It’s a warm summer night in Berlin. We’re stood outside the gates of Berlin’s Olympic Stadium waiting for doors to open to do the one thing we never tire of – seeing Bruce Springsteen live. Sunday night, it’s warm and we’re sorted in our Springsteen fan shirts for the night. There’s just nothing better than sharing this experience with the people who introduced you to this music and who love it just as much you and have loved it for much longer than you have even been alive. The River tour combines generations of fans, just as Bruce always has and always will. You see young kids with their parents, people who are probably Bruce’s age or older and have known him from the start. Most of these people will even have been to his one and only show in East Germany in 1988.
Berlin, Berlin, you are so wonderful, Berlin
Then it’s on. As always – no support band needed. Bruce and the E Street Band charge straight into Adam Raised A Caine – a biblical power piece that sets the tone for the night. The second song on the setlist for the night, Badlands, then also puts the crowd in the mood. Win, win – everbody’s up for a great night ahead. Bruce collects sign requests as per usual but tonight two signs stand out. One is a little shoe box designed as Candy’s Room (aka the song) with wrapped candy around the outside, and an adorably cute detailed room on the inside with posters of Bruce and other legends on the wall, a bed and wallpaper. He had to play this one!
The second one I loved was a blow up body board for kids from the dude behind us who wrote Lost In The Flood on the back of it – genius! It didn’t get played unfortunately. But A for effort.
We were stood at the barriers just behind the pit and slightly to the left of the stage. I remembered the way he walked through that bit of barrier walk way in London for Hungry Heart and wondered if the same was going to happen tonight. I should only be so lucky tonight. Cue Hungry Heart. “YASSS!” my heart is internally screaming as the security guys gather up the tape and prepare for The Boss to stroll past. The first few riffs sound through the stadium and Bruce simply points his mic at the crowd like a king to his loyal constituents. And just like royal servants to His Highness the crowd delivers a unified choir chanting “Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack. I went out for a ride and I never went back. Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowin’, I took a wrong turn and I just kept going…” . It’s beautiful. If you ask me any stadium concert you go to and a crowd can deliver a rendition of the band’s song without missing a beat or word that’s when you know it’ll be a great show. And then Bruce takes a casual stroll off stage and through the barriers past me and parents and to say I was fan-girling would be a total understatement. I’m not one to be fazed by or go into fangirl mode when seeing so-called “famous” people or people I adore for their ridiculous talent, you’d never see me get this giddy around Frank Turner, after all they’re just people. However, Bruce Springsteen isn’t people… he is a rock ‘n’ roll legend, icon, personal hero and absolute super human. So yes, giddy I was.
The spirit in the night
Berlin’s setlist was mellow, while having the usual Springsteen rock anthems like Born In The USA, Dancing In The Dark and Sherry Darling it was overall more of a heart-warming, gut-wrenching, feel-good kind of show. As the first notes of My Hometown blast through the speakers in Berlin we all get goosebumps. Somehow it fits, I’m not from Berlin, only ever lived here for six months. But you can tell this resonates with the audience, maybe it’s the closely-knit family bonds you see in German families that give you chills or it’s just me and the song makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because this is my country and I’m here with my family – it hits home, in a good way, a very good way.
Speaking of family. In the pit just in front of us stood a little family with their maybe roughly 6 year old son. It was the dad’s 10th Springsteen show and the boy’s first – according to their adorable shirts. Throughout the entire show it was hard to not look at them constantly, so much cuteness it was almost unbearable. Dad knew every word of every song and the son, well, just about the same. He taught the little one to raise his arms and how to rock ‘n’ roll along to Springsteen’s songs. At the end, a serious booty-shaking dance session had to be had in the pit as well. And of course Bruce picked the little man to sing Waiting On A Sunny Day with him on stage. The boy – professional as can be, knew all the lyrics and even knew to tell the band “Come on E Street Band!”. I mean, could you be any more adorable? My heart exploded. That is total family goals!
Just the day before, 18 June, it had been five years since the E Street Band lost the big man Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen lost a friend. Hence, it came to no surprise that this evening’s tributes to him would be a little more elaborate than usual. With 10th Avenue Freeze-Out, Land Of Hopes And Dreams and more on the list you could physically feel Clarence’s spirit in the air. The crowd paid tribute with their hands up in the air as if to reach for Clarence in the sky and tell him to come back down one last time.
Truly an epic night
The last few songs off the set list are expected but again never fail to amaze. No matter how many times you hear the opening lines to Born To Run (On the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American Dream…) and it’s ever so epic lines of “Wendy, together we can live with the sadness, I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul” or “Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to run”; or it’s the legendary riff accompanying Born In The USA – you just can never get enough of it. And the acoustic version of Thunder Road will never seize to give me goosebumps on every inch of my body. With Springsteen you don’t just go to see a show, or listen to some good music. You are there to LIVE the music and the lyrics. To feel it go through every vein of your body. To remind you why you are alive, and never does he leave you wondering why you ever fell in love with his songs.
When a Bruce Springsteen concert finishes it’s always a bit like at the end of Sunday mass – the church door opens and the blessed walk out into their lives filled to the brim with hope, faith and love. And the god they pray to is a guy from New Jersey with a guitar. That is one religion I’m happy to follow and call myself a worshiper of the gracious rock ‘n’ roll God that is Bruce Springsteen.