- 17 Jul 13
Stuart Clark reports back from The Boss' first Irish summer show. Check out our photo gallery here...
Pink and Bob Dylan have both passed through recently – the effervescent former giving decidedly more bang for buck than the cantankerous latter – but Bruce & The E Street Band’s maiden voyage to Limerick is by far and away the biggest night in the city’s rock ‘n’ roll history.
To help celebrate having a star of Springsteen’s magnitude in their midst Judge Eugene O’Kelly has very kindly agreed to a 2am bar exemption, which along with the landscaped garden and yoga centre that’s been built for Bruce on the Thomond Park training-pitch is front-page Limerick Leader news.
The atmosphere walking up to the stadium is even more electric than it is on Munster Heineken Cup matchdays – and just as sporting with Mick Galway, Peadar ‘The Claw’ Clohessy and the Keiths, Earl and Woods, among those gleefully skipping towards the turnstiles.
I’m still savouring the delights of Limerick Junction when it happens – no offence, but it has to be the most godforsaken non-place in the world – but at 6.20pm Bruce saunters on unannounced for a three song acoustic pre-show comprising Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.’s ‘Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street’ and ‘For You’ and a first solo outing for his take on Southside Johnny’s ‘Hearts Of Stone’.
Memo to self: next time mitch off work earlier!
When he returns to the stage an hour and seven minutes later its with the E Street Band in tow and the declaration that, “We are here to fill you with the everlasting power of rock ‘n’ roll!”
And so it proves over the course of a set, which, like in the RDS last year, is as much spiritual revival meeting as it is conventional rock gig.
‘This Little Light Of Mine’, Pete Seeger’s ‘American Land’, ‘Badlands’, ‘Death To My Hometown’ and ‘Hungry Heart’, during which Bruce downs a proferred pint from the pit in one, all make an early appearance.
“I think I earned my Irish passport!” Mr. S shouts, referring to both his drinking prowess and the giant mock passport bearing a photo of him in his hirsute Darkness On The Edge Of Town days that’s been presented to him by another front-of-stage admirer.
It’s back into Baptist preacher mode for a super soulful ‘Spirit In The Night’, which features the first junior Boss fan singalong of the night.
Bruce’s examination of the sea of signs bearing song suggestions yields a down ‘n’ dirty cover of The Temptations’ ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’ and an emotionally-charged ‘American Skin (41 Shots)’ which he prefaces by saying: “I want to send this one out as a letter back home. For justice for Trayvon Martin.” Let’s hope the message got to Florida.
It’s followed by a deliciously plaintive ‘The Promised Land’, the new album triple-whammy of ‘Wrecking Ball’, ‘We Take Care Of Our Own’ and ‘Jack Of All Trades’ and a version of ‘The River’ notable for 1). The bonkers crowd reaction and 2). The purity of its author’s age-defying falsetto.
Springsteen has taken on this tour to playing one of his classic albums in its entirety, with the nod tonight going to Born To Run, which includes the obligatory – and still moving – ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ tribute to The Big Man who’d be proud of the storm his nephew Jake blows up during it.
His ‘70s masterpiece dispatched with due pomp and ceremony, Bruce touchingly dedicates ‘My Hometown’ to the Limerick jockey, JT McNamara, paralysed in March by a fall and makes sure there will forever be a seat for him in the Gaelic Grounds VIP box by congratulating the county’s hurlers on last weekend’s Munster Final smiting of Cork.
“We don’t know what the fuck that is, but congratulations!” Bruce wisecracks to rapturous cheers.
The sprint to the finish includes the reclaimed from the right ‘Born In The USA’, ‘Glory Days’, ‘Bobby Jean’, ‘Drive All Night’, ‘Dancing In The Dark’ and a set-closing ‘Shout’, which is the cue for mass E Street Band ass-wiggling.
“That was the greatest night of my life!” bellows the owner of a seriously impressive beer belly to my right. I imagine he speaks for pretty much all of the 40,000 people jammed into Thomond who've witnessed another Broooooce humdinger.