- 23 Jun 17
When the band arrives on stage, promptly enough at about 8:15, for in true E-Street style there is no support, they are all business. Sporting matching uniforms of black pants and coloured waistcoats, they are here to work. They are not here to stare at their feet, they do not think that they’re doing you a favour by being here; this is not some crowd of indie chin scratchers. Each and every one of the four hundred or so (closer to fifteen really) road-hardened bastards on the stage look ready to fight to win you over. The best bands, like this one, know they have a job to do. If you have an arse at all, they are here to kick it for you.
And then there are the backing singers. Jesus Christ, the backing singers. If I said to you imagine a cross between Charlie’s Angels and Tina & The Ikettes, dressed like the welcoming party on some pleasure planet from an adult version of Star Trek, you might have some inkling as to what was going on. Amazon Queen Jessie Wagner is, I swear, at least seven feet tall with an afro at least five feet wide, and looks like she could kick your scrawny carcass from here to the sea, in what would be the greatest twenty seconds of your life. Van Zandt refers to them more than once as “The Wonder Women”, he is underselling them.
Steve himself comes on, more scarf and bandana than man, in a heavy coat that isn’t going to last long in this heat, all smiles, to a wild reception. This is the man who helped direct the E-Street Band, perhaps the greatest live act of all time, so he knows a thing or two about putting musicians together, and it shows right from the throw in; they’re as tight as John Holmes’ pants. ‘Soulfire’ and ‘I’m Coming Back’, both from the much better than expected new album, are Springsteen without Springsteen. All the ingredients are there – the punchy horn section, the screaming guitars, and the call and response vocals – proving that Van Zandt wasn’t just holding the Boss’ jacket all these years. He displays Albert King style chops for a cover of Etta James’ “Blues Is My Business’, but, in proper band leader style, he generously hands the solos around. Trombone, Hammond organ, Piano, saxophone – everyone takes a turn.