times kept the audience right where the band needed them to be, or on other occasions just served to pump up the crowd into action again. All in all, his work on the instrument seemed effortless; most likely stemming from his passion alone.

Eimear

Fave Non Bruce Member – The scarf-wearing, sax-playing, tweet-favouriting, one and only Jake Clemons. That rendition of Jungleland was once in a lifetime.

Any final thoughts on it Eimear?

I really don’t need anymore words or time to convince you of his greatness. He’s great whether you believe it not. He’s the greatest perfomer on the planet whether you believe it or not.

Ben Stiller once stopped midway through a speech where he was supposed to be honoring Robert De Niro, because he spotted Bruce in the crowd: “Bruce, when I was 16, I saw you play like nine hours straight at Nassau Colloseum, literally changed my life, you’re a god! Back to Bob, sorry!”

Fun facts. There is a video of Bruce Springsteen covering “Sexy and I Know It”. It’s one of the best things ever made. Stevie Van Zandt, the guitarist in the E Street Band, was in the Sopranos. Prize for whoever finds the hidden Springsteen reference in one of his scenes. (Ok its not hidden, they blatantly quote the lyrics to Born To Run). “Because the Night”, by Cascada? Thats a Bruce song. Sorry to ruin your childhoods.

And how better to close off this blog, than to quote the most powerful man in the world? “The only reason I’m running for President is because I can’t be Bruce Springsteen”. – Barrack Obama, 2008.

See you further on up the road.

P.S this is Kyle and I touched both Bruce’s leg and Bruce’s guitar. ImageImage

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